If any old fogeys end up reading this, I have one request: please don’t hurt me.
Now that I got that out of the way, I will shoot off my big mouth, as always. You have been warned.
It’s great fun for us older humans to put our minds on hold and go into a blissful state of foggy remembrance of the days when we were still capable of causing our parents to voluntarily commit themselves. It’s called “getting high on memories.”1
If we really think about it, though, those days weren’t as great as some people now think they are. Take, for example, the following:
1. Wood Burning Stoves. Believe it or not, you can actually buy these things online. I guess they might be useful in a blackout or if you haven’t paid your gas bill in five months. Other than that, why? My grandmother was ecstatic when she finally got an electric range. It meant no longer having to gather up wood for kindling, hoping that it wasn’t damp or too green, and trying to light it with a match. Sometimes it took longer to light the stove than it did to do the cooking. This was time that Grandma could have spent improving her piano playing or learning how to play Bridge.
2. Wringer Washing Machines. My mother got rid of that thing and never looked back when she got her first automatic washer. One of these days, I’ll tell all of you youngsters about Mother’s Wash Day. It will give you a new respect for the World War II generation.
3. June Cleaver, Margaret Anderson and Donna Reed. Never mind the fact that all of their TV shows were in black and white. Those ladies set a standard of housewifery that no ordinary woman could ever hope to live up to. Men would see June Cleaver on TV, as patient as a saint with her kids, never arguing with her husband, and doing her vacuuming while looking gorgeous, wearing a clean shirtwaist dress, with every blonde hair in place and a string of pearls around her neck. Then they would come home to a woman who preferred to dress in comfort while doing the grunt work around the house and chasing the kids around and who looked more like Roseanne Barr than Donna Reed. No wonder the divorce rate rose.
4. Big, Heavy Black and White TVs with Aerials. TVs came in “table models” and “floor models.” There was no cable or satellite TV in those days, so we used aerials to get reception, usually “rabbit ears” that we put on top of the TV. I don’t know about the big cities, but in our small town you could only get two television stations. One of them came in pretty clearly, the other one didn’t. The only way to ensure clear reception was to have someone stand near the TV. If little brother rebelled against being treated like a TV lightning rod, we were screwed.
5. No Cell Phones. In fact, we had no cordless phones at all. You couldn’t even buy your own phone. They were rented from the telephone company. They came in one color: black. They all had rotary dials. You could have an extension phone in another room, but that meant that anyone in the family could listen in on your most personal conversations. Siblings loved to do this. It was like reading your sister’s diary.
Talk about lack of privacy: some people had “party lines.” This meant that some other phone company customer in some other house was also using your line. You would pick up the phone, hoping to make a call, and hear two other people talking about who-knew-what. This could be fun, if you were really into spying on your neighbors. Most of the time it was a royal pain in the ass, because you couldn’t make your call until the other two people hung up, and they were only going to do that when they were good and ready. I have a feeling the murder rate rose, along with the divorce rate.
If you were on the street and you had to make an emergency call, you had to find a pay phone, and hope that you had the right change, that the phone had not been destroyed by some angry goon who couldn’t get through to his bookie, that there was nobody ahead of you wanting to use it and that it wasn’t full of germs from a hundred different flu sufferers.
No Computers and No Internet. This is too tragic to even think about. How did we live? Where did we go? What did we do when we got there?
So you see, the good old days weren’t so good after all. Please think of this the next time you see a senior citizen. We deserve the respect we always demand because, damn it, we went through all that, we’re still alive and we plan to stay that way as long as we can.
1Nobody else calls it that. I just made that up.