Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Way We Were.......

I look around and all of a sudden this doesn't look like the country I grew up in. I guess I was so busy with my job, my family, trying to build a future, that I just never thought so much change would take place over my lifetime.

I mean, when I was just six or seven years old, I learned to ride a bike. Oh, how this opened up the world for me as a little kid growing up on Houston, Texas' southeast side! I rode to my friends' homes, to Reveille Park, to the community swimmin' pool, to the Santa Rosa theater on Saturdays (where the kid's movie---usually a "B" western)---would pack the tykes in for a quarter apiece, and there was never any fear of crime or fear for my safety. If there was a crime rate, we never heard about it. Crime against kids was nonexistent. My how times have changed.

Riding my beloved Schwinn did not require a helmet or tricked-out garb. Just put on some shorts and any ole shirt and take off. Heck, half the time most of the kids under 12 years old were barefoot, anyway.

In 1951, our neighbors got a television set. Oh, my gosh!---the entire neighborhood piled into their home almost every night to watch the miracle. There was Milton Berle and Red Skelton and Jack Benny and so much more. Neighbors actually knew each other back then. We got our television set a couple of years later, along with an air conditioner. Before that, we all used fans to stay "cool" in the south Texas heat (if I had to do that today I'd shoot myself).

There were times that the various kids in the neighborhood needed discipline. Back then, if any parent saw an instance where a child needed disciplining, they would take care of it on the spot, whether it was their child or not. Often, a swift, sharp swat to the derriere was the attention-getter. After that, the child's parents would receive a phone call from the disciplining parent, and the child would get another tannin' when he/she got home. "It took a village" back then, and it worked. People were nice to each other. People were taught manners. Children respected "their elders". It just doesn't seem to be that way any more.

At school, if a guy got out of line, there was a paddle in his immediate future. Then, once again a phone call would be made home, and another tannin' would be administered there. A few of these episodes would generally teach a guy a lesson. But don't try that today.

People went to church. They prayed before meals. All my friends were taught by their parents to pray before bedtime. I would always end my prayers by saying "God bless mommy and daddy and David and grandma and grandpa and Fritz" (our dog at the time). They read the bible. Not much of that going on any more---mainline Christian denominations have lost membership every year for the past 40 years. Methodist membership in the US is now down to about 9 million.

I was taught, along with all my friends, to call adult men "sir" and ladies "Ma'am".

My mom taught me it was ok to compliment someone on their appearance. If you thought their dress, or hat, or shoes, or purse was particularly nice, it was a mannerly act to compliment a girl/woman. You might be thought improper by today's standards. Some might think you guilty of sexual harassment.

As I grew a little older, I could see how women just did not speak about their "curse". The monthly period was a taboo subject. They would talk all around the topic but never directly mention it. This always perplexed me. There was a mysterious aura about it.

I was also perplexed around the age of eight by scandalous talk at school---there was a vicious rumor going around that women did not have a penis. I found this to be an impossible anatomical arrangement. And, since I was not allowed anywhere near my mom and dad's bedroom when their door was closed, I had no way of knowing. Therefore, fertile mind that I had at the time, I decided to do some research to determine the veracity of this rumor. As I walked to the school bus stop one fine day, I stopped and attached a mirror to my right shoe. My plan was to approach the first girl I met and stick my shoe under her dress (the girls all wore dresses back then) and see if I could get a gander at what the female anatomy actually looked like.

Well, of course, you are immediately going to notice anyone with a mirror stuck on the toe of their shoe, so this extremely clumsy attempt at anatomical exploration did not pan out. I had to learn about girls' anatomy just like most of the other boys---out behind the barn. But, the point is that it was not acceptable to talk about anatomical differences between the sexes, even among adults. The few kids who had parents who were open about such things were fortunate.

Guns were an accepted fact of life. Everyone had 'em. This was in the 1950s---not long after WWII, when virtually all the men were in service and trained to use firearms. No one ever talked about banning guns. Guns were considered part of our national fabric.

Those are a few reminiscences of my youth. That was back when we had Free Speech, telephone booths (what would Clark Kent do today to change clothes?), "Dime Stores", a military draft, party lines, a poll tax, DDT sprayings, asbestos as insulation, polio shots, baseball as a national pastime, zero soccer, virtually no Muslims, homosexuality was considered an aberration, cokes and candy bars were 5 cents, railroads were the best form of travel, no seat belts in cars, no interstate highways, and you could actually eat the fish you caught in the lake, and so much more.

Have we progressed over the past 60 years or not?

1 comment:

  1. Love that family group picture and the expression on your face!