Late bloomers, unite!

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Population demographics for 2017 reveal only 3,563 people in Coeur d’Alene are older than 65. That means 40,574 never saw Howdy Doody, Soupy Sales or “American Bandstand.” No great loss when it came to Soupy Sales.

“The Mickey Mouse Club” might ring a bell but only the version with Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling and Christina Aguilera. Annette Funicello sounds like an Italian dish to young people, which by the way, she totally was. I admit I don’t know any millennials personally and am judging them only by beer commercials. The only time you see my generation represented on TV is in commercials for incontinence or home medical alert systems.

Here are just four things anyone born after 1949 missed out on:

1) Fizzies. It was basically Alka-Seltzer in seven flavors but soon doubled the sales volume of Kool-Aid. Sure, it was sweetened with cyclamates and eventually banned by the FDA, but what isn’t?

2) Duck and Cover nuclear bomb drills at school. It was a bit scary jumping under my desk but a welcome respite from math lessons. Always a class clown, I got a big laugh out of jumping under a classmate’s desk and convincing them they had the wrong desk.

3) Shoe-fitting fluoroscopes enabled you to stand on a machine at a shoe store and, by looking through the viewing porthole at the top, could see the bones in your feet and know if those new shoes were the right fit. Although one viewing didn’t expose you to a dangerous level of radiation, most kids enjoyed stepping up numerous times to watch our toe bones wiggle while our mothers were shopping for Italian shoes. We’ve learned a lot about cumulative radiation since the 1950s.

4) DDT. A sweet-smelling insecticide banned in 1972 because it caused cancer and genetic damage to all air-breathing creatures. Hartford, Wis., had a huge fog machine towed behind a pickup truck that spewed out large clouds of DDT to combat mosquitoes in the summer. (If you’ve ever been to Wisconsin you know mosquitoes there are the size of baby sparrows.) Many of us would run with other kids in the deadly cloud because it smelled good, and quite frankly, because no adults ever stopped us. Now, at age 68, I wonder if that explains why it takes me an hour every morning to find my shoes.

It’s funny the memories we cherish. I was 7 years old when Elvis appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” I vividly remember my young mother and siblings gathered around our small black-and-white TV while our father, who like many of his generation thought rock and roll was a passport to hell, stood in the kitchen at the doorway to the basement. He shouted at our mother, “If you don’t turn the channel I’m going to the basement and turning the power off!” Consequently, we only saw the first half of Elvis’s performance. Now, Elvis the Pelvis would be considered pretty tame, but those were different times. And we were all so much younger then.

Let’s talk about dreams. I hitchhiked to Hollywood in 1967 certain I was destined to become a famous comedian. So far my only claim to fame has been as Bachelor No. 1 on “The Dating Game” when I was 28 and still had a head full of hair. It’s on YouTube. (The video clip, not my hair.)

While Tom Selleck appeared twice on the show and was never picked, I won a week in Bogota, Colombia. I asked to be billed as one of the characters, Biff Nerd, from my standup comedy routine thinking it would land me a few gigs. It didn’t.

I haven’t given up on my dreams and I hope none of you have, either. Regardless of how young or old you are, we all need our dreams. I still have my Academy Awards acceptance speech rehearsed. If there’s one important lesson people my age have learned, it’s that life is full of surprises. After all, I just might be a late bloomer. There’s quite a few of us out there although you won’t see us in any beer commercials.

•••

Tom Neuhoff is a comedy writer and dreamer. Mostly a dreamer.

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