07 February 2015

Fifty Years Ago Was Basically A Lot Different -- You'd Be Surprised

The phone rings. Someone gets up to answer it.

There’s a knock on the door. Someone gets up to answer it.

That’s so 50 years ago.

Today a phone rings and you’re just as likely to be miles away from home and you can see who’s calling and if you don’t feel like answering you let it go to voice mail.

Today a knock on the door arouses immediate suspicion. Someone may warily get up and try to discern who’s there. It is, after all, likely to be someone selling something or a perpetrator of a bogus scam (actually I suppose all scams are bogus). But flinging your door open just doesn’t happen.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog how I used to walk to school when I was a child. I mean child. Like eight years old. And not just a couple of blocks either. This was about a seven block walk. I was never abducted. Or even harassed. Today kids are dropped off. Then they’re picked up. After which maybe they’re taken to a play date or piano lessons or soccer practice or yoga or archery or tai chi or god knows what else. Anything to keep the little buggers occupied.

Everything is organized and safe. Kids go for bike rides with their parents and wear helmets. We used to go on our own without helmets. We survived. We also organized our own games whether it was baseball, basketball, tackle football in the mud or a rock fight.

We figured a lot of stuff out on our own because there were no adults hovering around us telling us what to do. We were self reliant. We had time to think, to day dream, to just be.

We somehow managed without computers. Can you imagine. Life without google. We looked stuff up in books. We had less data at our finger tips but were more self reliant. Instead of computer games we played board games.

When we went to a sports event there weren’t huge scoreboards to occupy our eyes and ears. There weren’t ancillary activities going on. There was no rock music blaring when the action stopped. There weren’t giveaways or constant distractions. We watched the goddamned game. For food at games the choices were pretty much just hot dogs, peanuts and a few kinds of soda. There were no nachos or sushi or crab cakes. Yeah maybe a chocolate malt but not fancy sundaes. Come on.

We went to theaters to watch movies. There was always a double and sometimes a triple feature. They were not preceded by commercials — that was for TV at home. There were trailers, sure, but also cartoons and maybe a short of some kind often a travelogue. On Saturdays many theaters had programs especially for us kids. We walked to the theater.

Back then people were put in jail not incarcerated. You were a drug addict not someone with a substance abuse problem. Men were accused or wife beating not domestic violence. They might also be accused of rape, not sexual assault.

Dogs roamed free and no sane human being followed them picking up their crap. It was fairly common to step in dogs shit.

Shoelaces were forever snapping. I hated that.

There were no homeless people. Just tramps and bums.

There were serious anti war and anti draft protests. People weren’t wasting time sitting in trees or in front of post offices and no one was wearing a silly mask and there were no goddamned anarchists usurping legitimate protests to needlessly and stupidly break storefront windows.

The gap between the rich and poor was huge but not quite a national embarrassment. There was even a thriving middle class and strong unions that were effectively able to maintain decent working conditions and living wages for workers.

There was a sense and there was even empirical evidence that African Americans were getting better pay, better educations and a fairer shake in the country.  The achievement gap was shrinking not increasing.

Sometimes opposing factions in the U.S. government were able to compromise and they even occasionally worked for the betterment of the American people rather than to please their base.

You could get on an airplane without being treated like a potential terrorist. We didn’t really give terrorists a second thought.

People made sure their children got vaccinated and only a major idiot would even think not to.

Politicians didn’t kowtow to religious groups. There was a semblance of a separation between church and state.

Patriotism was restrained and displayed mostly by voting and participating and not by introducing flags to every public event under the sun.

Women and gays were in much worse shape. Hell I didn’t even know what homosexuality was until junior high and I never met a self identified gay person until early in high school and didn’t personally know a gay man until I was 17.

Cigarette smoke was everywhere. People smoked in movie theaters, sports stadiums, on busses in bars and restaurants, in offices and airplanes. You couldn’t avoid it if you tried.

There were a lot more small businesses. There wasn’t any Walmart or Walgreens and fewer other chains driving the little guy out.

The U.S military used to be in Far East Asia killing and getting killed. Now its the Middle East. So that's not so different.

Healthy food was cheaper than today but we had a lot less awareness about what was good and bad for you. There were fewer options including less variety of restaurants.

People weren’t forever grabbing things. Like nowadays people grab lunch or grab some papers. I even heard someone say they were going outside to grab some sun. Also people never used to say no worries. I hate the phrase no worries. It's rarely said when I have even a single worry.

Medicine has advanced quite a bit and recovery time from injuries is a lot faster. Then again pharmaceutical companies are making off like bandits these days. I suppose because they are.

Consumer protection was beginning to be practiced and there was starting to be government protection against industries that were polluting and no one complained that this was an infringement of rights. It was considered common sense.

Liberal wasn't a dirty word.

If you wanted to hear a song and didn't own the record it was on, you had to wait for it to be on the radio. You didn't carry your music library around with you. You also couldn't just watch any movie you wanted to at any time. If it wasn't in the theater, you hoped it would be on TV and when it was you watched it eviscerated by commercials. Today is way better when it comes to music and films.

Speaking of TV. We had five channels and later a sixth. What the hell was cable? Plus we didn't have a color set until I was in high school. This was not unusual. Also there was no recording shows. If you missed it you waited for a re-run.

Anyway, you can’t go back. And if you can, there’ll be all that smoke. 

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