Before ballpoint pens, when space travel was relegated to the imagination of little boys reading comic books and the speed of your bike was dependent on how fast you could pedal; when gay meant brightly colored and politically correct had something to do with etiquette; back in the day when the street lights coming on were the only clock you had in summer to tell you it was time to head for home and you walked to the local drug store to buy the sheet music for your favorite song so you could memorize the words; a really good babysitter got 50 cents an hour and the height of independence was when your weekly paycheck finally cleared $100; that was my time.
Before xbox and wii, pocket calculators, and phones that you wear on your ear; we still played games (Monopoly, Chinese Checkers, Parcheesi); we still added and subtracted, and we still communicated with our friends by phone, sometimes sharing a phone line (called a party line) with several other families to keep down the cost, or calling home and asking the operator to place the call person-to-person then asking to speak to yourself so your parents would know you arrived at a given destination safely. Writing letters was in vogue and young women waited patiently for the mailman to bring word from their loved ones who’d been drafted.
Back then you could use a playing card and a clip clothes pin to convert your bicycle into a motorized sports car. If you had a red handkerchief from your dad’s dresser drawer and the right sized stick you were a cowboy in the wild west, and if your front porch had a railing around it, you could ride your bucking bronco into the sunset. A blanket thrown over the clothes line provided a tent for the night. Soup cans dug into the yard gave you a golf course. You could spend hours putting together a model airplane then climb to the top of a garage and set it on fire to have your own WWII.
Being sick you might have measles, mumps or chickenpox and all the associated side effects. Doll babies did nothing but lay there, they didn’t speak, didn’t eat, and for sure they didn’t poop. Sitting on the back porch on a lazy summer evening watching the fireflies light up the night air while sipping Kool Aid. The commercial still rattles around in our brains, “Kool Aid, Kool Aid, tastes great! We love Kool Aid – Can’t wait!” That was my time.
It is a wonder how we made it this far, and that we remember. Going on a trip meant following state roads through one little town after another, with all the associated stop signs and red lights. McDonald’s hadn’t been thought of, fast food was determined by how quickly you could eat it. Eating while walking outside was unheard of, and certainly eating french fries with your fingers was just not done. It was the end of another war and the beginning of an era now referred to as “the good old days”. And they were good.
When we finally got a television of our very own it came with doors on the front to make it a console, a piece of furniture to enhance the beauty of the room when it wasn’t being used. After a while, people started getting color tv’s. We were happy to not have to go to the neighbors to see their tv, but all the same wanted the color effect that was so highly acclaimed. My dad purchased the latest in adapters to make a black and white tv into a color model. It was a piece of very heavy plastic that you rolled out across the screen and watched as Lucy and Desi walked from one color band to another, turning from red to green to yellow to blue. What a wonder! A color tv of our very own.
A new fangled invention back in the day was the decorator wall clock, other than the old Regulator clock that hung in train stations, wall clocks were not decorator items prior to this time. My mom called me into the kitchen one day to unveil a surprise she had created. The kitchen door to the back porch was opened, concealing her surprise. With a bit of flourish she swept it to the side to reveal our very own wall clock. We were just as fancy as anyone on the block. She had hammered a nail into the trim behind the door and hung a watch that was missing one of the leather bands on the nail. Fancy! We were movin’ up, you just had to remember to wind it every day.
We still remember the evening gowns for the prom in the high school gym that had been transformed into a wonderland with parachute material draped from the ceiling and artificial grass and a gurgling water fountain in it’s center. The more crinolines under that gown and the higher the beehive teased up on your head, sprayed with some sort of lacquer to stay that way for hours (or the rest of your life), the better.
Walking home from basketball or football games and their dances at 11:30 at night and not being afraid. After all you’d just danced to songs like, “One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater”, “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”, “Lets Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer”, and the trusty old favorite “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On the Bedpost Overnight?”. All of your friends chipping in to buy a couple of gallons of gas for the car might cost you a quarter a piece. You’d have two gallons of gas and cruise town for hours.
Looking back we see mostly the good with smatterings of dark clouds scattered on the edges of our memories. All of this while at the same time we still had people riding in the back of the bus and drinking from separate water fountains, the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs invasion, air raid drills in our schools, children huddled in school hallways with their heads on the floor and their hands over the backs of their necks till the all clear was sounded, black outs and brown outs and peeking out through the window blinds to see who would be the first person on your street to relight their lamps, our President gunned down while riding in the car with his wife, so much tragedy but for the most part, we grew up in the good old days.
Girls still cried over the loss of a boyfriend, mothers still watched their boys go off to war, fathers still were demoralized by the loss of their jobs, and sons still drove cars too fast and suffered the consequences. “But God is faithful and will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but will, with the temptation, make a way to escape that you might be able bear it.” I Cor. 10:13
Some of our adventures were our way to escape that we could bear the most difficult of times. So we are perceived as the “Ozzie and Harriet Generation”.