Here are Memories Worth Preserving

Program at senior communities helps relive some great and not-so-great moments of the 20th century.


For the past 12 years, Beloit College has produced an annual list of things we take for granted but which are alien to incoming college freshmen. It is an enjoyable way to feel really old. This year's list, for example, reminds us that Shrek is the only Green Giant that this year's college freshmen know, that they have never used a card catalog and that the phrase "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up" means nothing to them (and neither does Steve Urkel).

[See America Turns Inward in Tough Times.] Of course, there also are trends that some of us might want to forget. The list says today's freshmen think tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible; rap music has always been mainstream; condoms have always been advertised on television; everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on, and, "womyn" and "waitperson" have always been in the dictionary.

Blue Jell-O has always been a flavor for this year's freshman class, and I suppose that's no worse than Tang (but it is far inferior to Pez ). Trends come and go. But there are a lot of things that continue to be important to seniors that today's kids have never known. And the folks at Classic Residence by Hyatt, which has 19 senior-living communities in 10 states, have created a program called "The American Century" to let residents reminisce about historical and cultural highlights of the 20th century. It's designed as a social activity and often accompanied with period-specific culinary offerings. And while I know that tattoos and blue Jell-O are really valuable additions to our culture, the program might just provide some valuable reinforcement for memories that, like us, are too young to die.

[See Eat Less Food and Play More Bridge.]

Here are program topics for the first seven decades of the century just past.


  • Vaudeville
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • San Francisco Earthquake
  • McKinley Assassination
  • Lionel Trains
  • Wright Brothers
  • Rise of the Automobile
  • 1910-1920

    • Supermarkets
    • Women get the vote
    • Black Sox scandal
    • Spanish Flu
    • Keds shoes
    • Ziegfeld Follies and Fanny Brice
    • St. Louis World’s Fair
    • 1920-1930

      • Market Crash
      • Speakeasies and Jazz
      • Miss America pageant
      • Will Rogers, Mickey Mouse, Babe Ruth
      • Magic Slates, Yo-Yos, Mah Jong
      • Soda Fountains
      • Howard Johnsons
      • Betty Crocker
      • 1930-1940

        • Dust bowl/Great Depression
        • Empire State Building
        • Teddy Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Jessie Owens, Joe Louis
        • Golden age of radio
        • Movies: Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind
        • Monopoly
        • Grandma Moses paintings
        • Major cookbooks such as The Joy of Cooking
        • 1940-1950

          • WWII (15 programs from Pearl Harbor to the Times Square kiss)
          • Women and the War
          • Pin up girls, Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable
          • Bob Hope and the USO
          • Frank Sinatra, Jackie Robinson
          • Slinky, Silly Putty
          • Norman Rockwell and the four freedoms paintings
          • 1950-1960

            • Hula hoop, Barbie doll, Pez, Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh, cramming into telephone booths, ant farms
            • Peanuts comic strip
            • Rock and Roll, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin
            • James Dean, Marilyn Munroe, Elizabeth Taylor
            • Golden age of television, Lucille Ball, Milton Berle
            • Quiz shows
            • 1960-1970

              • The Kennedys, Julia Childs, Andy Warhol, Johnny Carson, Grace Kelly
              • Twister, Operation
              • Sound of Music and Mary Poppins
              • Walking on the moon
              • Hippies and go-go boots
              • Woodstock and teenagers
              • Name that television tune
              • I bet there are others you would add. Let me know what they are!

                [See also 6 Money Lessons of the Great Recession.]