phone

For years, most households existed sharing a single landline.

We were bemused to read a recent Wall Street Journal article noting the 2010s will be remembered for “the decade when being thrifty became socially acceptable.” According to the story, the newfound fascination with parsimony is evident in everything from the popularity of brown bag lunches to questioning the necessity of every purchase one makes. The frugality practiced by today’s young adults stems in part from memories of growing up during the lean years following the “the worst financial meltdown and economic downturn since the 1930s.” While practicing thriftiness might be a hip new trend, we’re betting those who grew up (or were raised by those who grew up) during the lean years of the Depression could tell today’s young adults a thing or two about real conservation. They grew up returning milk and soda bottles for pennies. Disposable water bottles and individual lunch servings encased in plastic were unheard of. That generation drank from shared glassware, thermoses or water fountains. They reused paper bags, wore hand-me-downs and walked most places they went. And, get this — entire households shared one telephone, a landline at that. We kid you not.

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Since we’re reminiscing, maybe Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was right all along. In October 2012, he was famously mocked during a presidential debate for declaring that Russia is “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe.” We can’t imagine why Romney would have said that — aside from the endless attempts of Russian interference in U.S. elections, its nefarious cyber underworld and its ongoing efforts to undermine American institutions and policies, of course. But now, it seems Moscow also wants to return to Cold War-style military spying between the two nations. On Tuesday, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a warning that a Russian navy vessel, the Viktor Leonov, “has been operating in an unsafe manner off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. This unsafe operation includes not energizing running lights while in reduced visibility conditions, not responding to hails by commercial vessels attempting to coordinate safe passage and other erratic movements.” The notice advises mariners to “maintain a sharp lookout and use extreme caution when navigating in proximity to this vessel.” That the military surveillance ship is operating in waters near the Navy’s nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay, Ga., is lost on no one. A military spokesperson says the vessel is being shadowed by a Norfolk-based U.S. guided-missile destroyer. Sure seems rather 1980s-ish to us.

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Speaking of things coming back, a familiar byline will return to the Opinions pages as a regular columnist starting Tuesday. Robin Beres, deputy opinions editor, will offer her perspectives weekly, joining staff columnists Jeff E. Schapiro and Michael Paul Williams on these pages. Beres, deputy opinions editor, joined the RTD in 2005 after an impressive 23-year career in the Navy. She grew up in Richmond and has won several Virginia Press Association awards for her editorial and column writing. She will continue to write editorials, as well as help edit the daily section.

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In Gov. Ralph Northam’s budget, he proposes ending an annual $83,000 allocation in state funding that goes to the maintenance of Confederate graves. Northam intends to redirect those funds to create an African American cemeteries fund. The move is one that the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has been pushing for years. We certainly agree that historically black cemeteries such as Evergreen — where businesswoman Maggie L. Walker is buried — deserve the same level of perpetual care as Confederate graves. But to suddenly withdraw the money from grave maintenance for those soldiers — many of whom were sons of Virginia — strikes us as questionable. Surely somewhere within the governor’s gargantuan $135 billion budget proposal, he could find the money to pay for the upkeep of both Confederate and black cemeteries.

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And finally, we would wish a happy 100th birthday to Alma Coleman. According to WUSA-TV, the resident of the Potomac Woods Senior Apartments in Woodbridge, celebrated her birthday Wednesday night with a surprise party. Although she thought she was going to be playing bingo, she was appeased when she was told she could do whatever she wanted during her birthday party. It seems Coleman has been doing that most of her life. The adventuresome military widow is also a judo black belt, she played semi-pro softball while living in Japan and ran a ceramics business in Germany. She credits her grand age to world travel and her favorite drink, Long Island iced teas. That’s a recipe for longevity we could embrace.

— Robin Beres and Pamela Stallsmith

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