Friday, September 30, 2011

The Fabulous Fifties

"Hey Dad," My son asked the other day, "what was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?" "We didn't have fast food when I was growing up." "C'mon, seriously. Where did you eat?"

 "We ate at home," I explained. "My Mom cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we all sat down together at the table, and if I didn't like what she put on my plate, I had to sit there until I did like it."

 By this time, my son was laughing so hard I was afraid He was going to suffer some serious internal damage, so I didn't tell him the part about how I had to get my Father's permission to leave the table. Here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I had figured his system could handle it.

 My parents never wore Levi's, set foot on a golf course, traveled out of the country, flew in a plane, or had a credit card. My mother never even wore slacks until she was in her 50's and then only after much coaxing. She wore house dresses throughout my childhood. In their later years they had something called a "revolving charge card" but they never actually used it. It was only good at Sears-Roebuck. Or maybe it was Sears and Roebuck. Either way, there is no Roebuck anymore.

 My parents never drove me to basketball practice. This was because no one had a second car and it was safe to walk everywhere. We actually did walk to school. By the time you were in the 6th grade it was not cool to ride the bus unless you lived more than 4 or 5 miles from the school, even when it was raining or there was ice or snow on the ground.

 Outdoor sports consisted of roller skating, punch ball, stickball, snowball fights, building forts, making snowmen and sliding down hills on a piece of cardboard. No skate boards, roller blades or trail bikes. We didn't have a television in our house until I was 12. It was, of course, black and white, but you could buy a piece of special colored plastic to cover the screen. The top third was blue, like the sky, and the bottom third was green, like grass. The middle third was red. It was perfect for programs that had scenes of fire trucks riding across someone's lawn on a sunny day.

 No one had ever heard of a pizza. Milk was delivered to the house and left in the milk box on the stoop. I looked forward to winter because the cream in the milk was on top of the bottle and it would freeze and push the cap off. Of course, we kids would get up first to get the milk and eat the frozen cream before our mother could catch us.

 I never had a telephone in my room. Actually the only phone in the house was in the hallway and it was on a party line. Before you could make a call, you had to listen in to make sure someone else wasn't already using the line. If the line was not in use an Operator would come on and ask "number please" and you would give her the number you wanted to call.

 There was no such thing as a computer or a hand held calculator. We were required to memorize the "times tables." Believe it or not, we were tested each week on our ability to perform mathematics with nothing but a pencil and paper. We took a spelling test every day. There was no such thing as a "social promotion." If you flunked a class, you repeated that grade the following year. Nobody was concerned about your "self esteem." We had to actually do something praiseworthy before we were praised. We learned that you had to earn respect.

 All newspapers were delivered by boys and most all boys delivered newspapers. My brothers delivered the "Daily News" six days a week. It cost seven cents a paper, of which they got to keep 2 cents. On Saturday, they had to collect the 42 cents from my customers. Their favorite customers were the ones who gave them 50 cents and told them to keep the change. Their least favorite customers were the ones who seemed to never be home on collection day.

 Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut on screen. Touching someone else's tongue with yours was called French kissing and they just didn't do that in the movies back then. I had no idea what they did in French movies. French movies were considered dirty and we weren't allowed to see them.

 You never saw the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers or anyone else actually kill someone. The heroes back then would just shoot the gun out of the bad guy's hand. There was no blood and violence.

 When you were sick, the Doctor actually came to your house. No, I am not making this up. Drugs were something you purchased at a pharmacy in order to cure an illness.

 If we dared to "sass" our parents, or any other grown-up, we immediately found out what soap tasted like. For more serious infractions, we learned about something called a "this hurts me more than it hurts you." I never did quite understand that one... In those days, parents were expected to discipline their kids. There was no interference from the government. "Social Services" or "Family Services" had not been invented (the ninth and tenth amendments to the constitution were still observed in those days).

 I must be getting old because I find myself reflecting back more and more and thinking I liked it a lot better back then.

 If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your kids, grandchildren, nieces and/or nephews. Just don't blame me if they wet themselves laughing.

 Growing up today sure isn't what it used to be like in my day. For all the modern conveniences and new technology, I think society has lost a lot along the way. There's a lot to be said for that former "age of innocence." No, it wasn't perfect, but the American family was at the heart of the nation.

 I miss that.........

No comments:

Post a Comment