Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Good Old Bad Days

Wanna know what fruits my loop? What flies in my soup? What hulas my hoop? (Oh no, Charlie’s on a rant again!) Darn tootin’ I am.

What dips my stick is reading the phrase, “The bad old days,” in blogs and around the various Innertubes. And I read it a lot. Just because we didn’t have BookFace and texting and phones that show movies in 3-D does not mean the “old days” were bad. How could we feel deprived or miss these things before the rotor heads invented them? Even the National Rifle Association didn’t feel deprived before the Chinese invented gunpowder.

The first iPod

Here is a far-from-inclusive list of good things when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s (many of these are from my ex-pat friend Joyce in Panama):


1. You got your windshield cleaned, oil checked, and gas pumped without asking.

2. Air for your tires was free.

3. No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the ignition, and the house was never locked.

4. Stuff from the store came without safety caps and hermetic seals because no one had yet tried to poison a perfect stranger.

5. Soda pop machines dispensed frosty cold bottles.

6. Milk was delivered in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers.

7. Mail was delivered to the house instead of a bank of boxes down the street and around the corner.

8. For the two weeks before Christmas, mail was delivered twice a day.

9. There was a newsreel and a cartoon before the two movies.


1. The school threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed, and they did it!

2. Playing baseball with no parents to help.

3. Being sent to the principal’s office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited you at home.

4. Saturday morning cartoons weren’t thirty-minute commercials for action figures.

5. Having a weapon in school meant being caught with a slingshot or a peashooter.

6. Water balloons were the ultimate weapon.

7. Spinning around, getting dizzy, and falling down was cause for the giggles.

8. “Race Issue” meant arguing about who ran the fastest.

9. It wasn’t at all odd to have two or three “Best Friends.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the old days were perfect because they weren’t. But to me life was simpler, more relaxed, and family oriented. Today, with all the technological time-savers, people are busier than ever before. In my time, one of the greatest time-savers was the invention of the automatic washer and dryer; they really did save my mom time.

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION TIME! What do you remember that was good about the bad old days? Take your time, and you may even make a list. (Why do I have this feeling in my gut that we'll be hearing from Robert the Skeptic?)


TechnoBabe said...

For me the good ol' days meant playing outside most of the time, running and playing. Getting exercise and not realizing it was exercise. No sitting around playing on computer games for hours or texting. We all had to learn to get along and play fairly.

hope said...

Using my imagination! If we weren't playing games that Mom taught us from HER childhood (Mother May I, Simon Says, etc) we were making them up. And we watched one too many episodes of "The Little Rascals" because one summer when we were bored, the neighborhood kids, "Put on a show". :)

Funny thing is, all this technology is killing some of our communication skills on the local level. I work with kids in the after school program who feel SORRY for me because I didn't have computer games. Then I taught them how to play "Mother May I" and they think it's great! They come and ask ME to play.

I haven't given up yet Charlie, but you won't find me on Facebook. ;)

Ponita in Real Life said...

I like technology, don't get me wrong, but I still prefer face to face interaction with people, just like in the 'old days'.

Playing outside with no parental worries about your safety... Mum just stood on the step and yelled with it was suppertime. Board games like snakes and ladders, and crokinole... I had bruises on my finger nails from that one, but we always had a blast!

Limited tv meant Dad would come out and play with us while Mum got supper ready. We did stuff as a family... days at the beach, or in a park, weeks out camping in the summer at the same place, same time of year, which meant the other families that came then every year allowed a hoard of kids to hang out, even though most of us never lived remotely close to one another.

So much is lost now, with all the PSPs, texting and computers stuff. It has it's place - technology - but it shouldn't take the place of interhuman relations.

Fay's Too said...

-Entire neighborhood games of kick-the-can.
-Climbing trees.
-Getting totally lost in the woods and trusting my horse to know the way home.
-Eating apples, pears, peaches, plumb, grapes, and cherries, straight from the source. Nothing had been sprayed and nothing was washed!
-Papa turning on the television set in time to watch a program and then him turning it off again.
-Being told to back up from the television set because it would hurt my eyes.
-4 kids and 2 parents sharing one bathroom.
-wood school desks with ink wells
-getting a handshake from the principal if I ate all my lunch.

Murr Brewster said...

