Thursday, February 26, 2009

How Old Is Opa?

I generally object on principle to a lot of the e-mails that zip around, carrying overly simplistic rants or overly rosy pictures of "how much better things used to be." This one, though, has just enough truth to it to make me pause for thought. As I watch Marcy, Joe, Noah, and Leya grow up, sooner or later they're going to ask how things were when Opa was young...

And I might answer with just about all of this circulating e-mail reminiscence...

“Well, let's see...I was born before: television; penicillin; polio shots; frozen foods; Xerox; contact lenses; Frisbees; and The Pill.

“There were no credit cards, laser beams, or ball-point pens.

“Man had not invented panty hose, air conditioners, dishwashers, or clothes dryers (mom hung the clothes out to dry in the fresh air unless it was raining, and then she hung them in the basement), and man hadn’t yet walked on the moon

“Every family had a father and a mother, unless one or the other was dead.

“Until I was 25, I called every man older than me, ‘Sir.’ And after I turned 25, I still called police officers and every man with a title, ‘Sir.’

“We didn't have gay rights, computer dating, dual careers, day-care centers, or group therapy.

“Our parents taught us to live by the Ten Commandments, good judgment, and common sense.

“We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong, and to take responsibility for our actions. Serving your country was a privilege, and living in America was a bigger privilege.

“We thought fast food was what people ate during Lent.

“Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins.

“Draft dodgers were people who closed their front doors when the evening breeze started.

“Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends…not purchasing condominiums.

“We didn't have FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, or yogurt, and guys didn't wear earrings.

“We listened to the Big Bands, Jack Benny, and the President’s speeches on the radio.

“And I don’t ever remember any kid blowing his brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey.

“If you saw anything with ‘Made in Japan’ on it, it was junk.

“ ‘Making out’ referred to how you did on your school exam.

“We had 5 & 10-cent stores where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents.

“Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, and a Pepsi were all a nickel, and if you didn’t want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps to mail a letter and two postcards.

“You could buy a new Chevy Coupe for $600, . . but who could afford one? Too bad, because gas was 11 cents a gallon.

“And we were the last generation to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby No wonder people call us ‘old and confused’ and say there is a generation gap... and how old do you think I am?

"This really old man...would be only 59 years old."


I'll be 58 this year, and I can relate to almost all of the above. As I said, much of it is overly simplistic (what would that $600 car have cost in 2009 dollars, or the 11-cent-per-gallon gas in the context of an early 1950's wage?), but it does show how much things have changed just in my lifetime.

It's something to think about as I get ready for that 40th high school reunion coming up in October.

That's all for now...time to creak off to work.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

When I was 11, we lived in Brisbane and only spoke to my father on the telephone once a week because it was so expensive to call Malaysia. Now, if I chose to, I could call him for free, DAILY, with voip.

I'm excited to see what sort of changes will be in place by the time I'm 58.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

My parents bought our house for $5000 back in 67.

John A Hill said...

Whoa! You're way older than I am! (does that mean I have to call you "Sir"?)

Anonymous said...

John stole my thunder sir.

Baseball is still called the national passtime. How did it get that title? For me it was the front porch of Mr. & Mrs. Barnes house. They had 5 metal lawn chairs there and a transistor radio. We would listen to the Cardinal game with the drama of each pitch that the young Harry Caray and Jack Buck (Joe Buck's dad) would create.

Each chair came with it's own fly swatter. What a bonus!!!

Anonymous said...

My parents have been perenially 39 since I was 6 years old. They'll be 86 this year says she who will be 53 (holy crap!) next week.

Mike said...

There was air conditioning back then. It was called a cave.

fiona said...

Thirty five years ago my parents had the opportunity to buy their house for 950 pounds sterling. They couldn't afford it (both working at the time) when we were home last summer, same house was on the market for 85,000. Mom still lives in rented accommodation...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, my kids think it's funny that when I was in High School there was no such thing as "the internet" as we know it. Hell, there was hardly computers as we known them.

Mrs. Geezerette said...

Well I have you all beat. I was born before there was a WWII. I think that makes me old as dirt.

Anyone remember chewing Black Jack gum?