How many times when you were growing up did you hear your dad or mom say, “you think you have it tough… when I was growing up we had to walk five miles to school every day, up a hill, in the winter.” “The teachers would walk around with a yard stick and whack my left hand if I was using it instead of my right.” “No one had living rooms back then, we had parlors.” “Life was simpler.”
This is MY take on growing up in the 1960’s and 1970’s:
Life WAS simpler back then. The family living next door was the first to get a color TV on the block, and when The Wizard of Oz was airing, they invited the neighborhood to come and watch in their living room. Of course, the children had to watch from OUTSIDE – only the parents got to watch from inside.
We knew all of our neighbors, their children, their birthdays. We had block parties in my back yard every summer. In fact, one year there was some vandalism in the neighborhood (think Mr. Roger’s hood) and all the father’s and teenage sons sat hiding every night in teams of two… with baseball bats in their hands at the ready. And even with the vandalism that one summer (they caught the teenagers from a nearby development), we still went to bed with our doors unlocked and windows wide open.
I remember we were friends with a spanish family and it was a BIG deal. My father had a subscription to National Geographic (my brother remembers the African women with no clothes holding a spear). So, when we had a foreign exchange student stay with us (from Africa) my brother asked her where her spear was. NO LIE. She was cool, she said she left it back at home.
Do you all remember frozen custard? Wow, it was SO good. Or creamcicles that were made from real orange sherbet on the outside and real vanilla ice cream on the inside. How about if or when your parents went out to a movie, the babysitter made you a TV dinner – and you felt so special! Jiffy pop was the only popcorn that was cool. Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Yodels, and Pringles!! My dad ate Wheaties for breakfast every single day, and I do remember Bruce Jenner on the front of the box. You know you are a product of this period because most of your winter vegetables came from a can.
You barely saw your mom in the summer because you played outside from morning until you were called back home for dinner – and you were ticked you had to go home! We played Chinese jump rope and ‘Say Say Oh Playmate’ (that clapping game), and made forts in the woods behind our house.
I did have some bellbottom jeans and pants. I did own a white leather belt and I did wear many halter tops. I also had a pair of moon shoes. I had a pixie haircut, after having hair that I could sit on, it really was that long.
There was GAS, just regular, not high-test or premium. Inside a car there were three “seats” up front and the back seats had lap belts. We had to roll down our windows and no one I knew had air conditioning in their cars, of course I did live in upstate NY at the time – that could also be the reason.
“No Child Left Behind” didn’t exist. I repeated first grade. We had spelling and cursive writing and we learned how to tell time by looking at the hands on the clock. We had a moment of silent prayer and we all stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. I took one yoga class and thought it was weird.
Oh – I had the same teacher for both 4th and 5th grades – her son is VERY VERY FAMOUS. Her name is Betsy Franco and her son (she has 3 of them) is James Franco. No lie. She was a great teacher.
We played Twister, Trouble, Go Fish, Crazy 8s, always loved our Slinky’s and Pet Rock. I also had Japanese Jumping Beans and I actually owned an Easy Bake oven. (cue in the aha moment I had writing this – my love of baking started SO YOUNG). In high school, there were two girls I can remember that were sent away, only to return a few months later… ‘Spin the Bottle’ and ‘Truth or Dare’ were THE only games!
What about the television… sitting on the floor. Some with attenae sticking out from behind. We had only three stations, four if you counted public TV – ABC, NBC, CBS. My favorite shows were Captain Kangaroo, Zoom, The Waltons, Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Family Affair, Petticoat Junction, I Love Lucy, Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, The Munster’s, Welcome Back Kotter, All in the Family, Happy Days, Three’s Company, Sanford & Son, Carol Burnett Show, Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie, Mash, Taxi … the list goes on.
My favorite music back then (from a record player, soon to be 8-track tape): Motown, Elton John, Steve Miller Band, The Eagles, Queen, Aerosmith, Kool and the Gang, and many one–hit wonders: Afternoon Delight, American Pie, Cats in the Cradle, In the Summertime, The Devil went down to Georgia, Knock Three Times, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, and Dancing in the Moonlight to name a few.
I returned in 2009 to every place I lived back then – there were many. From PA to NY to NJ to CT to NJ. Obviously as an adult, you see things differently. Life was simpler and smaller back then. But the one thing I noticed when I was driving from area to area within the states was how wonderful it was to have grown up there and then.