I'm going to give it more thought, but I just had to mention how incredulous I am that Hope, up there, likes Mother May I. That was the dumbest game ever. That one, and Red Light Green Light. It was just an exercise in power so that Susie McN. could say, no, you CAN'T take two baby steps closer. But her best friend Ruthie COULD. There you are, way in the back, Mother-May-I'ing your heart out, and you could never win. I don't even know what had to happen so you COULD win.

Duck Duck Goose was much better. I never won that, either, but that's because I was slow.

The best part of the old days was that every bit of fun came out of our own heads. We didn't watch it on a screen, we didn't wait to be entertained. We hopped and skipped and bonked our heads and some of us died and only one of us per classroom was fat. I appear to be rambling. Old people do that.

Charlie said...

BABE: We could find millions of things to do outdoors, from riding our bikes to catching tadpoles and garter snakes. In the winter it was outdoor ice skating and building snow forts.

We learned to get along and play fairly, but the learning sometimes came with bumps and bruises. Which was okay.

HOPE: Yes! Using our imaginations! Nothing was pre-imagined for us except Disney movies, westerns, and Superman. Using those as a starting point, we created new games (but I never jumped off the garage in a tablecloth cape to fly).

It seems to me that face-to-face communication skills will become a lost "art," like handwriting, regressing to electronic cave pictures, smoke signals, and jungle drums.

Charlie said...

PONITA: Two things I especially like about your comment:

1. Playing outside with no parental worries about your safety.

2. Mum just stood on the step and yelled when it was suppertime.

The second one brings back memories of motherly screeches from all over the neighborhood. We never went in voluntarily—Mom had to yell first.

I agree with electronic technology, but there needs to be a balance of computer, outdoor play with others, and family.

Charlie said...

FAY: You little list maker, you.

And you said the same thing Ponita did: Dad limited TV to a certain show or two.

If your horse didn't know the way home, I hope it knew its way to grandmother's house. (I think that's a song or a poem by Robert Frost—I get the two mixed up.)

It's amazing the things we ate and nothing killed us—ignorance was bliss. I did get stomachaches from eating sour apples and I fell out of a cherry tree after eating a bushel of them, but that was a part of kidhood.

MURR: I take it that you didn't care much for Mother May I.

I don't remember it, nor do I remember Duck Duck Goose. Red Light Green Light, yes, and Simon Says and Hide and Seek. I learned to play hopscotch from my little sister, and jacks. Idiots that we were, we played jacks on the sidewalk so that our scraped knuckles nearly bled to death.

And there weren't a lot of fat (obese) kids because no one had invented Happy Meals and we all played ourselves into a stupor.

As far as rambling, I'll send you your membership card in the Old Ramblers Club. Sounds like a good idea for a group blog, doesn't it.

Wandering Coyote said...

I don't believe I am old enough to participate in this reminiscing. I was born in 197?.

Nice history lesson, though! :P :D :P

lisleman said...

some time ago I submitted a "good old day" picture to Just Jill at her blog called Yorksnbeans. Since then she started another blog but the link should still work:

who's the cutie

So yes life did seem simpler but then at the time I under 10. It should be simple for someone under 10.
I do think many activities are OVER organized. It's important to learn to create your own fun.

One activity I have not seen in a long long time - swatting lightning bug (fireflies) with a plastic wiffle bat.

Pat said...

I miss the days when men - from all walks of life - nothing to do with class - behaved like gentlemen and treated a woman with respect and the respect was mutual.
Feminists save your breath - been there - got the t shirt, burnt the bra and come full circle. Deal with it.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Ok Charlie, well you hit most of the highlights, but here goes...

We had a "Dime Store" where they would measure out 10 worth of candy. It was usually a pretty big bag.

I could buy electronic parts where I made my own crystal set radio.

I could go ANYWHERE I could get to on my bike.

We made skateboards by nailing my sister's roller skates to a 2x4.

I got PAID for mowing the neighbor's lawns (with a "push" mower)

We played "Cowboys and Indians" and nobody was offended. Our guns shot rolls of paper "caps" and sounded pretty cool.

I could see Sputnik go over the house at night.

My electric train was made out of cast metal, not plastic (I still have it as a result).

We had a 1957 Chevy station wagon with no seat belts - on long car trips my sister and I could ride lying down in the back.

