You Kids Get Off My Lawn

by Kieran Healy on April 25, 2007

Today while walking across campus I had the sobering realization that many people who were not yet born when I started college will themselves be starting college this autumn. In an effort to spread this sinking feeling around amongst readers older than me, I started college in 1990, when I was seventeen. Whenever I teach an undergraduate class, I ask the students what’s the earliest major news event they can remember. When I started teaching at Arizona, most students could remember the Challenger disaster. Then it was the fall of the Berlin Wall. Then the first Gulf War. Then Bill Clinton’s first-term election. At the moment it is the Oklahoma City bombing. Soon it will be the death of Princess Diana.

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Richard 04.25.07 at 4:59 am

I just had the sobering realisation that I started college in the same year as you, and I’m still a student.

Do people still remember Princess Diana?


lindsey 04.25.07 at 5:05 am

Yes they do… and actually, that’s my earliest major news memory (along with some fuzzy memories of Saddam discussions). Way to guess.


artclone 04.25.07 at 5:06 am

Oh, poor college graduates. College grads who went to college immediately following (or even before) the end of high school. I went to college at 30, 14 years after dropping out of high school. I wish I only had to worry about dying before I got old.

Sorry, us poor are often bitter.


René Daumal 04.25.07 at 5:10 am

The first major news event I can remember was my birth; it was shortly after Reagan’s first election to the Presidency, so I felt that had to be the primary issue when I gave my post-natal interviews. I advocated for the creation of a progressive insurgency that would still uphold the values of a Stevenson or a McGovern.

Of course, the gossip mags were a problem.


René Daumal 04.25.07 at 5:11 am

Do people still remember Princess Diana?

They probably do all the more vividly, now that we have The Queen.


will u. 04.25.07 at 5:15 am

If we’re recounting first news memories, mine are of the Soviet coup.


rk 04.25.07 at 5:34 am

do you old farts know where I can find some under-30 smartblogs? I see yglesias’ link to my right.


Dan Myers 04.25.07 at 5:42 am

Sadly, my earliest news memories were of Richard M. Nixon. I remember both his triumphant second election and his resignation. Strangely, my parents cheered both events.


Jacob Christensen 04.25.07 at 5:57 am

Well, young Kieran: When I started teaching (in 1992), somewhere between a quarter and half of then students in my classes were older than me. This academic year, most are born between 1983 – the year I entered university – and 1986.

My first memory of something political? The first Danish referendum about the EC (as it was then) in 1972. Not that I knew anything about it – I just understood that people were discussing the subject.


CR 04.25.07 at 5:59 am

Dave Righetti’s no-hitter (July 4, 1983).

We were a very sports-oriented family.

Non-sports? The Eastern Bloc boycott of the 1984 Olympics.

Still sports. Damn. It’s all a blank until Libya and the Challenger in 1986. Wait – I vaguely remember the first space shuttle launch. 1981, right? The public library, a National Geographic cover… I was 4.


abb1 04.25.07 at 6:08 am

My only early pre-school memory is the day that I later realized was the peak of the cuban missile crisis. Fear vibe, incredibly powerful.


Steve T. 04.25.07 at 6:19 am

abb1 and I are trumping you all. I was 7 and terribly scared and crying when JFK was shot, hiding in a corner of the playground. I didn’t really know what a president was, but I knew something awful had happened.

I think — not really sure — that I was home and my mother was ironing clothes and watching the news when Ruby shot Oswald on live TV. Again, I couldn’t understand the significance, but her shock and dismay certainly made an impression.


chris y 04.25.07 at 7:01 am

The first major event I recall was Pride’s Purge. I vaguely remember my parents discussing the execution of the Man of Blood, but I was too young to understand its significance.


bad Jim 04.25.07 at 7:30 am

Mine was probably the Sputnik launches. My father was working for the Navy, and he made us wooden models of the Vanguard missile.

In my freshman year at Berkeley, a tear gas canister found its way into a calculus lecture. Later that year my sister and I were in a demonstration downtown and found ourselves surrounded by the National Guard. We had riots every spring after that.

Nowadays students don’t have comparable entertainment options.


reason 04.25.07 at 7:49 am

JFK’s assasination?

Hey you guy’s are young!


Mike Otsuka 04.25.07 at 7:49 am

Mine is of a man stepping onto the moon. I remember my father taking a photograph of our black and white television screen to capture the moment — this being before the days of the VCR. Do undergraduates remember the VCR?


