Part 1 of 2 parts
When I was growing up (late 1950’s and 1960s), things were different.
We used paper bags, recyclable. We saved jelly jars to use for glasses.
When we lived in a city, our milk was delivered daily in reusable glass containers. Or bought those at the grocery store – or a coin-operated vending machine at the coin-operated gas station. (25 cents a gallon for each.) Later, cardboard milk cartons were always useful: starting fires, starting plants, and such.
When we were lucky enough to get a Coke or Dr. Pepper, bottles. Reusable! If we had the special treat of buying a gallon of root beer at A&W, we brought our own glass gallon jug. Later, we went out on the highway to pick up aluminum cans to sell for cash.
Mom hung the clothes on a clothesline. Imagine! Using solar and wind to dry or even freeze dried at times.
We walked to school, or rode our bikes. The only ones who rode the bus were farm kids.
If an appliance broke, it was repaired, Washers, irons, stoves, televisions, toasters, etc.
We washed and dried dishes by hand. With cloth washcloths and towels.
We learned how to work on cars, etc. … Swing a hammer. Use hand tools. Shingle a roof, frame a house, hang sheet rock, wire a house, dig a ditch (by hand). Plumbing and electrical work? Do most of it yourself: replace the washers or a sink drain, even a toilet ring, a bad outlet, or a broken switch.
When we lived someplace that grass would actually grow in the yard, we used human-powered lawn mowers, trimmed our grass with overgrown scissors (hand clippers), trimmed branches with a handsaw. (No weed eaters.) We raked the lawn (no leaf blowers). We even watered the plants by hand or hose – no sprinklers or installed irrigation.
Had gardens, grew our own vegetables. Felt lucky when we rented a house that had a fruit or nut tree. (Apricots, peaches, pecans, etc.)
We got our news via newspapers, recyclable. Delivered by paperboys, daily… My first after-school job was in a newspaper and printshop, where I set type (by hand and using a Linotype machine).
We played outside, didn’t have parents hovering – they had their own things to do. We had fun, went home when the streetlights came on and were never late for supper. (If you were late, you probably didn’t get to eat.)
We read books, played board games or cards. We played and sang to the piano, practiced our musical instruments, learned new songs (without instruments) for Sunday worship.
Yes, we watched TV, always whatever Mama or Daddy wanted to watch. Most places we lived (eleven different places, all in the Great Plains, growing up), there was only a single station. No choice at all. If we even had television stations. No VCR or DVDs. I remember how neat when the rich people down the street got a color television – that would have been in 1964) – and disappointed when I’d walk past and see it was a black-and-white program being broadcast by KOMC, the only station in the area.
Social media? Sorry, nada. We talked face to face and if you said the wrong thing? You did it face to face. And you wrote (by hand – few typewriters and no word processors) cards and letters – or notes to leave on their door or under the wipers on their car.
Well, we did have phones – landlines. Landlines with party lines so you had to count the number of rings to see if it was your house being called and not the next house or farm. And we learned how to answer politely and write a message down accurately.
We knew every family in the neighborhood. We did not care what color our friends were, we were friends. We played about every sport we could, argued, fought (at school and not just on the street or the playground), got mad at each other, laughed, had fun. Went home and did it all over the next day. If we were good, we sometimes got to eat at a friend’s house, and enjoy their mamacita’s fresh tortillas right off the grill, or their family’s version of black-eyed peas with collard greens.
We were taught, and thought, we were free. Yeah, there was still a draft. But not many people got drafted in our area: they volunteered. We knew that sometimes government and other people were biased against kids (and adults) from the wrong side of the tracks, or with the wrong color skin (or even hair), or who spoke with an accent. (Like a New England twang, down in Texas.)
We knew a lot of things were illegal that didn’t make any sense. (And we knew that people often ignored those laws.) We didn’t have any choice about going to a public school, especially in smaller communities. In bigger towns, we might have two choice: public or parochial (Catholic). But overall, we were free.
We might only have been nine or ten, but if we wanted to take a bb gun or a .22-cal rifle out to the edge of town to shoot rabbits or to the landfill (town dump) to shoot rats, no one cared. We didn’t have to have a license (or a helmet) for our bicycle. We could ride in the bed of the pickup.
We could go to shop in Regina, or Nuevo Laredo, without a permission slip. Even if we had to get one for the school secretary to give us an aspirin for a bad playground rash (from sliding around the merry-go-round on the ground, for which we would have more pain when we got home with the pair of pants we destroyed).
(Part 2 to follow. Inspired by a post by Mad Medic.)