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Kent Bernhardt: Things we no longer do. And for most, good riddance

Kent Bernhardt

If you’re anything like me, you can remember a lot of things in your life that were at one time commonplace that seem a little odd today. I thought we’d munch on a few of them together:
We watched lots of smoking ads on TV. We loved them. We’d sing those catchy little jingles over and over: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.” The odd thing is, even back then we had a pretty good idea those things were killing us but we didn’t care.

We smoked on airplanes, in restaurants, in school, in bed — heck, my home church even had a special Sunday school class composed of men who liked to meet outside so they could smoke during their Sunday school lesson.

We hitchhiked. It was a pretty common mode of travel once upon a time. I never did it though. I did pick up a hitchhiker once, and I was so tense during the ride, I swore I’d never do it again. The man appeared to be somewhat medicated and was even kind enough to show me his knife.

We tanned ourselves during the summer, not just a little but a lot. Some still do, but it was almost a religion during the 1960s. Now that we know it’s a terrible idea it’s lost some of its allure, but not for a bronze waitress I spoke with recently. She boasted about the amount of time she spends in a tanning booth, even telling me it’s her way of “finding her center.”

We wore strange clothes. Many of you remember something called the leisure suit. I’ve tried to forget them, but occasionally a 70s movie will pop up on TV, and there they are all over again. Wild colors, open shirts exposing hair chests, gaudy jewelry….

My mom once bought me a leisure suit with a short sleeved jacket. She thought I looked handsome in it, but I’m twitching all over again just thinking about it.
Women thought the bee hive hairdo was attractive. There was a saying at the time, “The higher the hair, the closer to God.”

A couple of you out there, and you know who you are, could’ve raised a family of four inside your bee hive. Each time I see a picture of one, I wonder how the woman was able to get into an automobile.

We feared imminent nuclear attack. We were fairly certain the Russians wanted nothing more than to press a large red button that would launch a rocket with a nuclear warhead in our direction and blow us all to kingdom come.

Movies of the day often reflected this fear, and we went to bed many nights wondering if tomorrow would be our last day on earth.

Men grew their hair longer to prove they were cool. It’s strange to think about now, but if you kept your hair short, you were probably more of a conservative traditionalist. If you grew it even a little longer, Democrats had invaded your soul and were holding it hostage.

My uncle caused quite a sensation when he showed up one Christmas with longer sideburns. Scandalous. I begged my parents to let me grow my hair longer as soon as I laid eyes on the Beatles. My dad’s favorite response was “We already have a daughter.”

Finally, here’s something we used to do that could stand to make a comeback.

We ate dinner together — breakfast and lunch too for that matter — and we actually talked to each other during the meal. No fast food in front of the TV, no phones at the table.

Calls during mealtime were ignored because we didn’t want to be bothered with them. We had honest to goodness conversation at mealtime while we dined on food we prepared ourselves. In fact, it was often the highlight of our day.

What ever happened to that?

It’s a tradition that’s probably lost in some woman’s bee hive hairdo.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.


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