James Clarke Masthead
July 23 2012 at 10:59

Earlier this month I wrote a column based on the number of my contemporaries who have recently crossed the Great Divide, their 60th birthday – the end of youth, the threshold of middle age.

Many go into denial. A friend who entered his 70s celebrated by climbing Kilimanjaro. Another spent his 71st sailing in the Cape to Rio.

Speaking as somebody who for 20 years has been on the threshold of middle age, I dedicate to my contemporaries the following passage sent to me by Athol Wood of Linden and which I have changed here and there. After all, whose column is this?

It is titled, “Senior citizens are a hardy bunch” and has been around some time.

People over 60 were here before the Pill and population explosion; before television, penicillin, polio shots and antibiotics, before frozen food, nylon, Dacron, Xerox, radar, fluorescent lighting, credit cards and ballpoint pens. For them a chip meant a piece of wood, hardware meant hammers and nails, and software wasn’t even a word.

They were around when pot plants were kept outside and you ate inside.

They were here before pantyhose, drip-dry clothes, before ice-cube trays, dishwashers, tumble dryers, freezers and electric blankets; before men wore earrings and before women wore trousers.

Quaintly, they got married first and then lived together.

Closets were for clothes, and not for coming out of. Bunnies were small rabbits. Girls wore Peter Pan collars and thought that cleavage was something butchers did. They were here before Batman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Snoopy. Before DDT, vitamin pills, disposable nappies, 4x4s, instant coffee, decaffeinated anything.

They were here before the Beatles and Boy George, FM radio, tape recorders, electric typewriters, word processors, electronic music, discos – and that’s not all. In their day, cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was for mowing, Coke was a cool drink and pot was to make tea in.


A colleague, even younger than me – one of our child sub-editors in her 40s – read the above and commented: “Who are we talking about here?

“Today’s ‘senior citizens’ created all of those things – and the problems that went with them. So what are you muttering about?

“They also invented the Bomb, with a capital B, and nuclear submarines with a firepower equal to all the destructive forces of both world wars... assault rifles, CFCs, nuclear waste and, hardly surprisingly, tranquillisers.”

Okay that’s enough! As I said, whose column is this, anyway? Gerroff. Crash! Now look what you’ve done to my bottle of Salusa 45!


A reader tells me that Dallas, Texas, has passed an ordinance stating that if a driver is pulled over by a law-enforcement officer and is not able to provide proof of insurance, the car is towed away and impounded.

To retrieve the car the owner must show proof of insurance. This has made it easy for the City of Dallas to remove uninsured cars.

Nine days after the ordinance was passed, the car pounds began to fill up and it was found that more than 80 percent were driven by illegal immigrants.

Not only must owners provide proof of insurance to have their cars released, they have to pay for the cost of the tow (nearly R3 000) and they must cough up R160 for every day their cars are impounded.

Apparently accident rates have been halved.

Dallas’s solution is very PC – it gets uninsured drivers off the road without anybody being accused of focusing on race or foreigners.

Contact Stoep: E-mail: jcl@onwe.co.za; Website: www.jamesclarke.co.za;

Blog: http://stoeptalk.wordpress.com


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