To most people reading this, it’s just a bunch of fuzzy, back-and-white photos in a dusty history book stuffed in the back of some long-forgotten shelf in a strange, prehistoric-looking place called a library.
But there was a time when the memory of what became known as Pearl Harbor Day was still fresh in everyone’s minds – when it was still a big deal, in some way, shape or form, in every household in this country.
And today, Friday, is the 77th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that drew the U.S. into World War II.
It was called then "a day that will live in infamy," and Dec. 7, 1941, remains that even now.
I wasn’t around back in 1941, and neither were any of the kids with whom I grew up, but my neighborhood was full of fathers who had served in World War II. So, just two decades later, the stories of their war experiences were, understandably so, commonly shared to attentive audiences. To this day, I can still recite those stories. And I have as much reverence now for them – those stories and those men – as I did then, as all of us kids did then.
My parents were married in March 1941, exactly a week after my mom’s older brother got married. The drumbeats of war could be heard in Europe and Asia, but until such things hit home, as they did for us on Sept. 11, 2001, you can keep your concern at an arm’s length.
On a Sunday afternoon nine months later almost to the day after they were wed, the two couples were exiting a theater after watching a movie when they heard the news of what had happened at Pearl Harbor. It was at that moment that it hit home with them and that plans and hopes and dreams were put on hold. There was a war to fight, and if it were not won, then those plans and hopes and dreams would never be realized.
Even if it were won, though, it would not happen for five or five years. Everyone knew this would not be easy by any stretch of the imagination, and as turned out, it wasn’t, so there was no use to even think about it.
That war was won, of course. This was, after all, The Greatest Generation fighting it. How would you like to have been one of those people? Their "reward" for being able to survive The Great Depression was to get thrust into a huge war.
There’s a great scene from "Happy Days," the 1950s TV series of four-plus decades ago, when Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), a high school student, was trying to convince his father (Tom Bosley) to let him go on a camping trip.
"Come on, Dad, when was the first time you went somewhere overnight with all your friends?" Richie asked.
"World War II!" his father snapped.
Every time I think about that scene, I think of my dad and chuckle. I did the math on something that was said one time on the show, and Richie’s father was the same age as my dad. Richie’s dad was indeed right in that during the Depression, there was no money for anyone to do anything fun and adventurous (the kids in my neighborhood heard all of those stories, too).
But those young people, like George Bailey in "It’s a Wonderful Life" and like all young people, dreamed of going to faraway places. They just never thought they would be making the trip in military gear.
That experience made my parents – and the parents of all my friends – proud, sure, but more so thankful.
And, all these years later, I am thankful, too, that I grew up when I did so I can dust off those old history books and keep the stories contained therein alive for the generations to follow.