|Interviews and photos by Bebe Murry
Oh, the changes weve seen.
Back around Y1K, there were buttons but no buttonholes. Men had to tie their pants around the waist and often find them around their ankles until someone at last came up with a use for buttons besides decoration. There were no Fruit of the Looms; everyone wore itchy wool underwear, which likely accounts for all the scowls in Medieval art. As for tableware, there were no forks: people managed with two knives. The especially well-mannered used only three fingers to eat their peas, while commoners used all five to chow down.
Inventions have made our lives more efficient and less itchy. Weve gone way beyond buttons and forks to Post-it notes, plastic bags and Polartec (made from recycled soda bottles) not to mention cars (now they give us orders), planes, computers, the Internet, voice mail and cell phones.
But have our technological wonders improved the quality of our lives? Have they put smiles on our faces?
Heres the take of 10 people spanning 10 decades on three questions:
I Whats your favorite invention?
II Whats the biggest change of your lifetime?
III What major lifestyle change do you predict for the 21st century?
Retired domestic worker Hattie Forrester, 109, was born in 1890 in what later became Arnold. She had four children and now lives in Eastport with her 80-year-old daughter. Forrester has lost count of her many grandchildren, great-, great-great- and great-great-great grandchildren. She credits her longevity to hard work, listening to my parents, attending church and not smoking.
I love to watch wrestling on television, says Forrester. For Christmas she got a new television for her bedroom.
Taking a break from channel surfing, Forrester reflected on the century whose entirety she has witnessed
I My favorite invention? I dont know, I dont need anything to be invented. I have all I need for now.
II People have gotten too busy. Thats the biggest change Ive seen.
III Let me think about that. I will get back to you.
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Retired airline pilot, builder and marina owner Richard Edwards, 90 is also the Edwards of Edwards Surgical Pavilion in the new Anne Arundel Medical Park.
Turning from his manual typewriter, still his preferred writing tool, Edwards contemplates the vast changes of his near-century lifetime and rues what those changes have wrought
I Airplanes are my favorite invention. For so many years I made my living flying airplanes. I do not own a computer.
II People cared for each other more than they do now. We used to know everyone in the neighborhood and do things together. But now we usually just know whoever is next door. Everyone is too busy these days to enjoy their neighbors.
III People will continue living this way, being interested more in themselves and their own lives than being part of a group.
* * *
Retired nurse Margaret Tyson, 80. The first dean of the nursing school at University of Virginia, Tyson one of few nurses of the time to do so earned her doctorate from Columbia University in 1963.
Having borne witness to more inventions than in all the previous millennia of human history, Tyson names her favorite as
I The radio. And prepared foods, which didnt exist in my youth. Also, I can remember when the family didnt have a telephone; now I have a cell phone in my car.
II Opportunities for women have certainly increased greatly. But nowadays you cant get someone to pump your gas. And travel has changed so much. The first time I went to Europe we had a berth on the airplane. This was before jets.
III What the space program costs our economy is far less than what it cost Queen Isabella in jewels to send Columbus here. But compared to the space program, Columbus was a far greater investment.
* * *
Ship designer and retired U.S. Navy Captain Leif Eareckson, 75. St. Michaels Maritime Museum displays a model Eareckson made at age 15 of the S.S. President Warfield Old Bay Line steamer. The ship was the subject of the novel and movie Exodus. At his 1982 retirement, Eareckson headed the Navys warship design department. In his spare time Eareckson races his 32-foot sailboat.
Tacking toward the future, Eareckson surveys the changes and advances of the century through which he has just sailed
I Topping my list for greatest 20th century innovations is Henry Ford and what he did for motor vehicles. I have to depend on others for any computer work I need. It would be nice to have one I could just talk to and tell it what I want.
II When I grew up, school was a real challenge for kids and the teachers made it so. They were rigorous and very good. I had teachers I have never forgotten, even up to this day. Also, schools dont emphasize history the way they used to.
III I think the tremendous medical advances of our generation are something well continue to see.
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Pediatrician Frank Kopack, in his 60s, is the son of immigrant parents who worked the coal mines in northeastern Pennsylvania and decided their son would be a doctor. After medical school and nine years of military service, Kopack settled in Annapolis, where he has practiced pediatric and adolescent medicine for 35 years.
Taking a moment out of his too-busy schedule, Kopack said
I My favorite invention is the automobile. I like the way theyve developed: the way they drive, the comfort, the relaxing sound systems, and I like car phones.
II In my lifetime, everything is becoming too fast and too crowded. At the end of each day, I spend an hour and a half doing the paperwork required by HMOs, schools, disability claims and parents. Then there are between 10 and 20 phone calls to return. I treat many young patients who are chronically tired. Because parents both have to work to make ends meet, a lot of children are being woken at 5am and dont get to bed until 9pm. They need more rest.
