When I was a kid...
Added: Wed. Feb 15, 2012 12:46pm
Posted in: Family
If you are younger, no doubt you have heard the story. If you are older (over 50), I’m sure you have told the story. It is the story of those who are seniors and how tough life was back when they were young. Back then they had to walk three miles to school in 8 ft. snow drifts. We all know it isn’t true. The highest snow drift I ever had to navigate on my two mile walk to school was only 6 ft.; everything else is lies.
But what seniors are trying to convey is how different and difficult life was way back then. That is true. We seasoned seniors didn’t have so many of the luxuries that the young have today and take for granted. First of all, there were no cell phones. Our parents may have had a home 4-party line which had to be dialed and answered on a rotary phone (see Wikipedia). As for us kids, we had two tin cans and a long piece of string. Reception wasn’t great; it depended not on satellites but rather the quality of the string and how clean the cans were. Of course the only picture you had to look at on our “cell phones” where on the label of the can.
There were no computers or X-Boxes or Sony Play Stations to amuse us. Our amusement came when our mother kicked us out of the house and told us not to return until dinner time. Then we played tag, stick ball (start with a broom handle), making pea shooters and rubber guns (start with a piece of wood and a car inner tube). We also played kick the can (one can and one good kicking foot, preferably played on a hill). As got gym and sneakers, no Michael Jordon and all those expense sneakers for us. Everyone had Converse sneakers, black, high ankle with that round ball ‘C’ to help prevent ankle sprains, or so they said.
As we got older, we learned to drive on a manual three speed with the gear stick on the steering column – think of a capitol letter H for shifting (no automatic for us kids although well-to-do parents might afford a three-speed automatic). Of course that required the coordination of hand and foot for shifting. As for driving that car in cold weather, one had to have patience to deal with the thump-thump of the flat spot on the tires. There were no all season or winter season tires for use during those winters with 6 ft. snow drifts. There were, however, tire chains which were guaranteed to leave your fingers and knuckles bloodied by the time you got them on.
As for many of our homes, we had no showers though we saw pictures of them. The idea of a shower with more than one head wasn’t even dreamed of, not even by the most brilliant minds of the time. We did have a galvanized tub which hung on the porch wall. Proper hygiene required us kids to take a bath at least once, and sometimes twice, a week. That wasn’t too bad except in the winter. Then the tub rim was about 28° while the water was something above 200°. Under those circumstances, your rear end suffered no matter what it touched.
Oh yes, we didn’t go to a supermarket for milk; supermarkets were still a few decades in the future. Rather milk was brought to the door in glass bottles with a cardboard top. Again, winter time made for some interesting delivered milk bottles. The cream would rise to the top (no homogenized milk then) and freeze. As it did it expanded lifting the top a few inches above the bottle opening rim. That was quite a sight on a cold, winter morn.
Although we didn’t have TV, we did have the movie theater. For 25¢ we would go to a Saturday matinee where we would see the news, a few cartoons, a short feature (maybe the Three Stooges) and the main feature which often was a cowboy movie starring Gene Autry or Roy Rogers. It was always a treat to see the rag man come by to buy items the family no longer had use of. We also had the sharpener man who would sharpen your knives or scissors for a small fee.
Oh I could go on and on, and many will since our experiences varied by where we lived, but I don’t want to make a novel out of this musing; your grandparents can take care of that. (Seniors are encouraged to supplement this musing with a comment or remembrance.) But I will leave you with this one final thought. People who talk about climate change and greater extremes never were around when we were young and had to walk through those 6 ft. snow drifts while the temperature hovered around minus thirty-seven. Climate change? Bring it on.
Readers’ note: After I completed this musing, I reflected on it some. While I have no problem with the way I ended it, I realized that there was a more serious thought I wanted to convey as well. I realize that my parents, our parents, could have written a similar musing comparing their childhood experiences with mine when I was young. My parents were born in 1910 and 1912. Their childhood was filled with even less than mine was and their experiences were even more primitive. They lived through two world wars and the Great Depression – not the best of times to collect precious memories. So it was, I’m convinced, that they were happy for me and the life they gave me. I suspect they would have loved to live as a youth through the decades when I was young.
Therein lays the seriousness of this musing. While they would have never wanted me to live through the life they led as a youngster that cannot be said today. I have heard time and again from those seniors who lament the world their children live in and, unlike my parents, wish the children of today could have lived in a world similar to what we had. Technology is not a great substitute for happy, less stressful times. So it is, probably the first time in the history of our country, that the past is more appealing than the present. How sad.