When I was born, in the mid 1930s, radios still contained vacuum tubes big as large
pickles, television was still a mystery enjoyed by few, and to watch it you had to drag a
box to sit on and stare at the 7-inch black and white screen through the window of the
local department store.
I remember when plastic was first invented and some of us young guys found enjoyment
sailing the thin, left over pieces found at the rear of the small factory located not far
from the house. The dry cleaner man, in his old panel truck, stopped by weekly to pick up
any clothes that needed dry cleaning. Our ice box used huge pieces of ice delivered by
the ice man as he made weekly trips down our street in his dilapidated old ice truck. With
all of the neighborhood boys chasing him in hot pursuit trying to nab pieces, the ice
chips that fell from the rear of the truck.
The local drug store and grocery store offered free credit for your purchases if you
promised to pay the bill monthly. We did. The teachers at our school demanded and received
respect and silence as they taught us to add, subtract and do out multiplication tables,
along with our lessons on how to read and write. If we didn’t pay attention, we were held
back a grade, no questions asked. Most of us to this day can actually read and write and
know in our heads the answer to 9x9.
Talking on the phone meant sitting in the living room, with the family and talking as long
as you could get away with it. A ‘party line” was common and the operators could monitor
your call if they wanted to.
We watched the radio? The years before television appeared people listened to the radio,
and for all intents and purposes we were perfectly well informed. If a description of an
article or event was necessary to understand what was happening, the verbal talent of the
announcer made it perfectly clear. My sister and I would lay on the floor on Saturday
mornings and stare at the radio as we listened to “Let’s pretend, Inner sanctum or the
Shadow”. Today’s youth spend an unhealthy amount of time watching television or playing
video games. Most of them could stand less time indoor fiddling with electronic devices
and more playing “kick the can”.
Later on in our teen years, girls were sweet and were for the most part wholesome. If you
managed to kiss a girl on the second date you were considered lucky, and all us boys
bragged to our pals when that we finally got a kiss. Most dates consisted of a drive in
movie, malt at the drive in restaurant, or a cruise to the beach. The girls had to be home
Most popular kids were good students, and those of us that were the rogues, were on the
outside looking in with the majority of the kids at school. Letterman jackets were the
cool thing and only the better student athletes were allowed to wear them.
Disagreements and fights with other boys were usually settled with your fists. If a young guy was obviously losing the fight and surrendered, the combatants would shake hands and go about their business. Life was simple, and most of us reached adulthood with our self-esteem and self worth intact.
I think most of us agree that things are different at this time. Now you could be shot because someone who deserved no respect shoots you for disrespecting him. Girls are made fun of if they reach 15 and are still a virgin, and a date means going to the mall or going to someone’s house and smoking a little pot or being free with sex.
Most electronic gadgets now available contain so many bells and whistles one-needs a college degree in “gadgetry” to understand how they work. Reading two-inch manuals and finally having to call a grandchild for help is not my idea of progress. . What ever happened to; on, off and play? Worked for Me.!!
Today young people, and many of the baby boomers, have no idea how to treat a lady. They are disrespectful and inconsiderate of feelings, and generally take them for granted. Opening a door for your date is almost outdated, and wandering into a restaurant wearing your ball cap backward with your date trailing behind is commonplace.
The current political scene is scary too. Our nation seems to be bypassing the constitution and heading for Socialism. Everybody expects something for nothing, and many expect, and may receive your something for their nothing. “Re- distribution of wealth” is not considered Socialism and those that went to school, worked hard and achieved financial freedom, are expected to share their wealth with those that choose not to complete school or just do not want to work. Personal responsibility is old school.
No, getting old is okay with me. I actually enjoy my memories when life was much simpler, and people were kinder to one another. In my childhood, we lived in an easier, less complicated life and I frankly think today’s ‘progress’ is overrated. In the time I have left I will continue to retell my Grandchildren with stories about my past, and will continue to assure them I have no regrets.
By Dennis Milroy, a grandfather (firstname.lastname@example.org)