• Thursday, March 15, 2012

Birthday boy
          What do you get a guy who has everything? By everything, I mean wonderful family, great friends, just about any hand or power tool known to man and all the sports equipment he’ll probably ever want. Without any prior consultation, those closest to Jim Hill opted to celebrate his birthday with the pleasures of gathering for food and drink seasoned with a touch of nostalgia.
          First of all, our son David took me aside at the beginning of the birthday party to say that I would “initially hate him for the present his family was giving, but it would all work out in the end.” You can imagine how eagerly I looked forward to that gift unwrapping! Turns out they got Jim a dinner bell: a triangular metal dinner bell, which the box proclaimed had its origins in a European village or at castle blacksmiths before the crusades. This bell has historically signaled farmhouse or village meetings, disasters and calling farming or ranch families from afar to trek home for meals. And I am very much afraid it will now frequently signal – in what I’m sure will be Jim’s flourishing style – that the food is finished grilling and is on its way to the dinner table. (David was right. On both counts. I hope!)
          Our youngest daughter Mary Clare’s family sent a gift certificate to Oscar’s, a favorite local restaurant. Cathy’s provided a touch of pleasure paired with genealogy in a libation known as Jameson, to not only celebrate himself’s birthday but his Irish origins via his mother’s family of Tobins. My offering was a basalt cooking stone which promises to turn out luscious meat, fish and vegetables on the grill while keeping the food moist and not allowing it to fall through the grids.
          To top it all off was a gift from Kathy Goebel, our daughter-in-law’s mother. She gave him a nostalgic look back in time with a booklet of things prominent in the year of Jim’s birth. It was fun as well as all too easy for Jim and me to reflect on these milestones in headlines and advertisements from 1934.
          As Jim was born and raised in Augusta, Ga., and was able to play golf on an historic course as a youth, he was delighted to discover that the first Masters Golf championship begin there that year in the very month of his birth. Both the National Archives and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were established. Imagine these prices: a new house for under $6,000 on an income of about $1,600 yearly; Hudson automobile, $695; Studebaker truck, $625; Kodak movie camera, $34.50; annual Harvard tuition, $400; movie ticket, 25 cents; gas, 10 cents a gallon; and a stamp for three cents. You could also get a free chromium bonbon dish free with two packages of Wheaties. Other food prices included: eggs, 17 cents a dozen; hamburger, 12 cents a pound; and eight cents for a loaf of bread, fresh baked. And speaking of incredible numbers, the life expectancy was 59.7 years.
          Well, our birthday boy has already exceeded that by some 18 years, and if we keep taking such good care of him, particularly on his natal days, we’ll probably top that by at least 18 more!

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