With age comes boundless wisdom

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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I don’t remember anything about June 22, 1953.

My memory banks are void of a car ride I supposedly took from Vann’s Red & White Supermarket in downtown Murfreesboro to the original Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie.

Although one would recall being slapped on the butt, I’m without the knowledge of Dr. McLean doing that to me on the aforementioned day.

I can’t recall other details pertaining to 1953….even as to what Santa Claus gave me for Christmas that year.

However, I did later in life learn that Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as the President of the United States that year, even though he didn’t receive my vote.

1953 also saw Elizabeth II crowned as Queen of England. You could purchase a new car that year for $1,650. The average cost of a new house was $9,550 or you could choose to rent for under $85 per month.

The average wage back then was $4,000 annually, but you would spend over one-fourth of that just to purchase one of the first color TV sets (which sold for $1,175 in 1953).

A pound of hamburger was 53 cents; a dozen eggs went for 27 cents, and a gallon of gas was 20 cents.

1953 was also a breakthrough year from a medical standpoint as it saw the development of the polio vaccine.

I don’t remember any of that. The only story from 1953 that I was told came from my dad. He said he was standing near the front door of Vann’s Red & White and was removing the wrapper from a fudgsicle when my mom went into labor. The story goes that dad threw the fudgsicle in the trash can, stuffed the paper in his mouth, grabbed mom, took her to the car, and off they went to the hospital. I was born at 2:15 on the afternoon of June 22 and given the name Calvin (from one of my dad’s World War II comrades) Rayford (which was my dad’s middle name).

Now, there have been birthdays I do remember.

I had my tonsils removed shortly before my ninth birthday. I remember enjoying a lot of ice cream and then joining my buddies playing for the Woodland Little League team.

Seven years later – June 22, 1969 – I rode with my dad to Rich Square where I passed the driver’s license exam and earned that highly-prized card. Life changes from that moment forward as you now have the freedom to go wherever your heart (and a tank of gas) will take you.

Two years after that, fresh off graduation as a member of the Class of 1971 at Northampton County High School, I “sweated out” the summer in anticipation of the Selective Service Draft. I was classified at the highest level (1-A) and we were at war in Vietnam. I held my breath during the Draft Lottery, one where each of the 365 days of the year were scribbled onto a Bingo-type ball, dropped into a wire cage that spun to keep them mixed, and then each ball (birthday) was selected one-by-one. Those selected early in the process were the first ones chosen to serve in the military (unless you fled to Canada), which meant the higher your number, the better chance you wouldn’t get drafted. My birthday was the 263rd ball selected….I wasn’t drafted.

By the time my 20th birthday rolled around (1973), I had my first-ever full-time job, working here at the News-Herald (Parker Brothers Newspapers back then, which was on McGlohon Street…the current-day location of American Legion Post 102). My newspaper career began in production, working in the offset camera room, plate room, and on the press. Minimum wage back then was around $2 per hour. However, armed with an Associates Degree in Graphic Arts from what was then Chowan College, I was paid a whopping $3.25 an hour. I thought I was rich!!

Upon the arrival of my 30th birthday (1983), I had been married for nearly four years. Deborah and I spent my 30th birthday on vacation in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. I remember floating in a motel pool at night, gazing up at the moon and the stars and thinking just how good my life had been to that point.

Two years and 29 days later, life took on a whole new meaning – and responsibility – when my daughter, Danielle Rae Bryant, was born at the same hospital that welcomed me 32 years earlier.

With the help of my wife’s nephew, Buck Leary, I spent my 40th birthday (1993) moving every stick of furniture we had to our new home on Jernigan Airport Road outside of Ahoskie. Up until that point, Deborah and I had rented homes. We (and the bank) finally owned one.

Ten years later (2003) was a birthday I would choose to forget if all possible. My dad was suffering with dementia and Parkinson’s Disease at that time. My brother and I would take turns on the weekends spending the night at our homeplace, helping mom take care of our ailing father. Three hundred and sixty-four days later (June 21, 2004) God took Hinton Rayford (Ray) Bryant to a much better place in heaven.

My 60th birthday (June 22, 2013) was a much happier occasion. It was on that day where I walked my daughter down the aisle and gave her away in marriage. My birthday present – other than shelling over a lot of money to pay for a wedding – was gaining a son-in-law and later, a grandson.

That brings me to the present. Tomorrow (June 22, 2023) marks my 70th year here on Earth. Yep, I guess you can say I’m old, but with age comes boundless wisdom. And the wisest decision I’ve made over the course of my 25,567 days of drawing a breath came on Aug. 2, 1979. That afternoon, in downtown Elizabeth City, I answered “I do” when asked if I would take Deborah Vann as my lawfully wedded wife. Without her, I don’t survive to enjoy the many birthdays that have come and gone since that fateful day. So here’s to spending one more with the love of my life!

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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