Scott Martens 04.25.07 at 9:00 am

I must be middle aged – I dimly remember the fall of Saigon. I’d have been circa 4 and I was not clear on what had happened, just that something important to the grown-ups was going on, and it involved helicopters.

I started college at 16, three years before Kieran, so I went thru this little crisis a couple years ago already. And I’m still in school too. No rest for the wicked or PhD candidates.


Katherine 04.25.07 at 9:02 am

People Power in the Philippines and the ousting of the Marcos’s. I especially remember asking my dad if there would ever be a People Power in Britain to get rid of Margaret Thatcher. Everyone seemed to hate her so much, it made sense to me at the time. I think I got my first lesson about democracy that day.


Paul Ding 04.25.07 at 9:12 am

I attended college in the 1960s (starting at age *16*), in the 1970s, in the 1980s, and got my BS (math/chemistry) in 1991.

The diploma didn’t make me any better an employee, but my income quadrupled in 3 years. Suddenly, I was allowed to interview for jobs I was locked out of before. It’d really help our economy if they separated education from credentiation. Sorta like law school just gives you a diploma, passing the bar allows you to practice law. We have too many capable people being underemployed because they can’t prove they already know what the college they can’t afford purports to teach.

I remember standing out by the pumphouse, staring into the sky, trying to see Sputnik. We now know that wasn’t nearly as dangerous as Kennedy’s gamesmanship in the Cuban missle crisis, but even as a preschooler, I heard terms like “death raining down on us from the sky” and I knew people were scared of it.


Rofe 04.25.07 at 9:16 am

Quite a wake-up call.

Until reading this comment thread, I used to consider myself young (or at least youngish). But I see one lone comment with which I associate (JFK assasination is my first news event, too), and the rest are events I associate with . . . first year out of college . . . first apartment without a roommate . . . etc.

I now consider myself old.

How could that happen?



Chris Bertram 04.25.07 at 10:19 am

I remember my Dad remarking “Sir Alec has got to go …”, which must be c. 1963 and someone bought me a copy of the Beatles “She Loves You” which stuck after about the third playing …. and people in the playground were very keen on Manfred Mann’s 5-4-3-2-1 (1964).

Those born when I first went to university will be 29 this year and most of my current students weren’t yet alive when I taught my first undergrad class.

Oh … and I recently dropped all reference to Nicolae CeauÅŸescu and Robert Maxwell from my Rousseau lectures, when it became clear that no-one in the audience had the faintest idea who they were.

Some things stay the same though. In 1977 (seems like yesterday) the Clash sang “No Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones, in 1977” and 30 years later Keith Richards is still doddering on.


derrida derider 04.25.07 at 10:31 am

I was brought up in a remote town in the Australian outback, but I can still remember people being glued to the wireless during the Cuban missile crisis – we really believed WWIII was about to break out, and nuclear annihilation would reach all the way to us. I was too young (8 years old) to understand everything, but I vividly remember the pervasive fear.

But I was old enough to be radicalised, like many of my peers, a few years later by the Vietnam war.


David Moles 04.25.07 at 10:38 am

Aaaaaaah! Shut up, Kieran, shut up!

(I started in 1990, too.)


Bob B 04.25.07 at 10:44 am

Yongsters, the lot.

How about the Normandy Invasion of 6 June 1944 and the V1 flying bombs and V2 ballistic rockets falling on London from June 1944 through March 1945?


Jacob T. Levy 04.25.07 at 10:56 am

Well, crap. I’m two years older than you, so it seems I’ve already been in that position.

Princess Diana? Egad.

I have a couple tiny memories about the 1976 election, when I was 5. I remember the papal elections of 1978 (7), though I had no clue what they meant or what a Catholic was or that it was unusual (after the second one, I figured they must be frequent affairs). The first memories of knowing things were happening and having a clue about what they meant all come in a 1979 rush: Mother Teresa’s Nobel Peace Prize, the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis, the invasion of Afghanistan, the spike in oil prices, Camp David, inflation, and the malaise speech. But those are all basically part of the same moment in my memory; I don’t have any clear sense of which came first in the year.

But I read this “Mickey and Goofy Explore Energy COnservation comic in 1978, and don’t think I was surprised to learn that oil was scarce and energy was expensive, so that had gotten ambiently soaked up at least a year earlier


Sumana Harihareswara 04.25.07 at 10:58 am

I can’t quite recall Challenger or the fall of the Berlin Wall but think that I should. I definitely remember Iran-Contra and the 1994 Republican Revolution but didn’t get their significance. I was wholly sentient for and understood the O.J. Simpson verdict, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Asian financial crisis, the death of Princess Diana, Clinton’s impeachment, and of course the terrorist attacks of 2001. That list, Mr. Healy, for your benefit, to extend your list of probabilities.


