Now that you are launched in your college education out there in New Orleans, I’ve got a few things I want you to remember.
You are going to hear a lot of talk about what’s wrong with America and what’s wrong with those of us who have had some part in making it what it is.
The first thing I want to remind you of — and the usual percentage of utopia-minded professors and students you are going to come in contact with — is that my generation and your grandfather’s generation overall did a creditable job on behalf of mankind, in spite of our shortcomings.
We stopped evil aggression in two world wars with the might and blood of our country and then fed and helped rebuild those aggressive nations to an all-time prosperity. We pulled our troops out of battle-torn nations and replaced them with taxpayers’ dollars. That’s what some professors call “imperialism.”
Your grandfather’s generation gave the world new economic strength through invention and manufacturing. It brought the world to a new zenith in transportation, communication and living conveniences. That generation also licked deadly flu, diphtheria, smallpox and scarlet fever.
My generation made higher education available to almost anyone who wanted it bad enough. We also licked polio and TB.
We’ve built most of a nationwide interstate system that is bringing prosperity to millions. We captured the moon in peaceful pursuit. We spent billions of dollars trying to help others in nations all over the world. We made dramatic progress in breaking hard core segregation that was two centuries’ old. We cut the work week by nearly a third and doubled the working man’s expendable income. And our two generations have increased your life expectancy by nearly 50%.
As always, we have developed new problems like air pollution in our large cities and water pollution in many of our rivers, lakes and bays. But we are still the cleanest of the great nations from almost any standpoint. Ask those people who travel Europe and Asia. I am confident your generation will conquer pollution just as we have met most of the challenges of our day. And we’ll help.
We were not super humans. We made plenty of mistakes. Your generation will make mistakes, too. You probably won’t stop wars and poverty because that is too much to expect of one generation, but I am sure you will make great progress in those areas.
I like your generation because it is concerned for others. But one reason young people can be concerned for others these days is that they don’t have to struggle too much for themselves. And I hope your generation will recognize that earlier generations in America were pretty well preoccupied with their own struggle to survive. Remember academic idealism too often fails to acknowledge history and reality. It wants to solve the world’s problems with theories. Theories don’t solve problems — people do.
So I have high hopes for you and your generation because I think you have the capacity to accomplish more than ours. But don’t let anyone tell you America is a bad nation. This is the best damn nation in the world by a country mile and don’t you forget it.
You will remember when I arrived for the start of my sophomore year at St. Mary’s Dominican College in New Orleans, you arranged for me to receive a subscription to FLORIDA TREND. When the November edition arrived, I turned to where I always started each new issue — your column, Florida Close-Up. I was stunned as I started to read: “Dear Julie,” your column started.
That column and the many memories of growing up at FLORIDA TREND have been on my mind on this 65th anniversary of the magazine you created. I was probably your longest serving employee since I started working there on Saturdays when I was 7. I liked the conversations I had with the print setters on those visits, who nodded in agreement when I suggested they make personalized name plates for my classmates when they’d visit for school field trips.
At noon we always had lunch downtown at Bill Lum’s Chinese Restaurant. That ’s probably the reason you started the Golden Spoon Award. I’m sure we discussed the merits of adding the feature to the magazine on several occasions over your regular order of pork chop suey. I still get excited spotting those awards hanging in restaurant entrances. I remember you and Bern Laxer trading advertising for steak dinners while he was trying to launch Bern’s Steak House and you were struggling for advertisers. It worked out pretty great for both of you.
When President Kennedy was in town three days before his fateful Dallas trip, I organized seats out in front of the TREND offices for your subscribers and their children along Grand Central (now Kennedy Boulevard) to get a close-up view.
At 16, I learned to type on the IBM Selectric so I could float between the ad department and help you with correspondence. Each letter required three copies with carbon paper and no Wite-Out. That was very hard to get it right on the first try or even the second. I’ll never forget how exciting it was to get that Xerox copy machine. The restrictions on using it due to the high cost of the copies and ink were posted, so you really had to need a copy to make one.
I loved the art and production departments and became proficient at gluing columns on the pages and getting coffee for the guys. (I did notice while I was away you moved some of my placements around.) When I was a little older, I was invited to go to lunch with the editors and ad guys. Everyone piled into your air-conditioned car and you drove with a lit cigar in your fingers to Pepe’s for a martini and some great Cuban food. My last job at the magazine was receptionist after the magazine moved to the third floor of Ybor Square in 1975.
I was a little stunned, Dad, when you decided to sell the magazine. Frankly, I had hoped for a chance to take it over one day. Nonetheless, I’ve done fine pursuing my dreams as a travel agent, custom home builder and, lastly, a Realtor. I carried all those lessons from you and the TREND family with me every step of the way.
And when I need a reminder, I look no further than the “Dear Julie” column.
In the months before the column ran, a man had walked on the moon for the first time and there had been massive protests against the Vietnam War. Those were turbulent times, and you worried about me and my generation. You cautioned of “those liberal professors” at school and reminded me we lived in “the best damn country in the world and not to ever forget it.” I never have, Dad.
A framed copy of the “Dear Julie” has hung on my wall ever since that 1970 issue. I still read it often and I think about how prescient your advice has been. You surely wouldn’t like what’s happening today much.
You probably would also be glad you missed the decline of print media, particularly the twice daily newspaper deliveries. I remember you with a paper in your hand every morning and evening, as well as a stack of magazines on your bedside table. You wouldn’t have enjoyed reading online. You were annoyed just booting up your desktop computer. For you, there really was nothing better than the old Royal typewriter.
After selling FLORIDA TREND and Ybor Square, you moved into my office and pursued writing your books on Civil War history, not taking “no” for an answer when the National Parks Service initially declined to carry your books in their stores and eventually convincing them to include your publications. You worked on your only novel, God Bless General Early, about a fictional confederate general; I still have a thousand copies of it stored in my garage. You poured your energy in to reviving Tampa’s iconic trolleys.
In retrospect, I’m certain you made the right decision to sell the magazine to the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) because sharing those last years with you was priceless.