I didn't want to let too many days pass before I mention that America's last surviving World War I veteran, Frank Buckles died last week. Mr. Buckles, as you probably heard, was one hundred ten years old, having been born in 1901. He enlisted in the army in 1917 at the tender age of 16-- lying that he was 18 so he could go "see some adventure." As a student of history, I am fascinated by not what he did, but rather by what he lived through in his century plus time on Earth. Think about it: The first light that shone on Mr. Buckles' at his birth was provided by an oil filled lamp by his mother's bedside. His world was very much the world his grandfather knew. It was still a horse-drawn age. Airplanes did not fill the air, cars did not roar down freeways at seventy miles per hour. Trains were common, but they usually topped out at thirty MPH.
It was a hard world, too. Language and behaviors that we now would consider horribly bigoted and racist were common, and unexceptional. Unemployment statistics were of no use. If you didn't have a job, that was your problem. If you had a job, you were lucky if it paid a dollar a day. Children as young as five years old worked for far less in factories and mines. If they made it to that age. What might have started as a little cough your child had in the morning might lead to their death by that evening. The old adage that we laugh at today was a rule of thumb then; What doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.
So, in honor of Mr. Buckles, here is an illustrated tour of the world that Frank Buckles saw as he lived his remarkable life.
|Scything the clover|
|Bringing in the hay, 1900's|
|The first airplane, 1903|
|Perfectly normal for 1900|
|Bathing suits as they were meant to be|
|Rt 95 before they knew it was rt 95|
|The Dust Bowl|
|A new world|
|Who wouldn't want one?|
|The Moon, 1969|
|One last victory... 1974|
|And the wall came tumbling down 1989|
So, thank you Frank. The "lost generation" now truly is. The sad thing about your passing is that you had to see this train wreck of a television "star" before you left:
|A new kind of drug|
Rest in peace.
And thank you.