Sumana Harihareswara 04.25.07 at 11:04 am

A friend of mine told me a story about a sixties-era class at Berkeley. The professor asked his students, “Who’s President right now?”

The students responded, “John Kennedy.”

“How do you know?” the professor asked. “When was the last time you checked?” Etc., etc., probably would have tossed E Prime in there if it had been around.

And they walked out of the classroom and found out that indeed JFK was no longer President, for he had died.


chris y 04.25.07 at 11:44 am

I think the Sputnik launch is about where I actually came in, though the memories are patchy for the next few years. I overheard a conversation between my dad and an American diplomat friend of his, in which the American was arguing that the forthcoming US satellite was really advanced because it was only the size of a football, whereas Sputnik was as big as a dustbin, so it didn’t really count. I called bullshit then, and I call it now.


Matt 04.25.07 at 11:54 am

The first news I remember remembering now is about the hostage crisis in Iran. I can remember rembering it since my family talked about it a lot at the time. I also remember when Reagan won the white house in ’80. That seemed very good time at the time but then I was 6 years old, just about the right age to be impressed by Reagan.


tom s. 04.25.07 at 12:07 pm

death of churchill


Jacob T. Levy 04.25.07 at 12:07 pm

whereas, in an early warning sign of David Broderism, I remember having the strong sense that obviously John Anderson should win, because Carter had made a terrible mess of everything but Reagan was all scary an’ stuff.


Andrew John 04.25.07 at 12:24 pm

[tom s.] Thank you. Death (or more precisely, funeral) of Churchill is mine as well, although I had forgotten that I remembered it until you reminded me!


Mudge 04.25.07 at 12:28 pm

I was sitting at my desk in maybe 1982 when one of my undergraduate researchers came into my ofice and asked what it was like to have been alive during the Viet Nam war. He had been 7 or so at the time, certainly alive, but he had no memories of the divisiveness of the conflict.

My first specific memory of something that did not happen directly to me is probably Don Larsen’s perfect game. News on TV was sparse back then and I could not read until I was 6 or 7, so I was rather isolated from events. I saw the end of the perfect game on TV after coming home from school.


chris armstrong 04.25.07 at 1:00 pm

I don’t have any very concrete memories, but I do remember my parents being very depressed about politics in 1979 (after the UK General Election), and then again in 1983 (by which time I knew that the milk-snatcher was a Very Bad Person). By 1987 I was old enough to be depressed myself, and by 1992 I had the de rigeur experience of voting for the losing side first-hand.


mollymooly 04.25.07 at 1:01 pm

Same age and origin as Kieran. I remember 1978, the death of John Paul I, because his DEAD BODY was shown lying on his bed on the news. I remember John Paul II’s visit to Ireland in 1979, because there was nothing else on TV for 3 days, and he came in a big helicopter, and we ate dinner in front of the TV (otherwise illegal in my house). Then it’s 1981: Bobby Sands and the IRA hunger strikers, and assassination attempts on Reagan, the Pope, and Sadat. At this point I thought assassination was a major occupational hazard for world leaders. Oh, what year was the Yorkshire Ripper caught? Earliest sports memories are 1982: the soccer World Cup, Kilkenny shocking Cork in the hurling, and Offaly denying Kerry the 5-in-a-row in gah. Earliest entertainment memory: the queues at the cinema for E.T.


Tsmoss 04.25.07 at 1:08 pm

The Gulf War.

I’m 19, a sophomore in college, and my school has a three-week orientation/introduction core course, mandatory for all new students, before the beginning of the fall semester. One day in class, the professor asked us (all born in 1986-7) what our “first political memory” was. Most didn’t remember anything earlier than the 2000 presidential election.


Ben Alpers 04.25.07 at 1:15 pm

My first news memory: the RFK assassination.

Followed by clearer memories of the moon landing and People’s Park (hey…I was growing up in Berkeley). I also remember the late ’60s UFW grape boycott (my family honored it and I missed the grapes!).


trane 04.25.07 at 1:31 pm

Famine in Ethiopia, 1984-85. I was 8 or 9 years old.

In late 1989, just before the fall of the Berlin Wall I was going for a walk with a friend. We talked about whether and when the wall might come down, and I remember saying “maybe in five years or so…”. It took five days.


eweininger 04.25.07 at 1:31 pm

A deep-seated mental image from my childhood: a pleasant stream (or perhaps a bubbling brook) meandering through some fields; next to it, a white picket fence with a very prominent gate. I knew vaguely that this was supposed to have something to do with the president (Nixon), but for the life of me, I couldn’t see the connection.

