The Story of Our Lives

1964: The Beatles arrive in the United States for the first time. The Warren Commission concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Lyndon Johnson is elected to a full term.

Now in their mid-20s, the participants are settling down, finding jobs, getting married, starting to raise families.

The men were a few years older than the women they married, and the interviews reflect high levels of satisfaction. All these years later, about 60 percent are still in their first marriage, and most have been married for more than 40 years. And they still enjoy a good sex life. Those who went on to college are starting to pull ahead slightly, but there were many exceptions. Hauser has interviewed several during the scores of 50th anniversary high school reunions he is attending these days.

"One of the wealthiest, most popular, most successful members at one of the reunions that I attended is a guy who didn't go beyond high school but stayed and developed a very large commercial farming operation," Hauser said. "He's a leading light in his community, and he didn't go beyond high school."

In general, however, those who continued their education did better than those who didn't, and that includes everything from wealth to health. But 71 of them had died by 1964.

1975 and then in 1977: South Vietnam officially surrenders to the North, the United States evacuates. Patty Hearst is kidnapped. Elvis Presley dies (77.) Now in their mid-30s, the men are caught up in their jobs, women are raising children but many have returned to the work force. There is tragedy among them, including the death of parents, and in some cases, spouses. But particularly heartbreaking are the deaths of 900 children of either the graduates or their siblings.

"Several hundred have a child with a serious disability or severe mental illness," Hauser said. For some, no doubt, happy days seem a distant memory.

The men reported being very distracted from their work by family matters, but they seem to have done well anyway. About one-fourth were already in a job they would keep for the rest of their working days. Most would have several employers, but nearly half the men and one-fifth of the women would retain the same job for at least 25 years. Years later, they would describe their work as "satisfying."

Some 174 have died by 1975.

1993-94: A bomb explodes in a garage of New York World Trade Center, killing six. American women are cleared for military combat roles.

As they enter their mid-50s, the questions are becoming more personal. How are the women dealing with menopause? Quite well, it turns out.

Thoughts begin turning to retirement. Most have prepared well, placing health care coverage and pensions higher on their list of priorities than salary. But they believe their standard of living will drop.

The death rolls now include the names of 588.

2004-2006: War in Iraq overshadows all other events.

Now reaching retirement age, the participants are starting to feel the effects of aging. They're just not quite as quick as they used to be. A little more forgetful, but cognition is still strong. And they're still surprisingly healthy, overall. About 76 percent of the men and 69 percent of the women reported no days spent in bed due to illness or injury in 2004. An amazing 70 percent say they feel better now than 10 years ago.

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