AT LARGE with TOM WILLIAMS >> Looking Back a Quarter Century

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It is always better to look ahead, to plan for the future and move forward. Baseball Hall of Famer Satchell Paige used to say, “Don’t look back, something might be gaining on you.”

But Paige was wrong. Sometimes you can learn from the past and remember some things worth remembering.

So, this week, let’s go back a quarter of a century to 1988.

Twenty-five years ago you paid an average of 91 cents for a gallon of gas. A movie ticket was $3.50, a first class stamp was 24 cents and the average new home cost $91,600.

Quite a few singers were born in 1988 – including Rihanna, Adele, Billy Gilman and Vanessa Hudgens. And quite a few died – Andy Gibb, Dennis Day, Bill Daniels and Roy Orbison, among them.

In February of 1988, the House of Representatives rejected President Reagan’s request for more than $36 million to support the Nicaraguan Contras. Reagan would later devise an illegal way to send the money anyway, supplying arms to Iran as part of the deal.

Sonny Bono was elected Mayor of Palm Springs CA in 1988 and a young Canadian singer named Celine Dion won a Eurovision Song Contest.

Michael Dukakis was nominated by the Democrats to run against Vice President George H.W. Bush in the Presidential election.

The first computer virus infected computers connected to the Internet a quarter century ago and Prozac was first introduced. Maybe there was a connection.

Michael Douglas was the Oscars’ best actor for Wall Street, Cher was best actress for Moonstruck and the best picture was The Last Emperor.

On TV in 1988, Richard Kiley (A Year in the Life) was best actor in a drama, Michael J. Fox (Family Ties) was best in a comedy. Tyne Daly (Cagney & Lacey) and Bea Arthur (Golden Girls) were the female winners. Thirtysomething was named the best drama and The Wonder Years the top comedy.

The best musical on Broadway was The Phantom of the Opera, the Grammy record of the year was Paul Simon’s Graceland and the song of the year was Somewhere Out There by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram.

Democrat William J. Hughes won nearly 66 percent of the vote in defeating Kirk Conover for his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Incidentally, Congressman Hughes’ biggest issue during 1988 was a bill that amended the Federal criminal code to make it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive any firearm which is not as detectable by walk-through metal detectors or which has major components that do not generate an accurate image when subjected to inspection by airport x-ray machines. It was signed into law by President Reagan on Nov. 10. Sounds like Congressman Hughes was out front on gun control.

Statewide, in 1988, Democrat Frank Lautenberg won 54 percent of the vote to defeat Pete Dawkins for his second term in the U.S. Senate. Lautenberg, of course, returned to office after a brief retirement and is currently representing the Garden State in the Senate. He is 89, the oldest current senator and the last serving veteran of World War II. Bill Bradley was the other U.S. Senator from New Jersey 25 years ago, though he didn’t run for re-election until 1990. And Tom Kean was halfway through his second term as New Jersey’s governor.

In Ocean City, a move by city officials to change the Night In Venice Boat Parade from a 7 p.m. start to a 4 p.m. start was being seriously discussed in an effort to reduce rowdiness. The starting time has bounced around ever since.

It was also predicted in 1988 that Atlantic and Cape May counties might run out of drinking water as early as 2000 because of the amount of water being consumed at new developments in Atlantic County. Of course, the report did not foresee three dozen different brands of bottled water in every convenience store and super market.

“Service Above Self” awards were presented by Shore Memorial Hospital to volunteers Helen Bice of Somers Points, Robert Brown of Ocean City and Alice and Robert Hoffman of Ocean City.

The outgoing Miss America, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko, announced she was going to donate the pageant wardrobe she had worn throughout the year to the auxiliaries of the Shore Memorial and Atlantic City hospitals for fund-raising. Rafko was a registered nurse specializing in terminal cancer patients and their families.

A fund-raising ball was held in the solarium of the Flanders Hotel to finance cosmetic improvements to the Ocean City Music Pier. The city had already financed work on the underpinning of the building but a group booked the Joel Mann Orchestra to bring in money to make the interior more attractive and operational.

Sometimes it’s interesting to take a few minutes to forget about today and tomorrow and look back at yesterdays.  

One final flashback – the 1988 winner of the area fishing contest for the largest sea bass was Chalie McLaughlin of Margate. Some things never change.




Words of Wisdom:Almost all of your life is lived by the seat of your pants, one unexpected event crashing into another, with no pattern or reason. Then you finally reach a point, around my age, where you spend more time than ever looking back. Why did this happen? Look where that led? You really see the shape of things.” (actor Ron Perlman)

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