In an effort to spread this sinking feeling around amongst readers older than me, I started college in 1990….

Thanks ever so much.


LizardBreath 04.25.07 at 1:49 pm

My earliest dateable political memories are from the ’76 presidential election (a babysitter explaining to me that it was disloyal to vote for anyone other than the incumbent); for more interesting news events it’d be the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.


jamie k 04.25.07 at 1:59 pm

OK, for me the first detailed political memories are the 1973-4 miner’s strike and the two elections in 1974. The miners in my home town (Stoke-on-Trent) just looked like a bunch of old gits, and I remember being very impressed by the idea that they’d gone down to London one day and overthrown the government, especially since I got the day off school when they held the elections.


C. L. Ball 04.25.07 at 2:08 pm

As an IR hack, I remember reminding colleagues at Columbia back in late 90s that our students have no political memory of the Cold War — we have to teach them history before we can discuss it because they have no idea what we are talking about.

When I tell recent students how, when I took intro to IR in fall 1987, students and TAs would be nearly shouting at each other after class over the wisdom of the INF treaty. They look at me as if we were all insane, which in retrospect I think is not an unfair assumption.

Does anyone argue at your schools — for those who are academics or taking courses — over the Iraq war after class?


fred lapides 04.25.07 at 2:09 pm

Trump this! I was yanked out of college because I was in the inactive reserve corps and shipped to Korea in Dec, 1950, when the North invaded the south. It was to be a piece of cake but halfway across the Pacific, the announcement came over loudspeaker that the Chinese had just crossed the Yalu River. and,to push it back a bit, that was my SECOND time in the army. Yep. getting up there though not getting it up.


pking 04.25.07 at 2:11 pm

Don Larsen’s perfect game is my second sporting memory. The first is the Rocket Richard riot in Montreal in 1955. The first headline I remember is “X DIES” in very large type-face. I think X must have been Stalin


harry b 04.25.07 at 2:20 pm

As Kieran knows I’m middle-aged, and have been for a while (I’m 43). First memories of political events are the street riots in Amsterdam and Biafra. But Issupect this is because we didn’t get a telly till then. I also remember the day that Round the Horne went off the air, and the first trailer for Dad’s Army. First political event I was involved with was 1974 — I made homemade badges saying “vote Labour” and gave them to all my friends. A waste of time in Aylesbury, but how was I to know?


astrongmaybe 04.25.07 at 2:31 pm

World Cup final in Argentina 1978 – I couldn’t figure out why it was raining paper.


William Sjostrom 04.25.07 at 2:32 pm

Cheer up, Kieran. You are discovering one of the joys of academic life is being reminded regularly by your students about rapidly approaching senility and death. Get used to it.


J. Ellenberg 04.25.07 at 2:33 pm

Three Mile Island.


Mudge 04.25.07 at 2:37 pm

I mentioned sports..not politics. How common. First real political memory is the second Eisenhower/Stevenson campaign (1956). My school had a mock campaign and election. Those of us in second grade couldn’t ignore it. I suspect the 5th and 6th graders got more out of it.

I mentioned that we had newspapers, but seldom read anything but the comics as kids, and almost no TV news (the evening news with Douglas Edwards was 15 minutes). I’d be interestd to know how 24 hour CNN and such has changed these earliest memories. In reading here, it appears very little. We had no visual news, but today’s kids have so many options instead of TV news. It seems to sort out to about the same thing; the first retained memories of the world around us occur at about age 7.


Bill Gardner 04.25.07 at 2:42 pm

The Cuban missle crisis. My dad was a Pentagon official and we lived in Alexandria. I remember trying to understand why my parents were so frightened.


Ted 04.25.07 at 2:46 pm

I vaguely remember Watergate. Sports memory would be Aaron’s 715th home run and the “magic number” countdown associated with the Reds’ “Big Red Machine” years.

If it helps, I started college in 1985.


bitchphd 04.25.07 at 2:51 pm

Yeah, well, fuck you Kieran. (Can I swear on CT?) I graduated in 1990.


theophylact 04.25.07 at 2:52 pm

Hiroshima. (My parents told me that two years earlier, I looked up from a copy of the New York Times that was spread out on the floor and said, “I see the Russians have pushed the Germans out of Stalingrad.” But I don’t remember that.)


Laleh 04.25.07 at 2:55 pm

I remember being very little in Iran and reading (I read from very young) that the Vietnam war had ended.


