Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Eves Remembered

New Year’s Eve has changed many times in the last 40 years for me and I’m sure for most of you also. The first one I actually celebrated was on New Year’s Eve 1968 in Taipei at Club 63 . Not yet 21, but it was legal for us to drink in that country. At 19 years old it was all about partying. There was a floor show, dance band, Champaign for $2 a bottle, a midnight buffet and breakfast if you made it to 4am. I stayed for breakfast. It was the longest I ever stayed out partying.

My next two were celebrated in Yokosuka, Japan. The first one I took a watch so one of the married guys could celebrate with his wife because I knew my wife would be there to celebrate with me the following year. That second year my wife and I had dinner at the enlisted men’s club and stayed for the music and dancing with a bunch of the guys and their wives that had also come over to Japan. Of course I remember this one because it was the first one my wife and I spent together. The other thing that stands out in my mind is that the stage band was drinking as much as we were and one of the saxophone players toppled sideways off the top raiser and the band never missed a beat. He apparently didn’t get hurt, drunks very seldom do, and was back playing the next number.

In 1970, the year we returned to the States, I had already made some friends where I worked and we decided to spend New Year’s Eve with them at a Church party. Yes churches sponsored New Year’s Eve parties. The ticket price paid for the band, a midnight buffet, soda to drink and mix with the booze you brought from home. You also had to bring your own beer. It was snowing so much that we brought a change of clothes and pajamas if we had to stay at our friends parents house, which was close to the church, if the weather got that bad. We made it home safely that night and it was the start of many great times with a great bunch of friends.

Another New Year’s Eve that stands out as a notable one was January 1975 when my wife was seven months pregnant with our son. We actually thought she might be having twins. There was a very long buffet line at midnight and the crowd took pity on us and pushed us right up to the front of the line so she wouldn‘t have to stand too long. Don’t know if that would happen today.

We stopped going out to parties in 1977 when we moved to Green Bay and all of our friends were three hours away. We would spend the evening with the children, have a special dinner and try to keep me awake until midnight. Six years later we moved back to Cedarburg and were once again close to old friends and usually got together with them in one of our homes. After ten years we moved again, almost two hours away from our circle of friends that seemed to be shrinking. Not the hardy partiers that we had been 12 years earlier when the group first went out together.

Now in our mid sixties we will be staying home with our children and grandson enjoying a special dinner, a couple of drinks, wine and maybe Champaign. Good luck trying to keep me awake until midnight, but I make sure someone wakes me up at 11:45 pm so I can eat my boiled potatoes and marinated herring from the old year into the new year to bring us good luck. Yes, an old German tradition that I’m sure my grandparents got from their parents and even farther back then that. What memories and traditions do you have?

I miss the friends and the parties, but not the day after, if you know what I mean. We still, to this day, exchange phone calls with our oldest and dearest friends early on New Year’s Eve to wish each other a healthy and happy New Year. I’m glad that is one thing that has not changed.

Wishing everyone that follows me a Healthy, Happy and Prosperous New Year.