Kids Then And Now

KIDS THEN AND NOW The conversation had to eventually get around to the plight of present day parents and their kids. We were four couples at a dinner party, all of us in our seventies.Some of us wondered quietly if there were similar parties taking place where the discussion centered around our age group.

It was more or less agreed that we were more fortunate than the present kids known as teen-agers. For one thing we were known as just The term teen-ager came into use long after we would have qualified as eligible for the designation. Archie, Jughead, Veronica and Betty were contemporaries who didn't become "teen-agers" until our group was long past that time in our lives.

Why we were more fortunate. We could walk down any street at any time and not be concerned for our safety. Many of us, boys especially, could be away from home and parents were not concerned about their whereabouts.When we decided it was time to play baseball we did it at our own convenience, without some grown-up telling us when,where and how.There was one requirement.."come home when the street lights go on." On Halloween there was no option. It was TRICK! A few households tried to buy us off with donuts and cider but for the most part that didn't work.

Those who lived in small towns had access to a wooded area where it was possible to take walks,climb trees,build huts or have a campfire cookout. Many of those wooded areas are now gone and replaced by small buildings with families inside.

We didn't know many kids whose parents talked to them about sex but we instinctively knew which kids had all the scoop.It wasn't what you would call enlightened information but it was easy to accept since there was no lecture. Drugs were something your parents got at a store where there was a soda fountain.We weren't bombarded daily in our homes by a small screen with no social boundaries whatsoever. We could go to the movies and escape into another world where the only fear was from scary creatures or a screen kiss during a love-scene. We didn't get hardened into routinely accepting gross violence or explicit sex.

We had limits. They were seldom delineated but we knew what they were. Above all, we didn't want to be embarrassed by having to explain some bizarre experience to our parents. We had our evening meals as a family. Not because we wanted to be like some mythical family but because there was no other known way.

Our neighborhood kids played pick-up baseball in Gibby Littlefield's cow pasture.We used dried cow flaps as bases. They were also good frisbees. The rambling continues. If this is beginning to read like.." when I was a kid I used to walk ten miles in deep snow to school and back.." apologies are in order. It was really only nine miles.

We are reminded of the school library where we could browse through National Geographic Magazines. Once we got by the upper nudity, which of course was the focus of the research, there was a fascination with the puffed-up lips and the rings in the nostrils, eye-lids and lips. Fifty to sixty years later, these are the current fashions in a portion of our younger society. Someone must have come across old issues of the magazine in an attic and decided that was going to be his or her look.

Kids then,could only now, can experience.Some of the THEN KIDS couldn't even look. A school librarian assumed the role of censor and the interesting parts of the magazine were blacked out with ink , not unlike a CIA document release .A librarian in a local high school used to take pen in hand and black out "objectionable" portions of expensive art books. Some of us thought Venus De Milo wore a black halter and Michelangelo's David wore jockey shorts.

Contrary to what the scientists claim, the winters were about as cold and snowy then as they are now. What is different is the source of the heat in the houses. Coal was burned in a furnace in the cellar and water was heated to steam which was delivered to large radiators in the rooms.There was never a problem with humidity;the steam seemed to somehow permeate the metal and envelop everyone and everything. Once the goodness came from the coal, the task at hand became the ashes. A tool was placed in the grate and after many half-revolutions the ashes would fall and have to be shoveled. Galvanized barrels of ashes were stored and saved for icy walks and driveways.

On an especially cold morning , one could go to the back door and retrieve a bottle of milk that had frozen. The paper cap could be found on top of a frozen tube of cream , usually extended about three inches from the lid. The top layer of the bottle always contained cream because dairies did not homogenize the milk. To the kids, this was as good as ice-cream even though it was unflavored and unsweetened.

Even those families without relatives and friends used to have daily or periodic visitors. They were known as the "___man." The Milkman, the Breadman, the Iceman, the Coalman,the Insuranceman,the Ragman, the Clothesman, the Meatman, the Manureman, the Cesspoolman and once a new visitor came he was given the appropriate designation. These men weren't just sellers of goods and services, they were welcomed into the homes and their private lives were known thoughout the neighborhood. There were many jokes at the time about this or that kid having red hair just like the ice-man.