Nick L 04.25.07 at 2:57 pm

Noone posting so far has actually said that their first political memory was the fall of the Berlin Wall yet, so I will. I also remember the Alvin and the Chipmunks Berlin Wall special featuring Michael Jackson, for what it is worth.


arthur 04.25.07 at 3:11 pm

My parents fist got a tv when I was five, just in time for the funerals of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, then riots in the news all Summer. Leading up to the election of Richard Nixon. Quite a year.


jacob 04.25.07 at 3:16 pm

It’s funny. I have very clear memories of two events in 1986–the Iran-Contra Hearings (at age 5 I came home from school each day to watch them on PBS) and the Challenger explosion. But oddly I have no memory at all of Chernobyl, which was also 1986, and indeed until sometime relative recently when I was told of its date had always assumed it happened before I was born.

I’m surprised more people my age and slightly younger don’t answer with Tienanmen Square. I have a very vivid memory of Connie Chung interrupting Saturday morning cartoons and telling us kids to go get our parents. I ignored her instructions, watched the news myself and then went to go tell my father on the front porch. While I remember the other events of 1989 too, including the Berlin Wall falling, nothing is as vivid as that morning.

I got to college the fall of the Clinton impeachment hearings. I remember an older friend of mine noting how weird it was that the formative political experience of people my age would be that nonsense, while his was what is now known as the First Gulf War. Little did he know that the actually formative political experience of my generation would be far more absurd–the 2000 election decided by judicial fiat. Relatedly, Ken Starr’s report was the first time I learned about rim-jobs, except I didn’t know they were called that then.


novakant 04.25.07 at 3:51 pm

The German Autumn – there was the same poster with mugshots of the RAF terrorists everywhere and it was all pretty scary and sad.


marcel 04.25.07 at 3:54 pm

I’m about the same age as abb1 and steve t. – i.e., JFK’s assassination is my earliest news memory, although I recall things like the duck and cover air raid drills a couple of years earlier.

In grad school I TAd for a well known economic historian (now dead), who, about 20 years ago, decided it was time to change the end of his US econ history course from WW2 to, roughly, 1980. I think this is the counterpart to Chris Bertram’s (April 25th, 2007 at 10:19 am) dropping references to Nicolae CeauÅŸescu.


Richard 04.25.07 at 4:12 pm

I especially remember asking my dad if there would ever be a People Power in Britain to get rid of Margaret Thatcher. Everyone seemed to hate her so much, it made sense to me at the time. I think I got my first lesson about democracy that day.

Beautiful. Also utterly heart-wrenching. That sounds like what I’ve learned so far about democracy.


Eszter 04.25.07 at 4:13 pm

Kieran, to make us feel younger, here’s what happened yesterday at a seminar I attended. My colleague here at the Center, Jack Rakove, was presenting on federalism and mentioned that he’d been studying a text by Madison that we were looking at, since 1970. He suggested that that may have been before some of us in the group had even been born. And I got to nod.:-)


idlemind 04.25.07 at 4:22 pm

The JFK v. Nixon election. Political ads back then actually had jingles. I liked Nixon’s the best.


minneapolitan 04.25.07 at 4:36 pm

I’m a couple of years younger than Kieran, but I remember the Iran Hostage Crisis vividly (there was an Iranian kid in my preschool class, so that must’ve focused my interest.) I also remember coming in to my parents’ bedroom the morning after Reagan (damn his soul to Hell) won in 1980 and talking with my mother about how depressing that was. By the time of the Royal Wedding and the Space Shuttle launch, I was already a news junky, getting up before the rest of the house every morning to watch Bob Schieffer, and sometimes even the Farm Report. If there was a test pattern, I went back to sleep.


radek 04.25.07 at 4:43 pm

My dad in the doorway with two bottles of champagne shouting “The Pope is a Pole!”


Gus 04.25.07 at 4:59 pm

I remember thinking that because my family lived in the northern part of the country we must be on the side of the North Vietnamese. Also have a very vague recollection of the moon landing.


Alan Peakall 04.25.07 at 5:06 pm

The moon landing in 1969 when I was four. The first political news story would be the shootings at the Munich Olympics when I was seven. A college near-contemporary (only 10 months my senior) outpointed me by being able to remember Bangladesh’s war of secession from (West) Pakistan.