III Looking ahead in the 21st century, in medicine, I believe the biggest strides are going to be made in learning about the brain. There will be more specific medications for types of attention disorder deficit and hyperactivity. Strides will be made in autism, too.
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District 30 Delegate Michael Busch, 53. Between sessions, fourth-term delegate Busch works on special projects for Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks. A schoolteacher for seven years before running for office, Busch admits to being a typical child of the 60s: intending to change the world.
Reflecting on advances that changed our world, Busch declares
I Motor vehicles cars and trucks have had the greatest impact on everybody during the 20th century.
II Now we have greater opportunities for all people, regardless of race or gender, than you saw in the 50s. Back then, life was much more structured, and that structure had far more influence on choice of lifestyle.
III The Internet will change how people work and may change their work status. People will work at home a lot more. There wont be as many group offices. If you have a computer, you will be able to exist.
My hope for a new century is a no-fat, no-cholesterol meal that tastes good.
* * *
Businessman Christopher McCleary, 47. McCleary, a new and ambitious player in Annapolis, has his sights set on becoming the old citys new employer of choice and one of the nations new internet supermen. Locally, hes stepped in to save both the Fourth of July fireworks and First Night. Head of USinternetworking Inc., McCleary moves fast, starting then selling new enterprises.
Pocketing his cell phone, McCleary shared a moment in real time
I Voice mail and cell phones. You can take the phone onto the golf course with you instead of scheduling your entire day around receiving an important call.
II People work much harder than they used to. The 40-hour work week is a thing of the past. People work more like 50 or 60 hours a week now. Hopefully with technology now available, people wont have to keep working so hard.
III Id like to see true video on demand to view any video that exists without having to tape it in advance.
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Lawyer Nancy Jenkins, 38, who monitors special education programs for the U.S. Department of Education, was born with hearing loss. As a child, she taught herself to lip-read by watching television. After law school she got her first TTY, so that she can now talk on the telephone at work and home.
Pondering the passing century, Jenkins speaks with first-hand authority of advances that invited her to join the larger world
I I have several favorite inventions the computer, e-mail and the TTY. These are all great for deaf people. Now I can order a pizza and even make a 911 call from my home. I am anxious for the invention of radios that are accessible to people who are hard-of-hearing. Then I, too, could get a traffic report in my car.
II The Americans with Disability Act is for me the greatest lifestyle change. It not only protects disabled people from discrimination but also has drawn attention to the problems and obstacles people with disabilities face.
III Society in the 21st century will be even more diverse. People no longer have to go through life never encountering somebody different: of another culture, race or disabled. There is more information out there for everyone.
* * *
Lt. Joseph L. Cox, 29. A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Cox now teaches ethics at his alma mater, as well as coaching track and instructing in personal conditioning and hand-to-hand combat. Cox credits the Academy for teaching him to treat every hurdle as a gateway to personal benefit and triumph.
Catching a breath from jumping hurdles, Cox rested long enough to speak of the benefits and triumphs yielded by what were his formative years
I NASA and the space shuttles have allowed so many people to go into space. I also count color television and ESPN among my favorite inventions. Real-time broadcasts of sporting events are like being right where it happens.
II Computers the electronic age have completely changed peoples lives. Even in the time since I joined the Academy, 1989. Back then we had huge 286 computers. There was no Internet, no e-mail.
III Transportation is a huge problem in the U.S. now. I think the next major lifestyle change will involve how people will get around.
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Midshipman Katina Iannios, 19, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 02. Iannios forsook tall mountains and evergreens surrounding her beloved Northern California family ranch for the Annapolis waterfront to uphold her familys heritage of military service. She hopes to become a pilot.
Iannos, only 19, is likely to occupy the 21st century far more than she did the 20th. Recounting the sweeping changes of even her short years, Iannos says
I Cell phones are by far my favorite invention. The Academy forbids phone jacks in dorm rooms but allows cell phones. I really like this. I can contact my family much more easily, and they can call me whenever they want. When I was a plebe, they couldnt do that.
II Internationally, the fall of the Berlin Wall was a landmark change.
III Women are playing a huge role in society now but will do so even more in the next century. Well probably see a woman president.
* * *
So here we are in the 21st century, taking buttonholes, forks and soft underwear for granted. And like those faraway folks of Y1K, we all have wishes and make predictions about advances that could make our lives easier.
But even as we marvel at the changes of the last 100 or 1000 years, are we smiling? Have 100 years of progress changed the Medieval scowl to a smile? Not quite. To sum up our feeling about where weve just been, we need a double-side face. On the one side, were smiling with satisfaction at the liberating inventions and the social progress that makes more possible for everyone. On the other, many of us grimace with apprehension at the fruit of all our technological advances. Somehow with all our work-saving conveniences, were busier than we ever were ...
New Bay Times Weekly