The days of Auld Lang Syne

By Vivian Lawson Hogue

Are you familiar with the old depiction of the new year as the smiley, excited baby with the new year banner across his chest and confetti floating around?  He wears a silk top hat implying it’s going to be a prosperous and joyful time for all! Well, that was before the virus closed schools, before spring flooding and late gardens and before straight-line winds blew down his historic tree. It was before he had another birthday, before the Queen died and Hurricane Ian hit — and that’s the shortlist. The “old year” man looks tired, worn out and alone.

The comforting news is that the Old Year Man has other events and other years to ponder in his retirement rocker in front of the fire, and many are pleasant. His wide-screen mind recalls riding a long-ago intercity bus that transported a few Conway residents to and from work in Little Rock. A gallon of gasoline, and probably my dad’s billowing pipe smoke, propelled the bus on its journeys, stopping for people waiting on roadsides on the way.

Our town’s intra-city bus system transported local citizens and students to and from colleges, neighborhoods and downtown. Ten cents a ride. When a better postwar economy arrived, more two-car families caused the bus service to fade.  Hey, Mr. Old Year, do you remember seeing a 5-year-old girl playing hopscotch on the wide front walk of her College Avenue home? Braids and a sun dress, often wearing roller skates and waving? Yeah, that was me! There is only one skate now, and it’s rusted, but she’s still often on her front walk, sweeping and sometimes imagining hopscotch diagrams.

The Old Year Man backtracks time to his elementary school days. Students only needed two items: a pencil and paper. Central Grade School had a bell tower, the bell of which rang to start and end school each day. For lunch, a quarter for a home-style hot cafeteria meal with a choice of 5-cent chocolate or whole milk. A recyclable brown paper bag containing a bologna sandwich and a peanut butter cookie, both provided by a mother’s hands, had that taste of home. Some could actually walk home for mom’s homemade vegetable soup. Some who received an allowance, therefore had extra coins, would slip a quarter to another student who lacked a meal or sandwich.

This man of many old years has seen multiple wars and he’s not through yet, at least according to the Bible. Along with the sad loss of military personnel, he has seen the loss of respect for the flag and the reason our country exists. Not many know about the World War I statue on the Hendrix College campus, or the trees dedicated to lost servicemen or a recent memorial placed on the University of Central Arkansas campus. The most unusual UCA memorial features the remainder of 48 oak trees that were planted in 1948 in honor of student soldiers lost in World War II. Each has recently been marked with plaques naming the soldiers.

The next “new year” baby has a lot to do as he does every year, but it seems his annual efforts remain ineffective. Old Year Man has the wisdom that comes from experience and has recommendations.

He believes we should push for teaching the Constitution, basic education, discipline and self-discipline, the words to the national anthem, the Ten Commandments, respect for all of our defenders and a couple of other issues, the mention of which will only get me in trouble. Reinstating all of these, even the two not mentioned, could immediately change us for the better! We’ve been there before; we could be there again and live in peace if we want to badly enough.

It would not hurt to do some roller skating and waving, either.

Vivian Lawson Hogue
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