My favorite show was Howdy Doody (I wasn't allowed to watch Captain Kangaroo, though... my parents thought he was a Communist)

My friends always had access to fire crackers.

We didn't have to figure out what kind of jeans to buy, they came only one way: Blue.

Girls wore dresses.

Philip said...

playing marbles in the playground
kicking a ball against a wall for hours
holding a cassette recorder against the radio to record songs
going to the library
drying my hair by kneeling in front of the gas fire
Nice post - enjoyed it a lot

Stinkypaw said...

I miss the quality of life and civility we had back then. I miss how we used to dress up on Sundays (even if I hated it back then), I miss the respect of others and their stuff we had for neighbours... that's what I miss the most.

I'm sure happy to have this internet thing, 'cause I got to meet you that way! ;-)

hope said...

Actually Murr, I like "Mother May I" a lot more now since I get to be "mother". HOWEVER, I've also been using it as a tool to counter greed. The kids have finally figured out that the more they demand, the less they get.

I try to keep them pretty much even until the very end....where some pretty big stretched out steps take place. ;)

Tiffin said...

Lying on the old maroon corduroy daybed at the cottage, reading, with the smell and sound of the wood fire in the fireplace and the loons calling out on the lake.
Skating at the local outdoor rink in the park until our feet were blocks of ice, going home for supper, then going back out and doing it again.
Riding my bike everywhere.
Going to the library on Saturday morning to stock up for the week.
Picnics out by the river in the summer with Dad doing battle with the hibachi.
The sound of my parents' paddles dipping into the water while my kid brother and I sat still and quiet in the middle of the canoe. Pure heaven.
Playing killer Chinese Checkers.
I could go on - so glad I was a kid in those good old bad days, Charlie.

Frances said...

Charlie, my years in those years were actually pretty boring, but one BIG advantage of growing in the fifties was, to my mind, that one didn't attain majority until 21 years old.
The years between leaving school and becoming 21 were a special breathing space, where you were an almost-adult: most of the privileges, but not expected to shoulder adult responsibilities. That was a very happy time for me. "Bliss was it in that dawn..."etc. I really used to feel that.

The adult-age-thing changed here in Australia, because 18 yr old youngs, not allowed to vote, were shanghaied into Vietnam, and there were objections to that. So, the age of majority came down, just so they could draft these boys off to hell.

Kim Ayres said...

Nope. The only thing about the old days that I miss is my health.

Other than that I love living in this sci-fi future of ours, where I can stand pretty much anywhere in the world and phone or send a message to pretty much anyne else anywhere else in the world.

I don't have to wear 6 layers of clothing to bed to stay warm.

White males are not automatically considered to be superior to every one else on the planet (what am I saying - I'm male and white - what a missed opportunity...)

And I have access to the knowledge of the world from a little box on my desk.

All I really miss is the days I was able to eat chocolate without thinking about consequences...

Charlie said...

Well, as usual, I have my behind behind again, so here goes.

WC: Hah! I know what year is hiding behind the question mark. And I don't blame you for not BSing with us old farts.

But what strange coding is at the end of your comment?

LISLEMAN: I've never seen or heard of swatting fireflies with a wiffle bat. But I did fry ants with my magnifying glass.

No wonder we're both serial killers.

PAT: Respect—is there such a thing nowadays, other than the Mafia? Street talk is about "dis" or "dissing"—meaning disrespect.

ROBERT: I knew I could count on you. Here are the memories you brought back:

The Dime Store was Woolworth's; I made a crystal set too that got one station; there was no racial intent when playing Cowboys and Indians; paper caps in the red rolls, some of which were pretty loud; my train set was American Flyer, not the cheap Lionel; girls wore dresses and guys wore ties, even to the movies.

You know, I wonder if the Indians ever played Indians and White Guys.

Charlie said...

PHILIP: Yes, our pockets were always lumpy with marbles, especially the big heavy steelies.

I couldn't help but laugh at "holding a cassette recorder against the radio to record songs" (good sound quality, I'll wager), and "drying my hair by kneeling in front of the gas fire." This may sound radical, but what was wrong with using a towel?

STINKY: You and Pat agree. Nowadays, with exceptions, it's pretty much everyone for themself.

And I agree about the internet. Being housebound, it is my connection to friends I love and respect.

HOPE: Carry on with your discussion with Murr. I believe it's her turn to speak.

Charlie said...

