One of the longest diary runs we have were written by Thomas John Crockett, a Unionville resident and United States diplomat; the diaries date from 1954 to 2009. Following a brief career at the Hartford Times and in the Army, Crockett joined the Department of State where he served for 40 years. Stationed throughout eastern Europe from 1947 until the early 1960’s, he also served in the Philippines during the Vietnam War and in Tunisia and Israel during the 1970’s. The focus in his career was the diplomatic value of American culture and the liberating value of truthful reporting, and he served in the early years of the Voice of America, the U.S. Information Agency, the U. S. Information Service, and related agencies. From his experiences, he developed and nurtured a profound love of art, of music and of languages.
While I was in the stacks last week, I chose one of these diaries at random—1965 to be exact—to see what Crockett might have been up to on New Year’s Eve, since he was such a fascination person. It turns out, not much.
What I did find interesting, however, were several pages at the back of the volume, after the diary entries. Crockett listed the most interesting people he had met in the past year–two pages worth. Names that might be familiar to us today include author John Updike, Connecticut Governor John Dempsey, Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Many of the other individuals were government employees, reporters, military men, or diplomats. What a terrific idea for the New Year, or the year in review—make a list of interesting people you have met. Who says they have to be nationally famous? What is your definition of “interesting”?
Crockett also recorded the new movies he saw in 1965. The list includes Zorba, the Greek, The Guns of August, Night of the Iguana, The Magnificent Seven, Lord Jim, and Who Killed Liberty Valance. He also saw a lot of foreign films, the titles of which mean nothing to me. Can you imagine what a list might look like today? We would have hundreds of titles, given that we watch movies on the big screen, via NetFlix, YouTube, streaming video, HBO and Showtime, the Red Box and who knows how many other methods and venues.
Finally, Crockett noted great artists he heard in 1965 including musicians, conductors and opera singers, and new books he read. The books were Markings by Dag Hammarskjold, Fanny Hill by John Cleland, Quiet Days in Clichy by Henry Miller, Taken Care Of: The Autobiography of Edith Sitwell, Hapworth 16, 1924 by J.D. Salinger, and The Night of the Generals by Hans Hellmut Kirst. Quite the well-read man, I would say. Now, what if he had had access to Good Reads, or to Amazon.com?
It pays to reflect at the start of a New Year just how dramatically our lives have changed in just the past five to ten years, never mind over the span of nearly 50 years. Who says history is boring and far in the past? Happy New Year!