Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Days of Yesteryear for Better or Worse

I spent my childhood in the 60s and 70s. Obviously, life was different then. Was it better? Was it worse? Well, I’m going to be the judge of that because I’m listing fourteen random areas of difference and telling you if I think they were better, worse, or somewhere in between.
1.   Corporal punishment was allowed in school. I got a swat once for teasing a girl in class. The teacher who swatted me in front of my classmates barely caused me physical pain, but it embarrassed me—and my parents found out and punished me because in my day, the teacher was always right. I didn’t want another swat or home punishment, so my behavior changed. BETTER.
2.   We played vinyl records on record players—albums that scratched, skipped, or warped—and taped songs off the radio with portable cassette players. I remember building a “soundproof” fort and waiting for my favorite songs on the radio, hoping to record them without interruption from noise in the house. WORSE.
3.   Research was done with encyclopedias, library source books, or microfilm. Yeah, trolling the library was no fun (and in those days we were expected to be quiet). Topics were generally chosen based on whatever letter of the encyclopedia was available. Loading and spinning through microfilm was far too tedious. There was no internet! WORSE.
4.   We had to get up to change the TV channel or to change the antennae rotator or the volume. We only had one TV, so we also had to fight for our shows or (horror of horrors) find something else to do. Nowadays, I’ll scour the earth for the remote before going to the TV to change the channel or volume. WORSE.
5.   When a thermometer broke, we rolled the liquid-metal mercury around in the palms of our hands. We didn’t die. Now they shut down entire schools. PROBABLY WORSE.
6.   We didn’t wear helmets. I learned how to ride a bike by having my dad steady it until I got it moving myself, and then he’d let go and I’d ride until I fell either in the grass or on the cement sidewalk. We didn’t have in-line skates, skateboards, or many of the other cool rolling gadgets, so bike-riding was essential. We played hockey, rode motorcycles, and rode bikes and roller skates without helmets. I’m only partially brain damaged. BETTER…MAYBE.
7.   We played Jarts. You know…those arrows of death? Actually, we were smart enough to not get in the way of other gamers’ throws, and we let them land without having our skulls pierced. Maybe we had more common sense than people of today, and maybe having the government monitor our safety for us isn’t really all that necessary. Hey, there could be Jart helmets. BETTER.
 8.   We rode in the back of pickup trucks or on the top of the backseat in a  convertible. Does anyone remember sitting in the backseat of a station wagon,  looking out the back window at the other drivers? Do you remember having to  sit on the hump because almost all cars had rear-wheel drive (which was great  for doing donuts in parking lots in the winter)? There were no car seats, only  occasional seat belt usage, and sooner or later, we all “drove” the car while  sitting on our dad’s lap. I survived, believe it or not. BETTER…AND WORSE.
9.    We built our own forts and treehouses. There was a lot of pride in the  achievement, and though they were horribly built, they were ours. We made  the plans, chose and hauled the lumber scraps or branches, brought the tools,  and made something we were proud of. BETTER.
10.  We climbed to the tops of trees, jumped fences, swung on swing sets with legs  coming out of the ground, trespassed in the woods, designed our own bike    jumps, umpired and refereed our own neighborhood ball games, got in fights    and solved our own problems, and left the house in the morning only to come    home when our parents called for us from the front door for dinner (which we  ate as a family). We did all of those things without a cell-phone or a  microwave. BETTER.
11. Visits to church, hospitals, relatives’ homes, stores for shopping, etc. were  made without smartphones and tablets. We were bored…or we creatively found  something to do. Maybe we took a book to read. Maybe we interacted with  people. We probably learned proper etiquette and people skills. BETTER.
12. We attended drive-in movies. People hid in the trunk so they wouldn’t have to  pay. With our parents, we came in pajamas with pillows and blankets, and we  brought our own refreshments and strained to see the screen in the fading  daylight. As teenagers, we strolled around the “theater” or sat in open  hatchbacks with our friends. BETTER…OR NOT.
13. When we needed someone to hang out with, we went to their houses, knocked  on their doors, and asked if they could come out and play. Most of my school  friends in my day lived within six miles of my house, yet their phones were  long-distance to call, and my parents wouldn’t let me call them, so I had to  ride my bike to their houses. WORSE.
14.  We were grounded differently. I was grounded to my house or my room. Or  sometimes I was grounded to my yard. I was never grounded from my cell-  phone, computer, video games, or iPod (or whatever music source). When I  couldn’t leave to play with my friends or have friends over, I was miserable.  These days, parents can’t get kids to leave the house. I DON’T KNOW IF THIS IS  BETTER OR WORSE—JUST DIFFERENT.

And that’s the whole point. Things were different. Times evolve, rules of society change, culture differs, and standards of safety adjust. Things are different now, for better or worse, but for some of you, I’ve stirred your memories of “the good old days.” Do you think they were better or worse?