TUI: You bring back beautiful memories of the bad old days.

I was an ice skating fool too, and I did the same thing after supper.

Going to the library. I remember when I got my very own card with MY name on it, instead of having to use Mom's.

I played ruthless Monopoly, to the point where no one would play with me anymore. I was a young The Donald.

FRANCES: Welcome from S.W.N.S.W. I actually know what that means, but I doubt if it fits on an envelope when spelled out.

Yes, they lowered the age of majority, but they've never raised it again, have they.

I remember an Aussie encampment down the road from us in Vietnam. They were all huge fellows, and they kept to themselves. They had a tent that served as their "club": a lot of drinking of beer, a lot of singing, fisticuffs, and then everyone went happily to bed.

They also drove like maniacs.

KIM: To summarize, what you had in the old days was health, lousy heating, the superiority of men (and by extension, the inequality of women), and chocolate.

And yes, we became friends because of the little box I have on the floor. I just don't want technology to supercede face-to-face communication—like Staring Back.

Unknown Mami said...

Although I agree with most of your points, I'd have to say that there are probably a few that grew up in the 50's and 60's that might not agree with this one:

"8. “Race Issue” meant arguing about who ran the fastest."

I miss 10 cent phone calls.

Alice said...

For the record, my daughter's favorite games are Hide and Seek and Tag. So not all things change! I'm trying to push Simon Says, because it means I get to stand still and give orders that are actually obeyed.

Being a child of the 80's we have our own lists of things our children can't possibly understand, like only one MTV channel and it only played music videos.

And yes, we still would rather play outside, but we were definitely a TV generation. That's why I will be the first in line to watch The A-Team when it hits theaters even though I know I will be bitterly disappointed.

I would like to add a little comment on BOOKS to your bookworm blog. How much have they changed? Everything is a Series or a Trilogy (all of which I read, of course). Granted we had C.S. Lewis and the Little House books, but my favorite books were Bridge to Terabithia and Where the Red Fern Grows, etc. There is pretty much nothing like that out there now that I know of.

Murr Brewster said...

Whoa, Hope, you mean the actual mother gets to be in charge in Mother May I? And not the fussypants little brat are-you-in-the-bunny-rabbit-club girl next door? Totally new concept.

Charlie, I forgot all about those red ribbons of caps. I guess they're supposed to go in guns but all we had were rocks from the street. That worked, too.

I think another reason we weren't fat was our candy was half wax. Wax lips, wax moustaches, wax tubes with sugar water in them; those wax lips were so satisfying.

papa t said...

everyone else have really hit the highlights but here are a few more nickle beers and quarter shots, cars youdidn't need a computer degree to work under the hood on, chicken that tasted like chicken,drugstore sodafountains,cowboy/westerns,and a world before political correctness...when you said what you meant and meant what you said.

Charlie said...

MAMI: I agree, especially Black people in the 60s. In the context of this post, however, it was meant to be humorous because, as a kid, the term "Race Issue" wasn't in my lexicon.

ALICE: There's musical chairs too, but you need more than two to play—otherwise, the game is extremely short.

I think each generation is surprised by the "deprivations" of the generation before it. Your grandchildren will think you grew up in Jurassic Park.

MURR: We boys had cap guns, but there were a lot of misfires so rocks were better.

I remember the wax bottles and lips now that you mention it. How about the red, yellow, and blue sugar dots attached to a piece of paper, maybe six in each row?

PAPA: How the hell do you remember what booze cost when you were a kid?

And mention the word carburetor to someone today and you'll get a blank stare—unless they work on classics.

Do you mean chicken isn't supposed to taste like cardboard?

Not only soda fountains, but lunch counters in Woolworth's that ran the length of the back of the store.

As far as PC, you should read a new book by Justin Halpern called Sh*t My Dad Says.

papa t said...

charlie I was in college for the booze memory.....but I was no grown-up

Meg said...

The best part about my good old days was reading books and playing "let's pretend". I had a heck of an imagination. I think that's the greatest thing about pre-technology days and the saddest loss of today.

Charlie said...

PAPA: Gotcha. I majored in beer in college; the B.S. on my diploma says Beer Slut.

MEG: You've had a heck of an imagination since I met you, so I'm not surprised by your comment.

And yes, if BookFace and texting are considered imagination, then it is indeed sad.

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