Every year Beloit College of Beloit, Wisconsin releases what is known as the "Mindset List" for the class of incoming freshmen. It’s designed to make everyone past the age of 35 feel really old, as it details all the events, innovations and cultural icons that mean a lot to us, but nothing to them.
Here’s some of the items from this year’s list:
Andy Warhol, Liberace, Jackie Gleason, and Lee Marvin have always been dead.
They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors.
Heart-lung transplants have always been possible.
Pay-Per-View television has always been an option.
They never had the fun of being thrown into the back of a station wagon with six others.
Car stereos have always rivaled home component systems.
Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker have never preached on television.
Voice mail has always been available.
The federal budget has always been more than a trillion dollars.
Starbucks has always been around the corner.
Ferdinand Marcos has never been in charge of the Philippines.
Money put in their savings account the year they were born earned almost 7 percent interest.
Bill Gates has always been worth at least a billion dollars.
Southern fried chicken, prepared with a blend of 11 herbs and spices, has always been available in China.
Now, as I’ve said before, I attended Beloit College for two years. In 1974, I was one of Beloit’s incoming freshman, except they didn’t call us that. (At that time Beloit was being innovative and had no class year distinctions. We were just called first term students in our “underclass year.”)
It was truly a historic time. Three weeks before my parents dropped me and my stuff off in the wilds of Wisconsin, the government had teetered on the edge of falling apart. But the system worked. Richard Nixon resigned the presidency and Vice President Gerald Ford took over.
So what is it that those 35 and above could have said about 18 year olds in 1974?
They’ve always had television.
They were born 11 years after VJ Day.
Johnny Carson has always been the host of the Tonight Show.
Robespierre is a figure from the French Revolution, not Baby Snooks’ little brother.
There has always been a space program.
All they know about the Korean War is what they’ve seen on M*A*S*H.
Cigarette smoking has always been linked to lung cancer.
There has always been a polio vaccine.
There has always been a birth control pill.
They have never bought a 78 rpm record.
“I Love Lucy” has always been in re-runs.
Telephones have always had a dial tone.
Times change and despite their best efforts, people grow old. As I recall, 1974 was not the dark ages. There were cars and computers and cable television and video cameras and dishwashers, just like now. Ancient times are never considered ancient to the people who lived through them.
So it’s comforting to know that when the class of 2034 arrives at Beloit, there will be a list that makes the class of 2009 feel just as old as I do now.
And remember, inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened.