Eighty-four years ago, Margaret Bourke-White peered through her camera lens to allow us the privilege. A benefit, through a periodical time machine, to see the endeavoring of the largest earth dam – Fort Peck – being built during the Great Depression via the Public Works Administration. This was the cover of Life Magazine’s first issue. Ten cents, by the way. $1.87 +/- in today’s dollars according to inflation calculators I rely on to show me how little money I actually have. Compared to how much financial value I thought I’d accumulate by this time in my life, it’s a dismal decimal’s sum. Some life, huh?
Actually, life is good. We can’t all be wealthy, tech-saavy, sports fleet-of-foot, Ryan Gosling talented, or Anne Hathaway ‘perty. Tall, short, bald, hairy, and broke, … we’re all doing o.k., right? “O.K.” defined as lovable, breathing, and suitable for something. Whatever that something is in your life, you’re doing it! Some life, huh!
Counting today, we have 38 days to go. Thirty-eight more sunrises and sunsets until us older folks can R.I.P the 2020 paper calendar off our semi-glossed painted walls and you whatever-exers can side-swipe it from your smart phones in front of your glossed-over eyes. This has been the year of all years. No arguments from anyone except those disagreeing with one another over everything imaginable. Pick a random opinion – and there’s the opposite side raining down, in a nano-second’s time, somewhere among the social media cloud. Some life, huh?
There were a lot of issues in life this year – not just a few like there were on November 23rd, 1938. Dam them for having what seemed to be a simpler life. Twenty years removed from their pandemic of 1918, but in the throws of a depression, they kinda did have a simpler life. Lounging around radios after a casserole dinner followed by a few sing-a-longs as an adult, behind the ivories, accompanied grateful voices, they lived a life. Patched-clothed kids sat on the floor giggling, playing board games or made-up card games. Everyone did what they had to do. Simple. Some life, huh.
Ten cents to $1.87. A 1,770% increase in the value of a dime since those rug-around days. That growth … simple, but not so simple. Costs of goods and services mature, too. We know that inflationary pain in the economic side of the American story. It doesn’t take much interest to get our attention … on either side of the ledger. The Public Works Administration, although shut down in 1944, was a response to the depressed economy that needed an infusion of cash into schools, dams, bridges, and other public works projects. Part of FDR’s New Deal, this agency (not to be confused with the WPA) created a sense of pride and interest in America’s industrial core. Skilled workers went back to work building warships and airports … and the Fort Peck dam in Montana that employed 10,500 workers. Some life for them, huh.
I’m no historian. Jon Meacham, presidential historian of significance, would have me out-educated before I showered in preparation to meet him for a discussion as to who was better, Taft or Harrison. He’s an expert. I’m not. Rarely do I exercise my right to argue on social media because, “What’s the point, anyway?”. Almost everyone there is an expert in their own eyes and I see no point in debating someone who can’t be convinced against their will. Again, too many issues ping-ponging across the inter-net for me to keep up with … chief among them: the Covid-19 attitudes. Some life, huh?
So, I finish today leafing through my thoughts about what must have been an exciting day for Henry Luce, the publisher of what became Time-Life Publications from 1936-1972. What a day for him … seeing Margaret Bourke-White’s photo so majestically framed on the cover of Life magazine four-score and four years ago. Most assuredly and proudly leaning back in his office chair, puffing on a half-lit White Owl cigar, taking in the moment was he. Some LIFE he had in his lap at that moment, huh?
… and only a dime, too. Made perfect cents back then – when life was just a bit less complicated. Simple when seen through the lens of a periodical time machine, huh?