Obama v McCain - the birth years
by Huntley in General / 11.03.08
Presidential candidate Barack Obama was born in 1961, a full 25 years after Senator John McCain was born in 1936. To illustrate just how different the world was when these two came into it, some points of reference, from the perspective of everyone’s favorite ‘typical American,’ Joe the Plumber:
In 1936, the year that John McCain was born, Joe the Plumber was paying $0.10 a gallon for gasoline. He paid $3,925 for his brand new home for the Mrs., and $.03 to mail a letter. The Dow Jones closed the year at $180. Audio tape was invented this year, and parking meters began to be installed in the streets in downtown Toledo, Ohio. Mr. The Plumber was listening intently to FDR on the radio during the first presidential campaign to hit the airwaves. Late at night, after the kids were in bed, he and the Mrs. would dance to Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby in the sitting room. There were still less than 2000 televisions in the US-Joe didn’t own one-but NBC debuted its first programming on 9-inch screens. Reading Gone With The Wind was making Mrs. The Plumber’s heart skip and the advent of the Zippo lighter made Mr. The Plumber’s nasty tobacco habit ever so slightly easier. His hero, Babe Ruth, was one of the first players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in its inaugural year. Sometimes Joe looked up into the stars, wondering if anyone would ever investigate, but he never shared these thoughts of absolute foolishness. The world was a crazy place. The newspapers told him about reporter H.R. Elkins, winner of a race around the world on commercial flights in a mind-bogglingly short 18 1/2 days. Mr. The Plumber was impressed with US social progress-after this year, public hangings would be a thing of the past, and African-American Jesse Owens had won 4 Olympic medals in the XI Olympiad in Berlin! We were so much more progressive than those Germans; Hitler only let Aryan Germans compete for the host country. Speaking of Germany, Joe was worried about a looming WW II, as they had broken the treaty of Versailles. And the streets were abuzz with word that Japan and Italy’s Moussolini had formed an alliance. He feared that this might lead to disaster, but was comforted by FDR, who had the FBI tracking down the commies and fascists.
In 1961, the year that Barack Obama was born, Joe the Plumber was paying $0.27 a gallon for gasoline. He paid $12,500 for his brand new home for the Mrs., and $.04 to mail a letter. The Dow Jones closed the year at $731. The electric toothbrush was invented this year, and the more affluent folks were talking something crazy about a new product: disposable diapers. Mr. The Plumber spent evenings watching Mr. Ed and the Dick Van Dyke show on the tube - course, he also tuned in for the important stuff, like the first ever televised presidential news conference. Sometimes, when he was feeling especially wacky, he and the Mrs. would dance to Chubby Checkers’ ‘The Twist’. Other faves were ‘I Fall to Pieces’, ‘Hit the Road Jack’, and ‘Runaround Sue.’ Televisions were pretty commonplace - he’d even heard they were now showing movies on TWA flights. Reading Catch-22 was a reminder to both Mrs. The Plumber and Joe that WWII was not that far removed, even if it sometimes felt that way. Now, when Joe looked up into the stars, he still couldn’t believe the Soviets had actually sent a man up there (and gotten him back). The final frontier was very fascinating and increasingly accessible. President Kennedy had gone so far as to ask Congress for a whopping $531M for NASA to spend getting a man on the moon. The world was still a crazy place. The Marshall Plan was finally behind the country (after distributing some $12B to rebuild European nations over the fifteen years after the war), but it seemed other wars may not be too far off. He was right to be concerned as 1961 saw the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the start of the Vietnam War. Mr. The Plumber continued to be impressed with US social progress-African-American Ernie Banks won the Heisman in 1961 and JFK had created the Peace Corps. We were so much more progressive than crazy Castro, who had declared that Cuba would adopt Communism and then banned all free elections. Crazier still, though, the Cold War continued to escalate, and the Russians seemed to be winning. After he took office in 1961, JFK had gone so far as to urge all Americans to build fallout shelters in their backyards (that would provide secure refuge in the event of nuclear war). Despite all of the worldly troubles, Joe was content with life because his daughter was content with life. She was most happy of all that her beloved Barbie was finally allowed to have a boyfriend now that the Ken doll had come out.
Any other notable indicators of where the world was in 1936 versus 1961 that you could add to the lives of our hypothetical Mr. Joe the Plumbers - please feel free in the comments below.
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