Feb 2, 2008

When I was a girl...


Someone sent us a joke about how different kids of today have it from those who were kids in the 1980's. That got me thinking about how different things were when I was young... No, I didn't walk 25 miles in snowstorms to get to school (I lived 5 doors down from the school -- however, I did walk that in New Hampshire winters with a cast on my foot that exposed my toes! LOL). But when I stop and think about how technology has changed since I was a child... it's amazing. And boy, some of it makes me feel O-L-D!

-- The first phone I remember at our home was a CRANK telephone -- and our phone number was 114. When you cranked the phone it put you in touch with "Hazel" the phone operator in town, and you told her what number you wanted to reach. Long Distance was all but non-existent. I remember long distance phone calls being made ONLY during emergencies and then they were very difficult to hear and understand the caller!

-- Call Waiting - Ha! If your phone rang you just answered it and hoped for the best. You had no idea who was calling and you had no capability of dodging phone calls you didn't want to take.

-- Remote controls for TV's? No such thing. Cable TV? No such thing. Our first TV was black and white with rabbit ear antennae, and you had to physically get up and change the channel when needed. But that wasn't so bad -- we only had 4 channels (NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS) and they didn't even come on the air until 3pm. I also remember the very first show of General Hospital, which I used to race home from school to watch every day!

-- Computers - nope, no such thing. Email? Nope - we sat down and hand wrote our letters, and had to trudge to the post office to buy a stamp and mail them off. Going to the post office every day to get your mail was what brought our small town together. You met everyone at the post office, said hello and chit-chatted for a few minutes. It was the heart of our community.

-- The Internet - no such thing (not even a twinkle in someone's eye at the time). When we wanted to do research for homework, we spent hours at the library -- which, by the way, was open only on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday, so that meant advance planning or your homework didn't get done in time!

-- MP3 players - DVD players (or for that matter VHS players) - No such thing. If you wanted to watch a movie, it was either a TV movie or you drove 30 miles to a theatre. My first movie was Disney's FANTASIA when I was around 10 years old, and I don't remember going to another until years later.

-- Restaurants - Fast food restaurants did not exist. Our town had only one small local diner (and that was none too clean and I wasn't allowed to go in it!). Until I was married, I had never had pizza or chinese food! We did go to a restaurant as a family when we drove the 400 miles to my grandmother's house -- once a year at best. The restaurant of choice was Howard Johnson's because that served the food most like what was cooked at home.

-- Shopping, shopping malls - The nearest department store was 30 miles away, which you did not drive without much pre-planning and preparation. Personally, I don't ever remember going clothes shopping, though I imagine my mother must have. School shopping was easy. My mother brought out the Sears catalog and we picked two outfits we wanted. Girls were not allowed to wear anything but dresses or skirts to school (in New Hampshire winters you wore "ski pants" under your skirt/dress and removed it once you got to school). There was no clothing store of any kind in our town, unless you count the hardware store that carried work clothes for the men.

-- Credit Cards - did not exist. You either had the money to buy what you wanted - or you didn't buy it. No long thought process needed to figure out what you could or could not afford. You looked in your pocket to see what the budget was for any item.

-- Video games - No such thing. As kids and even teenagers, we headed out the door after breakfast and returned when it got dark. In elementary school we played some great creative fantasy games -- like "horse" and "colonial times". We used our imagination and kept ourselves busy. We rode bikes a LOT, and roller skated and jump roped and hop-scotched. We had some "wicked good" games of tag and hide and seek. We'd walk a half mile or mile to a friend's house just to see if they were doing anything fun! If not, we'd walk on to the next friend's house.

So what have I seen in my lifetime? The entire world become tiny through computers, the internet, cable television and phone service. I see communities and neighborhoods full of strangers who barely know each other's names because there's no single place they meet and greet each other. I see neighborhoods bare of children because they're in the house playing video games or on the Internet, and because being outside on a bike more than 100 feet from the safety of your home can be dangerous. Today your "home town" is simply the town you know your way around the best -- not the town that helped you grown up, watched over you, and kicked you in the butt when you needed it.

I'm a child of the 1950's and consider myself lucky for being so. The kids of today may have it "easier" but, in my book, they do not have it "better". From that time I have life-long friends who are so very precious to me to this day, and fond memories of a town that helped me grow up because the adults took a minute to talk with the children, or because they had the heart to call my parents when I needed a kick in the butt. Yes, all the new technology is wonderful and convenient and even educational -- but it will never replace what is missing in our children's hearts and moral upbringing.

1 comment:

The Quilter said...

Amen to all that. You jogged a great memory for me - "General Hospital"! I only got to watch it in the summer, since I had to walk to my mom and dad's business after school and didn't get home until 5 pm. And, yes, I could walk across town and not be scared of someone snatching me off the street!

And, no pants allowed at school - skirts only. And the principal keeping an eagle eye on those hem lengths in the 60's! He could turn you around and march you right back home if it was too short, and no parents cried foul. Woe betide you if you got a spanking at school. The parents weren't going to take your side against the teacher, they figured you deserved it. I was smart enough to not get into anything that merited a spanking at school, and got very few from mom and dad. I was a fast learner. (And, worst of the worst, if you acted up at the grocery or somewhere and was instructed to "stay in the car" when you got home. That meant mom was fetching a switch - a real switch - this was to be avoided at all costs. Makes for well behaved kids in public.

We used our brains for amusement a lot more. Sometimes I look at the cable tv guide and think, what does it matter we get 200 channels, there's nothing good to watch. Not any different than when I was a kid and we got two channels passably well and one full of snow and static. And we only got those because dad put a tall mast antenna next to the garage to get a signal over the hilltops.

Mostly, though, I think about the lack of "instant gratification" built into our daily lives back then. Everything you wanted wasn't at a touch of the tv switch or the computer keyboard. You couldn't call someone any old time you wanted to - you had to be home, or find a pay phone. If you wanted something you had to plan ahead. I think that improved us, somehow.

Oh, geez, do I sound like a geezer?