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Your recollections bring back a few memories for me, too, although of a much more distant time.

1) Walking on railroad tracks to see who could walk the furthest before falling off. Putting pennies on the tracks to find out how flat they'd be after being run over. Gathering coal nuggets that had fallen off the steam engine to help heat our home. Remembering a pal, "Soupy" Campbell, who was hit and killed by a train as he tried to jump the tracks.

2) Taking a slap on the cheek from Sister St. Augustine or one of the other nuns who ruled our school. The great challenge for every boy was to resist showing surprise or discomfort. And if we complained to our parents it meant a vigorous interrogation as to why we were punished and a long finger-wagging lecture on the perils of ever doing it again.

3) How I learned to add backwards when the grocery store clerk on the other side of the counter at the A&P would itemize the cost of purchases on the bag used to pack your groceries. Mom needed every penny to get by so I made sure I got the right change.

4) How all the kids wore two pairs of pants in the winter to stay warm. And if you fell through the ice while skating your pals would clothe you with their spare pants and sweaters.

5) Listening to the radio at night with the rest of the family after the dishes were washed and put away. My father would almost always fall asleep in his chair due to exhaustion from his blue-collar job.

6) Standing in line outside the Massachusetts General Hospital waiting to be seen by a clinic doctor for any and all ailments. The clinic visit cost 25 cents but you had to wait hours for your turn even though you might be very sick. Somehow I managed to make it to this ripe old age despite what many would now call inadequate health care.

7) Sneaking into the Old Howard burlesque theater in Scollay Square, Boston, when I was a teenager. One of our gang somehow learned how to jimmy a door that led directly into the balcony. None of us lost our innocence because of the break-in or watching the risque show on stage.

8) How we all had black friends because they were terrific athletes in those days, too. My first basketball coach was a black man. He taught ne a lot about personal pride and dignity.

9) How "some Coke and a smoke" meant having a soda and a cigarette.

10) Commuting to college for four years every day in all kinds of weather and never once envying the kids who lived on campus. We were all from blue-collar families so no one noticed if you didn't have a car or had to work full-time during the summer to earn your tuition.

11) My first date at 18 with the girl I married 4 years later. I didn't have a car so we went to the movies by bus. But I had to thumb a ride home in the rain afterwards because the bus stopped running at midnight. We managed to last until our wedding night before having sex.

12) How all the guys in my town volunteered for military service to beat being drafted into the Army. We all went in those days and the military was the better for it. Don't believe those claims that an all-volunteer military is a better place.

Sometimes I think that too many of us, adults and kids alike, have it too easy living in America. Then I remember how much better my life is than what my parents had and how much better the future is bound to be with the help of the younger generation from places like my home town. We just have to make sure we don't get bogged down trying to live yesterday's dreams.

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