Kenny Easwaran 04.25.07 at 5:07 pm

#57 is almost exactly me. Except I didn’t really remember Iran-Contra either. But I had the same experience of not knowing Chernobyl happened in my lifetime until some time much later (high school I think). And it was my Berlin Wall experience that happened during Scooby Doo rather than Tienanmen Square. I think Exxon Valdez is actually probably the first big thing I really remember well – I remember Challenger, but can’t tell if it was a memory I made up a year or two later or actually noticed at the time.


Bill Gardner 04.25.07 at 5:08 pm

Another early memory. Vietnam, during the Kennedy years. My Dad made a number of trips there (all pre-Tonkin Gulf, obviously). He brought back slides: “I shot this one from under the jeep, after we were ambushed.”


Bloix 04.25.07 at 5:16 pm

I was walking home from school and when I was a block away my brother ran up, yelling, “Kennedy’s been shot!” I was seven at the time.


Jim Harrison 04.25.07 at 5:21 pm

On Saturday mornings, the names of soldiers killed in Korea were broadcast on the television. I remember lying on the living room floor and reading them outloud. After that period, I was always pretty much aware of what was going on in the world and politics if only because the loud but informative arguments between my Mom and Dad about every conceivable issue.


Dan Karreman 04.25.07 at 5:34 pm

Some guy walking on the moon, probably in 1971. I was 6 at the time. Don’t know why 1969 didn’t register. But, yeah, Kieran, get used to it. This is middle age. Don’t think you ever are going to understand your students again, the way you used to.


Randy Paul 04.25.07 at 5:42 pm


I graduated college when you were five, so don’t expect much sympathy.

My earliest news event memory was also when I was five: the Cuban Missile Crisis. I was in first grade in Miami and got walked home from school by National Guardsmen.


nick s 04.25.07 at 5:47 pm

A little younger than Kieran, but I remember my mother being upset about Pope John Paul I’s early checkout. (She got more upset about John Lennon’s death.) I vaguely remember Thatcher’s victory in 1979. I definitely watched the Iranian embassy siege get, um, broken by the SAS in 1980.

(But I also remember watching the Queen’s car drive rather speedily down the road near my grandma’s house for the Silver Jubilee.)

I watched BBC Schools programmes (usually during the holidays) that featured German families divided between east and west. That today’s first-year students weren’t out of nappies during the collapse of the Soviet Bloc feels strangest to me.


Jacob Christensen 04.25.07 at 6:40 pm

It is probably a sign of emerging senility that I have to correct my earlier comment – I actually think that I remember hearing about the break-up of the Beatles in early 1970.

And even worse: I’m sure I asked my now-deceased dad what an “acting prime minister” was in mid-1971.

Now, what kind of 6-year-old would ask such a question…?


Anne 04.25.07 at 7:02 pm

b. 1976, entered college 1994. First memories are of the 1980 election – I liked Reagan’s hair, and I knew that there were 3 guys running and that was unusual. Don’t remember Carter being President at all, vaguely remember the hostages coming home from Iran.


Thomas 04.25.07 at 7:39 pm

I’m the same age as Jacob, so my early “news” memories are similar.

My youngest brother was born during the 1976 GOP convention, which was in my hometown that year, and the hospital was across the street from a park full of Yippie protesters. My only memory of the 60s.

One difference: my parents, then dyed in the wool Democrats, did find Reagan scary, at least in 1980, and were horrified to find that I disagreed. I remember my mother asking what they were teaching me at school.


MR. Bill 04.25.07 at 7:50 pm

I vaguely remember the Cuban Missile Crisis, or at least, my father planning to convert an old trench type concrete silo (we lived on a dairy farm) into a fallout shelter.

And I clearly remember the Kennedy assassination: we had taken a family trip to Chattanooga TN (the closest city)and my mom had a gynecological appointment. On the way to the Doctor’s office, we heard the first radio reports, and at about that time, an ambulance crossed in front of us: the street it was on ran downhill infront of us, and as I saw the person on the gurney in the old glass-sided ambulance bounce as they hit a bump in the pavement. This image was alway my personal memory of the Kennedy killing, that and the days of television coverage.


Anne 04.25.07 at 9:13 pm

Also, my first moment of this kind of disorientation and horror came in grad school in 1999, when I realized that my freshmen had never heard of apartheid. “Yes, there was racial segregation in the 1950s, but come on, that was a long time ago and no place is like that now.”


Doug K 04.25.07 at 9:21 pm

I remember listening to Armstrong on the moon over the radio.. no TV, but the radio was still pretty exciting.
My wife is back in college, she complains that her brain is old and full up: can’t take any more information, chemistry in particular. Ow.


Robert 04.25.07 at 9:48 pm

I haven’t read all the previous comments.

