Remember When

I was sitting in my recliner checking my e-mail and surfing Facebook this morning listening to some Malt Shop Oldies when my granddaughter came in and asked if she could play a game. Of course I said yes, and while she was loading Mindcraft from X-box, she innocently asked me, “What video games did you have when you were a kid, Grandpa?”

“None,” I replied. “We didn’t have video games back then.”

“Wow,” the eight year old urchin answered, wisely deferring from saying any more.

But it did get me to thinking. Times in the dark ages were certainly different … not necessarily better, but certainly different. So I decided to take a trip back in time when I was eight years old. Welcome aboard.

Dad worked, Mom stayed home and I went to school, did my homework and went outside and played … in the sunshine and in the rain and especially in the snow. I rode my bike in the street with no helmet, knee pads, arm pads or any other pads. I rode my bike … I did not perform death-defying Evil Knievel tricks. I pedaled fast on my one speed Huffy bike and wiped out a few times.

I knew everyone on the street and I knew they knew my Mom and Dad. I went to the corner candy store where I could buy a whole strip of pure sugar “dots” on waxed paper for a nickel. I could really sugar overdose on a dime.

We played stickball and football around parked cars on Virginia Avenue, occasionally {but not always} calling time out when a car approached. When we could get a dozen or so guys together {which really wasn’t that hard to do}, we would go down East 19th Street to a vacant lot owned by who knew and actually play baseball with a tattered baseball and well-worn gloves. Most of the bats were cracked and our uniform consisted of baseball caps worn bill in front, t-shirts, usually ripped-and-repaired dungarees and our Keds sneakers. We learned our football offensive and defensive schemes on that field and looked forward to playing in the mud or snow {it was northern New Jersey} — without coats and scarfs and boots and hats. We would play basketball at the school with rims that always had nets.

We ate dinner as a family and we often watched television as a family … on our black and white television with about an 18 inch screen and those “rabbit ears” that had to be adjusted every time you got up to change the channel. Since we lived in a metropolitan area, we got four channels out of New York City — ABC, CBS, NBC and WPIX, the latter featuring mostly movies but more important, Yankee baseball.

I was entertained by Howdy Doody and Kukla, Fran and Ollie. I was challenged by Captain Kangaroo and the Mickey Mouse Club. My heroes were Roy Rogers and Superman. I watched The Ed Sullivan Show, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, I Love Lucy and The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett with Mom and Dad.

Bedtime was bedtime and set at 9 p.m. No dawdling if I wanted to watch television.

I walked to school — okay, Dad usually dropped me off at St. Anthony’s in the morning, but I walked home, about nine city blocks. In fact, I never took a school bus — a regular yellow school bus — in my live, although I did take public buses after we moved to Totowa.

Our “toys” were non-motorized cars and trucks, accessories for the bike {like the rocket headlight}, plastic soldiers, colored pencils, yo-yos, slinkys and Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs. For Christmas I received a hockey game with players in slots you controlled. You picked the teams by changing jerseys on the metal stakes.

When we visited family or friends, we packed into a 1953 Plymouth with a standard on the column shift. There were no air bags or seat belts. Dashboards were made of steel with no padding. We only had an AM radio complete with static on almost every station. Cars were about a mile long and a half mile wide and weighed 10 tons. Parking was adeptly done by hand with no power assists or ever power steering. Even at that age, I was chomping at the bit to get behind the wheel.

The house had one telephone, tethered in the kitchen with a short cord. Gone were the days when you had to get an operator to place a call, but we did have a “party line”, a line shared with other families. Mom hung her wash outside on a line to dry. We shopped at a small hole-in-the-wall A & P and we went to a neighborhood theater to watch movies.

We wrote letters by hand. We wrote thank yous by hand. We never had spellcheck and no one could envision anything like the Internet or social media. We read newspapers and magazines.

I don’t know if life was better, but it certainly was simpler. There was no such thing as political correctness.

I’ll finish my rant by adding thoughts by Yahoo writer Diane Zoller-Ciatto. Here are several statements that were probably made by my parents or your parents or grandparents when stating their disgust at prices and trends of 1955:

  • I’ll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it’s going to be impossible to buy a week’s groceries for $10.
  • Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won’t be long before $1,000 will only buy a used one.
  • If cigarettes keep going up in price, I’m going to quit! Twenty cents a pack is ridiculous.
  • Did you hear the Post Office is thinking about charging seven cents just to mail a letter?
  • If they raise the minimum wage to $1, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.
  • When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 25 cents a gallon. Guess we’d be better off leaving the car in the garage.
  • I’m afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying “damn” in Gone with the Wind it seems every new movie has either “hell” or “damn” in it.
  • I read the other day where some scientist thinks it’s possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it in Texas.
  • Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $50,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn’t surprise me if someday they’ll be making more than the president.
  • I never thought I’d see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now.
  • It’s too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women have to work to make ends meet.
  • It won’t be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.
  • I’m afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.
  • Thank goodness I won’t live to see the day when the government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to government.
  • The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.
  • There is no sense going on short trips anymore for a weekend, it costs nearly $2 a night to stay in a hotel.
  • No one can afford to be sick anymore. At $15 a day in the hospital, it’s too rich for my blood.
  • If they think I’ll pay 30 cents for a haircut, forget it.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: We often discover what will do by finding out what will not do.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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3 Responses to Remember When

  1. TamrahJo says:

    Loved this! When I started driving, gas was *gasp* 68 cents a gallon – I made $1.75/hour plus tips and I was expected to do all the jobs the ‘ladies who had seniority’ hated to do, without complaint and cheerfully.
    I cried when I purchased Lincoln Logs for my son, only to find them made out of plastic and cried even harder when I found out my mom had donated the set used for a decade or more by my brother and I to the local Fundraising Yard Sale.
    “Saturday Nights” meant we drove to the neighbors for supper and the adults played cards or visited and we kids ran around in the dark playing cops and robbers, and no one ever died from tetanus when we tripped and fell over old barn boards hidden by pasture grass.
    Eating out was reserved for birthdays (if Mom had been under the weather) and Mother’s Day – or when we traveled back east to visit kin and then, only for supper. Breakfast and lunch were eaten at roadside parks out of a carefully packed cooler.
    We had a full pantry come fall, because of gardening and butchering, but also because a blizzard might keep us home bound for weeks or longer and Dad always made sure extra was in the budget to stock up on canned goods before winter set in.
    I still do that, even today – I cringe at the thought of going to the grocery store every day – !
    Ah…what memories you invoked today -thank you


    • Thank you. Memories are great … and they are ours forever. I can’t help but wonder what memories my grandkids will have when they get to be my age, Glad you had a trip down memory lane.


      • TamrahJo says:

        I hope I’m around to hear the grandkiddos version of childhood! I’ve been trying to be more active in sharing the stories of my ancestors with my son – before my dad passed, he was always the ‘StoryKeeper” and would share different tales from his youth of his great-grandparents and such – now that he is gone, I realize it is my job..


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