Cline column: The good old days were just that — good
The Baby Boomers generation is getting on. Sadly, many have already passed on, but there’s still a lot of them around. I am one of them.
I am a child of the ’50s. When I was growing up, I recall my parents and other family members talking about how it was when they were kids. They told me I had it soft compared with what they had to deal.
Now that I’m a little older and, perhaps, a little wiser, I see it now. My gosh, the parents of the Boomers first had to live through the Great Depression. Then, just as the country was turning the corner, here came World War II. The generation ahead of me not only survived the Great Depression, but they won that war. Today, they are rightfully called The Greatest Generation.
Grown-ups seemed to take pride in telling us kids they grew up without television. Many of the same shows I watched on the tube, they listened to on the radio. They could spend an entire afternoon in a movie theater for a dime. A loaf of bread cost a dime as well. You know what I’m talking about. Many of you heard the same stuff.
Now I find myself on the other side of the age coin. And guess what, I’m doing the exact same thing they all did when I was a kid. I often catch myself starting a sentence with, “When I was your age …” Yipe!
And I also think back to what seemed like the good old days. They might not have been, but they seemed so.
A while back, a lifelong friend and schoolmate sent me one of those emails that cycles around the internet every so often. The first time I read it, it really made an impression on me. And when I came across it again a week or so ago, it had the same effect. It goes like this:
• • •
“Were the childhoods of Baby Boomers really as bad as our children and grandchildren believe?
“In 1953, the U.S. population was less than 150 million, yet we knew more people (I don’t mean just on Facebook) and knew them better.
“The average U.S. annual salary was under $3,000, yet our parents could put some of it away for a rainy day, and still, most of us had comfortable lives.
“Mom didn’t have to work, unless she chose to.
“A loaf of bread cost about a quarter, and it was safe for a 6-year-old to skate to the store and buy one.
“Television (with a choice of two or three channels) meant ‘Lassie,’ ‘Ozzie and Harriet,’ ‘I Love Lucy’ and Fred Kirby. The public wasn’t blasted with lewd programming, focus groups or filters.
“TV was in black and white, but all Mother Nature was in glorious Technicolor … and we spent lots of time there, not indoor captives of our electronic gismos.
“We didn’t have air-conditioning at home, at school or in our cars, so the windows stayed open when it was hot. We walked or we rode our bikes to school or to the movies, or almost anywhere. And we didn’t have to lock our bikes when we reached our destinations.
“We loved to climb into a fresh bed at night, because the sheets had been dried outside on the clothesline.
“Our school teacher was either Mrs. Jones or Mr. Jones, never Ms. Susie or Mr. Dan.
“Half a dozen neighborhood mothers ran outside to check on us when we fell off our bicycles.
“The only hazardous material in our lives was the ‘fog machine,’ a vehicle that drove through neighborhoods spraying DDT to kill summertime mosquitos. Many of us played in the deadly mist until it dissipated (OK, maybe not the brightest thing we ever did).
“Many people seemed to live in the same hometown with their relatives, so ‘child care’ often meant grandparents, aunts or cousins, not ‘Betty Lou’s Day Care Center.’
“Parents and teachers were respected (and maybe even feared a bit), and their rules were law. Children did not sass and talk back without consequences.
“Your dad knew how to adjust the carburetor on the family car, as well as the one in every car in the neighborhood, and he wouldn’t take a nickel from anyone to do it.
“And just when you were about to do something that would get you into trouble, chances are you’d run into your family’s best friend or the nosy old lady up the street or your sister’s piano teacher or a church member.”
• • •
There’s a saying that change is good. Of course, change can be for the better or for the worse.
When I think back to all of my childhood friends, not a single one of them came from a home of divorce. And all of the parents were married. By our teen years, I was the only kid not living with both parents, and that’s because my father died when I was 12.
Now more than half of all U.S. marriages fail.
None of my friend’s parents were ever incarcerated. A speeding or parking ticket was as bad as I ever heard. Not a single restraining order.
It seems everything today has to be organized. Do kids of 2016 ever head for an empty lot after school, choose up sides and play football or baseball? We did … a lot. No adults were present, no refs or umpires. Just us kids. It generally went well. An occasional fight, but the other kids always broke it up, and we usually knew the right time to do so.
If a jerk had caused the trouble and was losing, the group (now judge and jury) would permit an extra punch or two before halting the skirmish — our way of sending a message that we don’t like jerks. And all of us didn’t get a trophy for just showing up to play.
Today, if the same scenario occurred, I’d be afraid that out would come a weapon … bang, bang … and then dead people. We didn’t think that way. We didn’t carry weapons, unless you count a sock with your best marbles. Good grief, none of us would have known how to get a gun if we were so inclined. And we wouldn’t have had the money to buy it if we found one.
It doesn’t matter what the cost of a loaf of bread is today. It isn’t safe for a 6-year old to skate anywhere unsupervised. Oh, do kids even skate these days? And if your bicycle doesn’t have a lock, it’s gone in 60 seconds (and 90 seconds if it has one).
There’s no denying that technology is much better now than in the 1950s, but only if “we the people” use it properly.
When I got into trouble at school or a friend’s house, I was also disciplined when I got home. Today, it’s let’s hire a lawyer and sue everyone involved because my kid doesn’t do anything wrong.
I can well remember when the general thinking of the majority of society was, “What can I do for you?”
Today it’s “What can you do for me?”
Mike Cline’s website, “Mike Cline’s Then Playing,” documents the movies which played in Rowan County theaters from 1920 through present day.