I was born in 1954. People had telephones attached to a wall, you paid extra for long-distance and you paid more per minute for your calls. When I was very small, it was fancy if you had a private line, as opposed to a party line, where more than one household shared a telephone line. The average house, for a family of four, was 1300 square feet. If you were diagnosed with cancer, it was often a death sentence. Women had to be married to get birth control and abortion was illegal. Girls were taught not to be too smart, boys wouldn’t like that. Most women worked out of necessity. Careers were for the fathers.
Well! That all sounds awful. I hardly touched the surface. What about gay rights, race, and religion? I grew up in upstate New York. There were clubs in my town that didn’t allow Jews to join and my family is Jewish.
This might make you wonder what was so good about the “good ole days”? There are some things I would like to see return from my childhood. Here goes…
Maybe this was a means of survival for a mother who would have thrived with a career, but instead, she was home with the kids. I would like a dollar for every time our mothers said to get out of their hair and go outside and play. We didn’t have play dates, we went outside and there was always someone to play with. We went everywhere in the neighborhood without adult supervision. Our neighborhood was surrounded by woods, and we had many adventures in those woods. Our mothers, note I said mothers, had no idea where we were. We just had to show up at home before dinnertime.
What did I get from that? Independence. We had to make things up. Creativity. I lived in the world of “make-believe” for hours on end. We fought and figured out how to survive. Our games were played in empty lots or neighbor’s yards. I knew no one who played games in leagues. I shudder at what my stepdaughter spends on field hockey for my granddaughter.
Oh, wait. The boys had Little League… of course, the boys. However, Little League was local… and there was no going out of town, no staying in hotels, and no paying fees to be in the league.
Being a kid was simpler.
When a parent is shelling out the kind of money they do for their child to play in a league and play hours away from home, there is a lot of pressure for these kids to show something for the money and the effort their parents are putting into their child’s sport. I think parents and kids both would benefit if this system would return from my childhood.
My love of musical theater
When TV had three stations, it was not on for hours at a time. There were other things that occupied our household. My parents played musicals on the record player all of the time. Musical theater became a huge theme throughout my life. I joined the drama club in high school, and those drama kids became lifelong friends. One of them just called (not texted) to tell me to watch “What the constitution means to me” on Amazon Prime. I will do that and I promised that we would “discuss” when I did. Years later, I met my husband in Burlington’s Lyric Theatre. Some of our best friends are Lyric people.
I am not afraid to talk with people. I have been doing it all of my life. There was no texting. When I wanted to communicate with someone, I called and actually spoke to that person. We would also simply go to someone’s house and knock on their door. We learned to be polite and ask if so and so could come out to play.
One day, I was in my home town with my daughter. We were in a park very near to where a high school friend lived. I suggested going over to see if he was home. Liza was aghast. She grew up in the age of play dates and arrangements. She couldn’t believe that I would just show up to say hi. Jim was home and was delighted to see us. We had a great visit on his beautiful front porch.
If I had texted, we may have missed him, and we all would have missed out on a lovely memory. It struck me. I haven’t knocked on anyone’s door like that in years. It felt so innocent and spontaneous, and safe. To knock and know you will be welcome is a beautiful thing.
I often wonder if the lack of face to face, voice to voice communication leads to the high amount of social anxiety young adults experience today. People don’t get to practice social interaction. I asked my granddaughter when she was 14, how she spent her weekend. She said she hung out with her friends. Ok. I thought she got together with her friends. No. She spent the night texting her friends. We have lost the art of the written word, what kid knows how to write in cursive? Are we losing the art of face to face interaction as well? By the way, this story took place before COVID. 2020 is not going to help. Talking directly to someone is a skill I would very much like to see return from my childhood.
Appreciate what we have
I mentioned this earlier, the average house size for a family of 4 was 1300 square feet. Most same-sex siblings shared bedrooms, there were no master baths, the whole family used one telephone line, people owned one TV, and I could go on. You get the point.
What we considered a luxury then is an assumed necessity today. I can’t imagine a teenager who has to go without a smartphone. Heaven forbid! We thought it was the coolest thing if we could have an extension phone…same line, put into our bedroom. I never got that, and; no way would my parents ever agree to let me have a TV in my room.
I am not saying it isn’t nice that there are televisions in multiple rooms in the house, or that we all have our own telephones and the privacy of our own phone numbers. I am saying that we forget to be grateful for it.
If we can take a step back and appreciate, encourage our children to do so, and encourage our children to take the time to write a thank-you note… not a text message, write the note, won’t we be better off? This is a return to my childhood that I would be especially grateful to see.
And if we can take several moments to be grateful for what we have, won’t that raise our awareness of those in our communities who are not as lucky? Here is an idea for the upcoming holiday season, have a discussion with your child. What do they treasure the most? Then… together, go out and purchase that treasure for someone who couldn’t afford it.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Are there things from the 50s, 60s, or 70s worth bringing back? What would you like to see return from your childhood?