Friday, March 28, 2014

Our Long Lives

I turned 64 in January, and some days it feels like 100, but almost nobody in American society considers 64 very old anymore. Although I'm retired from a full-time job and just writing, painting, and composing now, I'm just as active as I always was.

But I remember when I was a boy in the 1950s that someone 64 was old--they looked old and were usually worn out by a hard life. Hell--they were ancient. Now my father is 91 and drives a convertible! The world is wondrous at times.

In thinking about history and how we age--two things I've written about a lot in my books--I come back often to the "last" person to do something. And I'm always looking for a new angle. This morning I looked up the last survivors of the sinking of the General Slocum and the Luisitania and it was 2004 and 2001 respectively! Can you imagine? The Slocum sank in 1904 and the Luisitania in 1915!

But even more startling was my learning I am contemporary with the last documented combat veteran of the American Civil War. This is from Wikipedia:

James Albert Hard (July 15, 1843 – March 12, 1953) was the last verified combat veteran of the Civil War and the second-to-last verified veteran overall; only drummer-boy Albert Woolson post-deceased him. Though he claimed to have been born in 1841,[1] research in 2006 found that the 1850 Census indicated a birthdate of 1843. His war service record from 1861 was also located.
He died in Rochester, New York, at the claimed age of 111.[2] Census research indicates, however, that he was probably a year or two younger and may have inflated his age to gain service. He is recorded as having joined the Union army on May 14, 1861, aged '19.' The 1850, 1910 and 1920 censuses, however, indicate that he was born in 1843, 1842, and 1842, respectively. Hard is also the current record holder for the oldest verified person born in 1843.
Hard is reported to have fought as an infantryman in the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment at the battles of First Bull RunAntietam, and Chancellorsville, and to have met Abraham Lincoln at a White House reception.[3][4]

We all tend to base how we see the world on our own times. That's just natural. And I remember that the last person who was as Lincoln's assassination died in 1956 and was once on the TV show "I've Got a Secret"!

Crazy stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Phil, this is David Lyons, we met on the train ride from hell back in 1991. I'm sure you remember that ride. Give me a call (I left my number in a message on your Facebook page). You can also email me at: Looking forward to hearing from you.