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Celebrating 50 years of a milestone

June 22, 1969 served as a milestone in the life of yours truly.

It was on that day where my birthday cake was filled with 16 candles….the rite of passage for any young person (yesterday, today, and tomorrow).

It’s the day we anxiously wait to arrive. We mark off the calendar leading up to that special moment in time. I recall being so excited that I nearly wrecked my dad’s 1965, dark green Chevrolet Bel Air just hours after passing the test at the DMV office in Rich Square where I gained a driver’s license for the very first time. However, thanks to the expert advice given to me by Carl Russell Britt – my Driver’s Ed instructor (and assistant principal at Northampton County High School) – I was able to safely maneuver my way out of a spin and keep on going without a dent.

As a side note while writing this column, I looked up what a classic car like the ‘65 Bel Air would be worth today…..a cool $35,000.

The summer of ’69 was indeed special…..kind of like a song by the same name written and released by Bryan Adams. It’s ironic that Adams, just before releasing that song, thought about naming it “The Best Days of My Life.”

Back then, life was much simpler and a lot less stressful than what’s driving the social and political headlines of today. We didn’t walk around like zombies, our eyes transfixed on a hand-held gadget; gas was under 40 cents per gallon; you could buy a new car for less than $3,500; and the average income for an individual was $8,550.

I especially recall one huge event….July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong uttered one sentence that will live in infamy….“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I watched the “Eagle” land on the moon that night from Cole’s TV Sales and Service in Rich Square. The father of Gary Cole, one of my high school chums, owned that business.

The summer of ‘69 is also famous for what was initially intended to be a small gathering of people at a rural New York farm to enjoy an outdoor musical concert. I wasn’t among the 400,000 people who flocked to that venue known as Woodstock. But TV accounts introduced me and others to the music of Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Santana, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and others.

And isn’t it ironic that in early 1969, Richard M. Nixon, making his first inaugural address, said, “Americans cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another.” Gee, times haven’t changed all that much over the past 50 years.

This coming Saturday (June 22) marks the 50th anniversary of my 16th birthday. Much like the time when I was counting down the days leading up to that particular milestone, I find myself today reflecting on my life since then. There have been some proud moments….graduating from high school (1971), college (1973), purchasing my first brand new car (1974), getting married (1979), becoming a father (1985), being inducted into the Jim Garrison Sports Hall of Fame at Chowan University (2002), promoted to Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications (2005) and gaining the title of the best-ever thing in life…becoming a grandfather (2013).

And all along the way, I’ve been blessed by the love of a warm and caring family and have gained the friendship of countless friends and co-workers.

Has my life been a smooth road lined with the sweet smell of roses? Nope, but as is one of the catch phrases of today, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

I wouldn’t change a thing about my 66 years on this Earth. It’s been a great ride up until this point and hopefully, God willing, more of life’s treasures await.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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