Our house was built in 1941. It was a small cottage in those days. I always try to imagine what it was like on Sunday 7 December, 1941.The owners were probably just back from church when they got the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
On cold and dark afternoons I often play my beloved music from the 1940’s. It’s soothing and enjoyable. I started to create a fantasy in my mind. To me 1946 was a magical time for the United States. We had won World War II (with a lot of help from the Russians, British, and Canadians). Our country had suffered little physical damage. The 400,000 Americans killed in combat were a small percentage when compared to the 16 million American men and women who put on uniforms and went to war to fight. At that time our population was around 140 million people. It was probably 3% of the world’s population some 68 years ago. Yet we controlled up to 50% of the world’s wealth. We had a massive industrial base. We had large foreign currency reserves backed with the security of gold held in Fort Knox. Our military was the strongest in the world. We were the only nation with the atomic bomb. We had a wonderful and a wise president in Harry Truman. He was transforming the United States into a true super power. He was also creating social programs to benefit all. One could say without a doubt that we were “on top of the world.”
As I listened to the 1940’s music, I started to create a fantasy like one would find in the Twilight Zone. I was transported from the 21st century to 1946. Elena and I were in the same house. I had graduated from Tulane long ago. I was just back from serving in the US Navy in the Pacific. I am working for an upstart oil company run by some U.C. Berkeley graduates called Chevron. Elena is a graduate of Stanford Medical School (one of the few women to do this without the help of a wealthy father who was also a doctor.) She is an oncologist at U.C.S.F. in San Francisco.
The milk company brings milk,cream and yogurt right to our front door. The local grocery store delivers to us and allows us to pay the account once a month. When I take our large 1946 Buick to the gas station, an attendant appears. Gas is pumped for me. My windshield is cleaned. The hood is opened and my oil and water are checked. My tires are checked. The San Francisco Chronicle is delivered to the door each morning.We often go to cultural events in San Francisco. There are also excellent movie theaters where we watch the latest Hollywood films like The Best Years Of Our Life.
The source of all news and entertainment in the house is the radio.On weekends when we are home it stays on day and night as we listen to our favorite radio programs and the news.
In short the life is very sweet. Elena and I have worked very hard to have what we have. We are also very lucky to live in such a wonderful country.
This Christmas, thanks to Elena’s generosity and the New York Times Book Store, an actual 1946 radio appeared at our house. I was amazed at how small and fragile it is. I can only listen to some AM stations. I now have a little part of my 1946 fantasy with me.