Robert Kirby: Let the good times roll until the bells toll

(Courtesy of Robert Kirby) Tribune columnist Robert Kirby holds his youngest daughter, Gin, in February 1983.

The accompanying photograph shows me holding my youngest daughter, Gin, sometime in February 1983. Obviously, time has been far kinder to one of us than it has for the other.

In the 37 years since this picture was taken, both of us have ended up in places we never would have foreseen. That baby now is the mother of five girls and the treasurer for the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial.

Back in 1983, it was a simpler time. Hamburger ran about $1.50 a pound. Ronald Reagan, whom everyone “loved,” was president, and a movie about a non-American, “Gandhi,” won the Oscar for best picture. And Iran hated our guts.

In 1983, Ann Landers was The Salt Lake Tribune’s most prominent advice giver. At the time, her future replacement in The Tribune, Ann Cannon, was trying to write while caring for a toddler.

Meanwhile, I was writing crime reports and traffic tickets, never knowing that I would one day be doing the job previously held by a monkey. (See photo below.)

(Photo courtesy of Robert Kirby) From the pages of The Salt Lake Tribune in 1945.

Time never stands still. What we didn’t know 37 years ago is that hamburger would cost about $4 a pound today, that a non-American made movie, “Parasite,” would win the Academy Award for best film, and, oh, Iran would still hate our guts.

One only needs to read headlines from 75 years ago to know that we’re getting off lightly. On Sunday, Feb. 11, 1945, Tribune headlines were filled with death:

“Montgomery Army Stabs to Rhine.”

“Superforts Blast Tokyo as Quake Rocks Isle.”

“Russians Fill Berlin Path With Corpses.”

Food was rationed 75 years ago. Hamburger may have been pricey in 1983 and even costlier today, but at least it was available. On Feb. 11, 1945, the paper announced “Meatless Summer Faces Civilians.”

Kobe Bryant’s death weighs on minds today, but 75 years ago, America’s superstar was U.S. Army Air Corps Maj. Richard I. Bong, the country’s ace of aces, with 40 Japanese aircraft to his credit.

The Tribune reported the Medal of Honor winner’s wedding, the largest Superior, Wis., had ever seen. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent his congratulations.

Neither the marriage nor the president lasted long afterward. FDR died two months later, and Bong was killed a few months after that while test-flying the military’s first jet fighter, the P-80 “Shooting Star,” in California.

Utah had its own heroes. The Tribune reported P-51 pilot Lt. Albert J. Davis, of Salt Lake City, receiving his third medal for tearing up German railroads. The following month, flak hit Davis’ plane. He bailed out too low to the ground.

The news back then was a blend of happiness and agony. In a single edition, four Utahns were reported killed, five wounded, one missing in action and two held prisoner. The “society” pages were filled with hurried weddings to servicemen soon to be fed into the meat grinders of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

With all the young men gone to war, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relied on older men for missions.

But nowhere and nothing was safe. In February 1945, Johannes Van Katwyk, 65, of Salt Lake City, was sent on a mission to the Northern states. He survived, but his wife, Maria, died of hypertension five months after his departure.

News always has a flip side. In 1945, the Geneva Steel plant near Orem was extolled for its glorious contribution to the war and the economy. Decades later, it would be decried as an eyesore and a polluter.

Bad as it might seem today, the news can always get worse. Enjoy the good times while you can. There’s always something else just around the corner.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.