I lived about 20 miles north. I recall school being interupted for us to listen to a radio broadcast. Attica.

I also recall my mother’s soaps being off the air so we could listen to Watergate hearings.

I had an opinion in the 1968 elections, but I have no idea what could be justified. I don’t recall assasinations.


Ancarett 04.25.07 at 9:50 pm

I was wrapping up grad school when you were starting university, you young whippersnapper, you!

When I started teaching Western Civ on my own, I was pushing the envelope by ending the course with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now students react to that as if it is ancient history and, to them?, it is. Being in education gives us a constantly moving target in our work as the new year brings a new crop of mostly fresh, young faces: both a challenge and a frustration.


burritoboy 04.25.07 at 10:04 pm

My first political memory was as a child cheering the men of the weavers guild as they passed through the Gentpoort to battle the foul invaders from France of that bastard Philip IV. And then when they returned with the golden spurs and hung them up on the Church of Our Lady, and then the aldermen declaring a great feast……Great memories.

(just kidding – this would make me 700+ years old)

Iran hostage crisis is the first political thing I noticed (at about 7 years of age). Though, for some unknown reason, I named my cat after Jimmy Carter at age 6.


Quo Vadis 04.25.07 at 10:33 pm

Apollo 11; my father wouldn’t let me stay up to watch it on TV.

I also have a vivid memory of being tear gassed during an anti-war rally on the Stanford University campus. I was on my way to the Bing nursery school which is located on the campus. It scared the hell out of the 4 year old me.


Mary 04.25.07 at 11:09 pm

Hrm, I am old in Healy Student Years. I am somewhere between the Challenger disaster students and the Berlin Wall students: for me it’s the result of the 1987 Australian Federal Election.

My own PhD supervisor had another measure for a while: how many professional athletes (AFL players in his case) were still older than him? But there aren’t any any more, so that measure has limited usefulness.


copernicus 04.25.07 at 11:29 pm

I have a vague memory of the death of Elvis – but I was only three at the time.

First major political events I remember vividly were the ’81 hunger strikes (black flags hanging from windows and low-level hysteria in my home town as a result of the influx of nationalist refugees from the North) and the colourful ’81 general election in Ireland.

Rapidly followed by the ’82 general election.


Mrs. Coulter 04.26.07 at 12:00 am

The first significant news event that I recall is the Iran hostage crisis.

I tutor a high school freshman in various subjects, including history. One day the subject of the Soviet Union came up (I forget why–perhaps it was the in the context of proxy wars in Africa). He looked blank when I referenced the Soviet Union offhandedly. “Do you know anything about it?” I asked him. He shook his head. We then established that he was about six months old when the August coup happened. Me, I was preparing to head off to college, with plans to become a Soviet specialist (haha–the joke was on me, eh?).


vivian 04.26.07 at 1:23 am

It’s too late in the thread for an anecdote, but time for passed-along perspective. A not-much-older academic said “It’s when you realize your students’ parents are looking younger and younger that it really sinks in.”


Michael Rew 04.26.07 at 1:42 am

I turn 32 in a few days. The first news event I can remember involved Soviet attack helicopters flying over Afghanistan.


tom hurka 04.26.07 at 2:01 am

I remember being struck, in 1982, that the gap between the end of WWII and the Kennedy assassination was now smaller than the gap between the Kennedy assassination and the present — and that was a long time ago.


snuh 04.26.07 at 2:17 am

i have a hazy recollection of a plane hijacking. no idea what airline or where (it would be mid-80s), but i distinctly recall seeing footage of a man being shot and then thrown from the hijacked plane. it’s the sort of thing that sticks in the mind.

whether it’s my earliest memory depends on whether it was before or after indira gandhi’s death and the pogroms that followed.


arrrr 04.26.07 at 5:50 am

The oldest news memory I have is Yeltsin’s siege on the Russian parliament


M-H 04.26.07 at 6:28 am

I can’t beat bob b, but I remember the Queen’s visit to New Zealand in 1953/4 (I was three). I remember stories about the MauMau uprising (it finished at the end of the 1950s). I remember being afraid that there would be a war during the Cuban crisis, and I was 12 when JFK was shot – in NZ that was the morning I sat a scholarship exam for high school, as it happens. And I was glad I had Wikipedia to establish the dates of the first two events.

