Saturday, January 1, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 1: New Year's Day

Week 1 Challenge: New Year's. Did your family have any New Year’s traditions? How was the New Year celebrated during your childhood? Have you kept these traditions in the present day?

I remember that for several years when I was a kid living at home, my parents and I spent New Year's Eve with their friends. If the friends had children, I would spend time with them. That was always a little weird, trying to create a friendship based on seeing someone once a year. But it provided some variety and I didn't mind it. Of course, I always would have preferred to have hung out with the adults; I was always much more interested in their conversations about politics and world events.

New Year's Eve would never be at the same family's home. We would go someplace different each year, or have the families to our house. The only real memory I have is of watching The Tonight Show. No, not the one with Jay Leno; not even the one with Johnny Carson. Back then, it was Jack Paar and his announcer, Hugh Downs. I never quite figured out why they were celebrating the New Year in New York at 11 p.m. and then when midnight rolled around, nothing happened. Apparently, I had not yet learned about different time zones around the world.

During my mid-teens to college years, the New Year's holiday activities usually revolved around watching the Nebraska Cornhuskers play football at some bowl game. That's back in the day when there were only four or five big bowl games and it really meant something to be invited to one: Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange. That was also back in the day when Nebraska had a really good football team.

I was attending the University of Nebraska when the Huskers won back to back national championships in 1971 and 1972. Both championships were played out in the Orange Bowl, which was played on New Year's night. Once the televised games were over, my friends and I piled in a friend's car and "cruised O" Street with a few thousand other excited fans. It was total chaos, but good clean fun. I remember a police officer working traffic and he was pointing his finger shouting, "We're Number 1" right along with everyone else.

On January 14, 1971, President Nixon came to town to recognize the team for its championship season. I was never a Nixon fan (to say the least), and this was a year and a half before the break-in at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. that led to his downfall. I was one of just three or four journalism students selected to receive press credentials for the event that attracted about 8,000 people to the Coliseum on the University campus. I may still have my press pass somewhere, but maybe not. As members of the working press, we had a special door to enter and were patted down by the Secret Service. The agent also took every piece of camera equipment out of my bag and carefully inspected the lenses before I was allowed to enter the arena. I took a spot next to the camera crew from ABC. One of the ABC cameramen was pointing out the undercover Secret Service guys in the crowd, mingling with the campus radicals, with long hair, headbands and looking like someone out of the cast of Hair. Whether or not they were really Secret Service or if he was just feeding me a line, I'll never know.

But I'm veering off topic from New Year's traditions - even though it was the football victory of New Year's Day that caused me to wind up in the Presidential press pool two weeks later.

I'm not much for crowds or parties, and I'm even less enchanted with the idea of going out in sub-zero weather with a bunch of drivers who have had too much to drink. As an adult, it's been quiet, with New Year's Eve spent with Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve - every year since 1972. Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. But one thing has remained constant since my childhood - I've always seen the New Year as a fresh start, a new beginning and knowing that we're at least halfway through the cold winter months.

About 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy: Amy Coffin of We Tree Genealogy has created a third year of blogging prompts for genealogy bloggers. The theme for 2011 is 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History. These are shared on the web site, hosted by Thomas MacEntee.

Read all articles in this series.


  1. It's nice to look back and remember what we did with our families... thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for sharing you memories and playing along with the series. I'm not much for NYE parties, either. Glad to know I'm not the only one!