‘There’s no single secret to living a long life,” centenarian Bill Scharoun of Glenmont said. “Just don’t look back because there is always something to look forward to. Keep yourself interested and look ahead.”
A good example is an upcoming trip that the 100-year-old is excited about to the Amish country and one to Connecticut.
But even when he does reminisce, it’s with the clarity from the age which he’s remembering.
“I got my first paycheck in 1941,” he recalls. “It was also the year I came home and Mom was leaning up against the radio with a concerned look. I asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ She told me that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. I said, ‘What!’
“I was 18 and I wanted to enlist,” he recalls. “But Mom said that I had to stay home through the summer and then I could go in, and that’s what I did.”
His reaction to joining the Navy was typical of his generation. However, he doesn’t believe that kind of patriotism would fly nowadays.
“I grew up, and it was a different country then,” he said. “We figured it was our turn to protect it. That’s it. We all went.
“Today, if there was an 18-year-old,” he theorizes, “He’d probably walk right past his mom and that radio and not pay any attention to it. It’s a whole different concept today. Our thing back then was that we were all one group as a nation. Now, it’s more that everyone is individuals.
“In those days, if I earned five dollars, I wouldn’t have thought about not turning it in to give to my mother for the house. Today, if you ask a kid to go shovel a sidewalk, he wants to know how much he’s going to get paid.”
Another gradual though big change that he has observed over the past 10 decades is the growing disrespect for parents, authority and others, in general.
“I would never think of sassing Mom or Dad,” he said. “You respect elders. When I went down the street, I didn’t hurt someone’s property. I don’t know what joy a lad gets puncturing tires or keying someone’s car. What kind of thrill is that?”
Scharoun feels the responsibility for the moral slippage must be laid at the feet of the parents.
“The parent is no longer in control,” he continued. “Hitting children is not the answer, but a little tap on the backside when you are a 4- or 5-year-old boy makes a big difference when you get to be 11 or 12. You don’t hurt the child. But you let them know what they did was wrong. If you did that today, you’d have the police department on your back.
“It all started when a bunch of people started saying, ‘You can’t do this or that,’ and now our children have no reason to be afraid. People listened to Dr. Spock. If I did something wrong as a kid, my father would find out. If he didn’t get the information from the neighbor, he’d get it from the cop on the corner. If I was keeping bad company, somebody would say, ‘You’d better get Bill away from that crowd.’”
In the second part of this story, we will mine more of the insights from the 100-year-old World War II veteran.
Robert J. LaCosta writes a daily devotional called “Portals to Heaven” that you can receive free in your email. He has also launched a podcast that features seniors doing great things called “The Age Sage.”