Lives in contrast

Born at opposite ends of the baby boom generation, two Maryland women followed different paths

The Middle Ages

Staying young, growing old and what happens in between

January 14, 2007|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,[Sun Reporter]

Endlessly characterized as brimming with disposable income and determined to remain young, America's 78 million baby boomers are becoming more diverse as they age. In 2007, the oldest boomers, born in 1946, will turn 61. The youngest, born in 1964, will turn 43.

The stories of two Baltimore-area boomers, Yvonne Christie and Mary Murphy, reveal the range of experiences that define and also separate the first and last members of this generation, especially the women.

Christie, a retired homemaker, was born Jan. 1, 1946. Murphy, an assistant state's attorney for Howard County, was born Dec. 30, 1964. When Murphy was born, Christie was already working as a Teletype operator, a job she would leave when her first child was born.

Although these boomers' lives have been very different, both are mothers of two children and they also share a skepticism about just how they fit into the country's biggest generation.

01.01.1946

Yvonne Christie

A lifelong Baltimorean until two years ago, Yvonne Newman Christie came of age at a time when teens danced on the Buddy Deane Show and young women made sure to wear white gloves on job interviews. She did both. Now she and Thomas Christie, her husband of 40 years, visit their old Hamilton neighborhood from their home in Ocean Pines, right across the bay from Ocean City. Yvonne lived on the same street, Birchwood Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, for almost 50 years; first at her parents' home, then at the house she and Thomas bought two doors up the street, where their younger son lives now.

When Christie was born, Yvonne de Carlo was a glamorous young starlet who left an impression in baby names. Now, as Christie, a retired homemaker, looks over many satisfactions -- including a multi-generational childhood she calls "One Big Happy," her two sons, and years as a stay-at-home mother -- the conversation keeps returning to dancing. Glamorous dancing.

Christie started turning heads on the dance floor as a teen. In the 1960s, she and her cousin Charles appeared on the Buddy Deane Show, the local show that inspired Hairspray. She met her husband on the dance floor of Sweeney's bar in Waverly in December 1965. Despite his skepticism about her white go-go boots, they were married the following year. During the 1970s, the couple took full advantage of the disco years, spending Saturday and sometimes Wednesday nights at such clubs as Stars and Girard's, a club Christie calls "our Studio 54."

Now the Christies dance at the Ocean Club in Ocean City's Clarion Hotel -- reserving the same floor-side table every Saturday with their friends Buck and Barbara Godwin. When the couple travel, they choose cruises that offer dancing.

Christie says she doesn't much identify with the Woodstock, war-protesting, bra-burning segment of her generation. As a young woman, she liked Elvis Presley, and her beehive hairdo. She didn't learn to drive a car -- neither her mother nor grandmother ever drove -- until 1972, two years after her first child was born.

College wasn't in the picture. In 1964, after Mergenthaler High School, Christie went straight to work as a Teletype operator for Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., a job she had begun

before graduation. Working for six years, this would be her only job outside the home. One of her most vivid memories, she says, was working during the 1968 riot that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, when National Guard troops surrounded the C&P building.

Although she's reluctant to discuss politics and current issues, she says she used to feel defensive when people asked her what she "did."

"In the '70s, around when the boys were first born, you almost felt like you didn't want to say you were a stay-at-home mom because people would look down their noses at you," she says. "I lived through the real women's lib thing and you were almost expected to say you worked somewhere. I think today's young mothers are reverting back to that way (staying at home) -- at least they don't have to feel ashamed to say so."

Christie also worked as a bookkeeper for Christie Home Improvement, the business her husband started in the early 1970s. And, a passionate cat lover, she has volunteered with Animal Rescue, cleaning cages and litter boxes and tending to animals.

"When I hear stories on the news about abusing animals, it just about breaks my heart," she says. "If I ever won the lottery, I would open some sort of sanctuary."

One aspect of boomerhood that Christie has embraced is fitness. In addition to dancing, she bowled for decades in duckpin leagues. And she was an early disciple of fitness goddesses Jacki Sorenson (aerobic dancing) and Judi Missett (Jazzercise).

Now she takes an aerobic dance class three times a week in the Ocean City recreation center and walks with Thomas, 67, at least an hour every day. Although he had his hip replaced last May, he was back on the dance floor six weeks later.

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