Whipper Snappers

May 8, 2018

Spoiler alert! There is no distracting religious content in this essay.

I’m a whistler and a “hummer.” Like most whistlers and hummers I don’t even know when I’m doing it.  Ellen tells me that she locates me in public by following the whistling.  It’s rare that I’m by myself and a tune isn’t on my lips.  It may not be recognizable to anyone but… well, you get the picture.

I was in a nursing home recently that had piped in music. The halls (not the individual rooms) and the lobby had songs playing that were broadcast from speakers installed in the ceiling.  It wasn’t long before I was humming and singing along under my breath as I went from one place to another looking for the person I was there to visit.  At one point I stopped and realized I was humming along with the music… not a big deal except for this little fact… It was “Hey Jude” by the Beatles!  Then a Van Morrison song, followed by the Rolling Stones!  What?!  Where was the “easy listening music” that I have heard for years in those places?  Apparently, it’s been replaced by Rock and Roll just like the patients have been replaced by consumers of Rock and Roll.  Somehow Grandma and Grandpa listening to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd messes with my understanding of the cosmos!  Or at least it seems like it should.

Like many of you, I remember February 9th 1964.  I was in 4th grade.  Along with 73 million Americans my sisters and I were anxiously gathered around our “giant” 20 inch black and white television as we awaited the much anticipated weekly broadcast of Ed Sullivan.  No doubt the “rabbit ears” were covered with copious amounts of aluminum foil!  Of course you know what I’m referring to.  It was our first time, and the first time for much of the country to see The Beatles.  But sitting on the crowded couch in the middle of my siblings and I was my dad.  I can’t really write here the things he said while the “Fab 4” were performing, but they were less than complimentary.  Shall I say he was not a fan of “our” music!  It was not the last time I would hear him criticize the tunes to which my generation listened.  His words got more and more disparaging as the years went by.

  • Music history trivia… what 5 songs did the Beatles play that day? Answer at the end.

Jump ahead now to 1972. I’m a senior in High School.  My father and step mother kept a radio playing in the kitchen most of the day.  For reasons unknown to me they always had it tuned in to “elevator music.”  You know what I mean right?  Well known songs that were dumbed down and played gently.  Occasionally I would hear a song and ask my dad what he thought of it.  He would listen for a moment and say something like, “It’s okay.”  I took great delight in saying, “It’s the Beatles.”  He never responded.  Nor did he ever allow me to think that he caught on because each time I asked about a song he would say, “It’s okay.”

20 years ago I read an article in one of the Pittsburgh papers about the music played in nursing homes. The author discussed the fact that a time would come when Rock and Roll would be playing for senior citizens.  Well… that time is here!  Those in their 70’s were in High School and College when John, Paul, George and Ringo performed on Ed Sullivan for the first time.  The Beatles and other English bands would permeate the music industry for the next 10 years.  Now those same people are entering senior citizen facilities.  And here comes the Rock and Roll.

I don’t really have much to say about all of this other than the fact that it’s very strange entering the final third to quarter of my life. It’s particularly odd since the first ¾ of my life seems very… um…close.  I recently had a 45th High School reunion… Holy Cow!  My graduation doesn’t seem like it was that long ago!  And yet, the Pearly Gates are more imminent each day.  I can feel the years in my knees as I climb the steps to the church.  By the way… did you know that there are more steps here than there used to be?  There have to be because I used to run up these stairs.  Now I make it to the top by dragging myself up by the handrail while sucking in generous amounts of oxygen.  Well okay, maybe not the oxygen so much… yet.

My earliest memories of my grandparents are of them at the age I am now and they were OLD! Or so I thought back then.

Obviously this rumination is about… “maturing”. Some of you reading this are of the age to be my parents.  You may be thinking something like… “Just wait you haven’t seen anything yet.”  Or, “63!  Why you’re still a whipper snapper!”  Whatever a “whipper snapper is?!”**  No doubt, if the Lord is willing I will learn much more about this process called “life” in the years to come.  I will say there is something I am not looking forward to as the years fly by… I am not enthralled with the fact that young people in our culture disrespect “seniors” more and more as each year passes.  The growing irrelevancy of the elderly is tragic.  I have little to say to our culture as it continues to spin out of control.  But for Christian people here are some scriptures to ponder.  (I know I said there would be no religious stuff… so sue me!)

Proverbs 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

Leviticus 19:32   “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

2 Corinthians 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Exodus 20:12   “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Proverbs 23:22   Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.


Answer to Trivia above:

“All My Loving”, “Till There Was You” (From “The Music Man”), “She Loves You”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

**  In case you’re interested: ‘Whipper snapper’ is now a rather archaic term and, although you might hear it in black and white British films, those who are young and streetwise enough to actually be whipper snappers aren’t likely to use it. ‘Whipper snappers’ were known by various names, all of them derived from the habit of young layabouts of hanging around snapping whips to pass the time. Originally these ne’er-do-wells were known simply, and without any great linguistic imagination, as ‘whip snappers’. This term merged with an existing 17th century term for street rogues – ‘snipper snappers’, to become ‘whipper snapper’. The meaning of ‘whipper snapper’ has altered over the years, originally referring to a young man with no apparent get up and go, to be applied to a youngster with an excess of both ambition and impudence.



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