Good question, Kieran, even though it establishes me as almost the oldest respondent.


roy belmont 04.26.07 at 8:36 am

My mother voting for Adlai Stevenson in 1956. Before that my father at a podium, on televison, and being asked questions and it was very important to us how he answered them.


dave heasman 04.26.07 at 12:15 pm

There wasn’t much news in England before the 60s and it was all declaimed in the same tone of voice. I recall the Daily Mirror agitating for Attlee to resign as Labour leader, and the Matthews cup final, but nothing before them, aged 7. Scariest news – Suez. Much scarier than Cuba because we thought (age 10) there was a chance the US would bomb us. And, as our troops know too well, that’s a Bad Thing.


Monte Davis 04.26.07 at 2:25 pm

Mostly Sputnik, just a glimpse of Hungary 1956. But I can cheat back to the Korean War with inarticulate memories from age 3:

Pre-dawn family drives that I later learned were taking my father (USMC WWII) to nearby reserve duty

And pretending to read the Sunday comics with my older brother. Big Picture newsreels on the TV, and green convoys outside: our street was on a reserve/Guard route.


rachel 04.26.07 at 4:48 pm

Another vote for the Iran hostage crisis. And the Iranian revolution in general. I remember being quite riveted by the television images of demonstrations and riots. And being confused about who this Shah guy was, and why there was a big fuss about him coming to the U.S. for medical treatment. And then the presidential election that seemed to be around the same time, which was the first time I became aware of Democrats and Republicans. I too started college in 1990 and am now finishing up my last term as a graduate student!


garymar 04.26.07 at 7:07 pm

Oh yeah, burritoboy?

I was let out of the edubba early when news arrived that the armies of Sargon had attacked Uruk. We put down our clay cuneiform tablets and rushed to the top of the ziggurat to have a good look. The sound of bronze on bronze will ring forever in my memory.

Shirley MacLaine was there too.


Hidari 04.26.07 at 7:59 pm

I remember (incredibly vaguely) the 3 day week and the resulting power cuts. Of course, as a kid I thought it was fantastic. We got to play games by candlelight.


Leinad 04.27.07 at 2:40 am

21 y.o. – I’ve got a shameful block on the Berlin Wall, but I remember the Gulf War, as it coincided with my first year at school. I spent much of my playground time being a scud missile or an F-15.

My first political memory would either be the Sydney Third Runway protests or the 1996 Labor loss to what would become the dreary conservative government of my teenage years (it’s actually a good thing to have in a lot of ways).


SFO 04.27.07 at 6:15 am

I remember Cronkite counting the days on the hostage crisis. And then my mother crying when Reagan got elected.


John Casey 04.27.07 at 12:22 pm

For me, it was the Democratic convention of 1956: JFK was competing for the Vice Presidential nomination, but lost it to Estes Kefauver. Later that year, I was in a very small Democratic minority in the 2nd grade, and can still feel the burn of “Whistle while you work, Stevenson’s a jerk, Eisenhower has more power, whistle while you work.”

I was 6.

I still hate Republicans.



Mary Kay 04.27.07 at 4:38 pm

Thank god. There were some people besides me who cited Sputnik. (Also, Eisenhower’s heart attack.) And at least one who went back further. (I stopped reading at about #35 because is was just so dammed depressing.)

Just you young whippersnappers wait. I wanna hear what you have to say when you get will into your 50s like I am. Of course, given the prevalence of Alzheimers in my family I’ll probably be senile or gone by then.



Steve T. 04.27.07 at 6:17 pm

Ben Alpers: Hey! I grew up in Berkeley too, probably about five years ahead of you. Yep, People’s Park and all that fun stuff. I remember one Sat. afternoon I was at a teen church group thingie at St. Mark’s Episcopal on Bancroft. Afterwards we walked up towards Sather Gate to enjoy the riots and see what pepper gas smelled like.


clew 04.27.07 at 10:12 pm

My first memory is of Walt Kelly’s obituary strip; I count Kelly as political. (I also remember the grownups crying over what must have been the Vietnam War, but I can’t date it.) I graduated from college in 1990.

It greatly soothes me, when I feel middle-aged, to look at the undergraduates and realize how glad I am that I don’t have to be young again. I expect being actually *old* will be worse, but I didn’t like *young* at all.


agm 04.28.07 at 4:55 am

Sigh. Challenger. Mainly hurts remembering that it was once feasible to dream of walking the sky.


Adrien Deume 04.28.07 at 6:49 pm

My first political memory I think was the March 1966 meeting of Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey with Pope Paul VI in Rome – mainly I remember asking my mother ´what does ecumenical mean´(I was 6 or so). I think she went to the service they held at St Paul’s Outside the Walls. Also there was the Beatles Rome tour – we got caught in a traffic jam their entourage caused – which I guess must have been 1965.

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