If it weren’t for having been raised with the cultural admonition that ‘real men don’t cry,’ it’d be easy for me to shed a tear nowadays over remembrances of my youth. During the small-person years of my childhood, my mother didn’t work outside our home so I often enjoyed arriving home from school mid-afternoon to a freshly-baked cookie accompanied by a cold glass of milk. If I had a complaint to air, an inconsequential other-kid-related thing, she’d listen attentively then offer heartfelt sympathy.
The adults in our neighborhood were mainly first and second-generation immigrants from Finland, my grandparents having arrived from there in the late 19th century. Those people knew how to get along with one another as I witnessed few heated disagreements, I never saw a gun brandished nor shots fired while a fishing pole and clam shovel garnished every home’s storage space. Three mothers nearby baked their family bread and were always good for a butter-slathered piece upon a slyly-timed “I’m so hungry!” announcement.
The Finnish Congregational Church was one block from us. The Finns are more commonly Lutherans but somehow that FCC got built in the 1880s (age took it down some 30 years ago). It was home to a capacity crowd on Easter Sundays and Christmas eves with smaller gatherings other Sunday mornings. The steeple held a huge bell whose vibrations carried for miles, beckoning parishioners and Sunday school kids for whom it was widely hoped they’d grow-up to deport themselves “like good Christians.”
I never knew what political party was followed by anyone. My parents kept their political views to themselves although I was aware they voted dutifully every election. Thinking back to the fact that our part of Astoria —on the west side — was nicknamed Uniontown, the two biggest canneries being Union Fish and the Columbia River Packers Association, it makes some sense to me that Democrat may have been the most common affiliation. Otherwise, I remember seeing “I Like Ike” signs all over the city before the election of 1952.
I’m an older guy who could reminisce about one thing or another ‘until blue in the face.’ My days of old will never return any more than the days could reappear for those who preceded my arrival. Instead of begrudging lost yesterday’s, it’s strongly encouraged we meet head-on the challenges now upon us by our dramatically-changing weather conditions. One condition I never noticed growing up was climate change; nevertheless, we know it’s real today and threatening human viability. It is my sincerest hope that any succeeding generations will not look back at the 2020s with the deepest of angry resentments that we did not rise en masse to action, proactively interceding to halt the predicted doom should not enough be done about it.
(Gene McIntyre lives in Keizer.)