PHOENIXVILLE - Time is the most elusive of all dimensions. Albert Einstein with his famed E = M(c squared) added the concept to our three standard measuring units: length, width and depth. Thus the atomic age was born.
This weekend marks the end of the traditional time of holiday social gatherings. The New Year has officially arrived, but the party atmosphere continues through tonight for many families. Football games are the catalyst that keeps the festive mood intact. That and a desire to avoid a return to the normal work week. Whatever the reason, the opportunity to visit with family and friends often results in a variety of philosophical discussions.
When my peers are the center of the occasion, we often share the "Good Old Days" with one another. It not only keeps us mentally young but also permits us to gain new insights into this strange dimension of time.
During one such conclave the topic centered on the number three. We had just completed 2003 and were reviewing some of the events of the past year. We all agreed that despite our beliefs when younger, the years were flying by at an ever-alarming rate. "I thought that time would stand still when you got old," one senior confided.
While listening to the conversations, I thought that it would be interesting to take a mental trip back in time over the past 100 years and be a silent member of similar groups as a new year begins.
The idea was sparked by the discussion about the uniqueness of the number three, beginning with the "Trinity," as one guest commented. It was interesting to start with 1903 when the Wright brothers made their historic flight that allowed mankind to roam the skies. A discussion of flight during the past century included the recent issue of National Geographic that contained an article about the exploration of the planet Mars and the probability of human visitors.
However, a time traveler to 1903 would probably hear about the treaty with Panama that cleared the way for the digging of the canal that would link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Few would pay attention to the antics of the bicycle mechanics at Kitty Hawk. Other guests might mention the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase and its impact on our growing nation.
Party guests in 1913 would undoubtedly discuss the blockade of Mexico in support of the revolutionaries. Others more financially oriented might argue the merits of the newly created Federal Reserve System authorized on Dec. 23 that changed the way that we operated our banks and finances.
Now you have the idea, time travelers. Let's see what other discussions we might overhear when "threes are wild."
1923: Movie buffs buzz about the addition of sound to their beloved silent films. The simple beginning was called "Phonofilm" and opened at the Rivoli Theater in New York City in April.
1933: President Franklin Roosevelt ordered all banks in the United States closed on March 6 as the Great Depression hit home for many. In special sessions Congress passed legislation known as the New Deal that made sweeping economic and social reforms. Some party goers would also celebrate the ratification of the 21st Amendment on Dec. 6 that eliminated prohibition.
1943: While "Oklahoma" opened on Broadway, World War II was the focus of every conversation. Our Armed Forces moved from a defensive to offensive posture in the Pacific. In the European Theater, our troops invade Sicily and then the Italian mainland.
Closer to home, Congress passed the paycheck withholding tax, which became effective on July 1. Since then we all work for the federal government for months each year according to our pay slips.
1953: One war stopped and the first step in another was initiated. The Korean War armistice was signed on July 27. President Dwight Eisenhower announced that the U.S. had sent $60 million to aid France in the Indochina War. France lost control of Vietnam and it would soon develop into the Vietnam War when President Kennedy sent in the first U.S. troops.
1963: Life changed on the education front as the Supreme Court ruled that laws requiring Bible reading and the recitation of the Lord's Prayer in schools were unconstitutional. The equal rights march on Washington was highlighted by Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. The year of national unrest continued with the murder of President Kennedy in Dallas.
1973: Peace pacts stopped the war in Vietnam on Jan. 27. The year also marked the end of the military draft. The decade of inflation was begun when the Arab nations placed a total ban on oil exports to the U.S.
1983: President Reagan signed a bill designed to save Social Security from bankruptcy. Tensions in the Middle East increased when a Marine barracks in Beirut at the Lebanon International airport was blown up by a suicide attack.
1993: A bomb was exploded in a parking garage beneath the World Trade Center on Feb. 26 to foreshadow events to come. The Great Flood of 1993 inundated eight million acres in nine Midwestern states.
2003: Fill in your own peaks and valleys for the past year.