Pauline Lerner
My Life and Times: An Illustrated History



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1945
World War II ends.

1946
A soldier and a WAAC (Women's Army auxiliary Corps), newly home from the war, marry.

1948
The soldier and WAAC have a baby girl - me - on July 4 in Baltimore, MD. I am their only child.

1952
My parents convince me that the fireworks on July 4th are for me.

1950-1954
McCarthyism almost ruins many people, including my parents.


1954
I learn to read, feel a thrill, and then spend much of my childhood reading, the latter evoking my mother's disapproval. However, I embark on a lifetime of reading and loving it.

1955
Modern technology brings us consumer goods with transistors. My mother walks around the house carrying her transistor radio, which is playing classical music. In years to come, I would follow in her footsteps with my portable CD/mp3 player.

1957
Russia launches Sputnik, the first man made satellite, and disgraces the U.S. as the Cold War rages. The American educational system, particularly science education, undergoes scrutiny and reform. My father drives me to the country at night and we watch Sputnik through binoculars.

1958
Leonard Bernstein teaches me and other children about classical music on nationwide TV. I start taking violin lessons.

1960
John F. Kennedy takes office as the youngest American President and ushers in an era of hope.

1961
Cuban missile crisis. Like many people, I wonder whether I would die during the night from a nuclear attack.

1962
President Kennedy orders federal marshals to the University of Mississippi so that James Meredith, an African-American, can enroll there. The nation is wracked with racism, violence, and hatred.

1963
  • I play in a community symphony orchestra for the first time, starting a life-long passion.
  • Martin Luther King, a proponent of justice and love, says I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I go to the Civil Rights March with my father.
  • President Kennedy is shot and killed - by whom? Like many others, I feel that my world is shattered.

1964
  • The Civil Rights Act is passed.
  • The Beatles come to the U.S.

1965
  • I was graduated from high school and matriculated into Goucher College, a small, (then) women's, liberal arts college in Towson, MD.
  • Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, the New Lost City Ramblers, Theodore Bikel, Ian and Sylvia, Norman Kennedy, Bob Dylan, Maybelle Carter, Jean Ritchie, Alan Lomax, Gordon Lightfoot, Josh White, Mississippi John Hurt, Odetta, Norman Kennedy, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, Ronnie Gilbert, Jean Ritchie, and Alan Lomax -- a mind-boggling convergence of talent -- perform at the Newport Folk Festival.

1968
  • Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy are assassinated.

  • Soviets tanks roll into Prague.
  • American tanks roll into Miami for the Republican National Convention.
  • Police use violence on demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

  • The Tet Offensive is a military victory but a psychological defeat for the U.S. in Vietnam, and opposition to the war increases.

  • LBJ (President Lyndon Baines Johnson) announces negotiations to end the war in Vietnam.
  • I marry my boss (He would remained my boss).

1969
I graduate from college as a chemistry major, cum laude.

1971
National Guard troops kill four students protesting the war in Vietnam at Kent State.

1973
I earn my Ph.D. in biochemistry from U. of Md. I do mean *earn* -- with blood, sweat and tears.

1974
  • Nixon resigns before he can be impeached.
  • I start work as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health.

1980
I start work as a science reviewer and regulator at the Food and Drug Administration.

1984
The American hostages in Iraq return home.

1987
  • I buy a camera with my income tax refund money and start doing nature photography.
  • Jascha Heifetz dies.

1988
My divorce is finalized after a long, hard, and costly battle.

1989
  • A brave young man momentarily stops the tanks in Tienanmen Square. I pause from moving into the condo I bought to protest with overseas Chinese at the Chinese embassy.
  • The Berlin Wall comes down as the Communist empire crumbles.

1990
I start attending a Unitarian church, rising above my antipathy to organized religion.

1991
The Communist Empire collapses as the Soviet Union dissolves.

1992
I start playing in a ceilidh band (Celtic music).

1993
I start tutoring and teaching English to Chinese immigrant kids and others.

1994
After 27 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela is elected as the first black president of South Africa.

1996
The sheep Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, is born.

1998
  • I buy a PC and start on the slippery path to becoming an Internet junkie.
  • Yo Yo Ma founds the Silk Road Project to explore crosscultural (especially musical) exchange between lands of the Silk Road and the West.

1999
Two students shoot and kill other students at Columbine High School in the first of a series of school shootings.

2001
  • I am nearly killed in a car accident. I can't keep up my attendance at work and I lose my job, my income, my car, etc.
  • 911. The horrors of terrorist attacks on Americans.

2002
I begin teaching violin to beginners, including adults, and I love it.

2003
  • The shuttle Columbia disintegrates during reentry and all 7 aboard die.
  • The sequence of the human genome is published.

2004
A tsunami kills over 100,000 people in Southeast Asia. Nations, organizations, and individuals donate generously to help the survivors.

fireworks1 Born on the fourth of July, 1948

book
I learn to read, 1954

SputnikA
Sputnik, 1957

violin_ bow
violin lessons, 1958

Cuban missile crisis
1961

MLK
Martin Luther King, 1963
"I have a dream"

JFK_shattered_dreams JFK assassinated, 1963

Beatles
The Beatles, 1964

mlk_rfk63
Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy assassinated, 1968

congrad
I get my Ph.D. in biochemistry, 1973.

rat
I work as a laboratory scientist, 1974.

capsule
I start work at the FDA, 1980.

JaschaHeifetz
Jascha Heifetz dies, 1987

Berlin_wall The Berlin Wall comes down, 1989

chalice_gold
Unitarian church, 1990

teacher_aplus
I teach English, 1993

mandela1
Nelson Mandela, Pres. of South Africa, 1994

Dolly_sheep
Dolly the cloned sheep is born, 1996

yym_silk_road2
Yo Yo Ma founds the Silk Road Project, 1998

911_flag
September 11, 2001

teacher_blessing
I teach violin, 2002

Columbia_contrail
Columbia disintegrates during reentry, 2003

dblhelix1
The human genome is sequenced, 2003