“Geez, I thought you fell,” my daughter said as she backtracked to see why I was bent almost to the ground in the ACME parking lot the other day.
“You’re ridiculous,” she said shaking her head when she realized that I was just picking up a penny that I saw on the ground.
“Wait until your bill is $8.01,” I shot back at her. “You’ll wish you had stopped to pick up that penny.”
She just continued to our car, as I tossed the penny into my purse and tried to hurry behind her.
Not even a day later, I said to her, “Grandmom and I are going over to (I named a restaurant) or maybe (I named another nearby family restaurant) to grab some dinner, do you want to join us?”
She laughed and rolled her eyes.
“I think I’ll pass,” she chuckled, making a face when I named the restaurants.
That night, as I was scrolling through my emails, my friend sent me a list of nostalgia from the 1960s and ’70s. Right at the top of the list, hitting me right between the eyes, were these two lines:
“Remember when it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents?”
“Remember when you’d reach into a muddy gutter for a penny?”
Oh, I not only remember, but my thoughts immediately reflected back to those incidents from earlier in the week. I was suddenly saddened for the millennials, who don’t have the wonderful things on my friend’s list over which to wax nostalgic. When I continued to read, I felt a smile break out on my face, so I wanted to share the list with all the readers who will remember this simpler, kinder time of our lives. I even added a few from my own memory.
Remember when …
• Nobody owned a purebred dog?
• All the girls in high school wore ugly gym uniforms and plain white tennis shoes instead of $200 Nikes?
• You got your windshield cleaned, oil checked and gas pumped — and Green Stamps or some other gift — all without asking, all for free, every time at every gas station? And you didn’t pay for air for your tires to boot?
• There were no video games to entertain, but rather hours of playing Mother May I, freeze tag, Red Light Green Light and tag, you’re it?
• Laundry detergent had free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box? Cereal had small toys inside the boxes?
• No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked.
• They threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed, and they did it?
• When a ’57 Chevy was everyone’s dream car, to cruise, peel out and lay rubber? And cars didn’t have seatbelts?
• It took three minutes for the TV to warm up? Remember having to replace picture tubes? Only having to decide between three to four channels on VHF and two to three channels on UHF?
• Instead of everyone listening to their own music through headsets, music was chosen by general consensus at tableside jukeboxes?
• Half of the time spent showing movies in school was fixing the ancient AV equipment to make the movie reels work?
• When couples “went steady” and a blind date meant going out with someone your friends set you up with, not someone you met over the internet or through texting or mobile dating apps?
• When we were in fear for our lives, not because of drive-by shootings, carjackings or gangs, but because of our parents and grandparents if we did something wrong? Somehow we survived because their love was even greater than the threat.
• When being sent to the principal’s office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited the student when they got home?
• When you sat down and wrote a handwritten letter instead of a text or email?
• When summers were filled with bike rides, hula hoops, breaking a twin popsicle in half to share with a friend, visits to the pool and eating Kool-Aid powder with sugar?
• When candy cigarettes, wax lips, tongues and teeth and those little wax bottles filled with colored sugar water were just what they were, candy, and no one read any more into them than the innocent products that they were?
• When telephone numbers began with a word prefix (Madison 6, Clearfield 9, Ludlow 6 or Lehigh 9)? Rotary telephones — with cords? Party lines (OK, fess up if you ever eavesdropped)? Pay phones at stores and gas stations (it was big news when they went from 10 cents to a quarter per local call)?
• Mimeograph paper? Carbon paper? 45 and 78 RPM records? Pet rocks? Milk men? Bread men? Hucksters selling fruits and vegetables in your neighborhood? Penny candy? Running after mosquito-spraying trucks? Viewmasters? Transistor radios? Stores being closed on Sunday? Drive-in movies and those rickety speakers on the car windows? Doctors making house calls? Dixie ice cream cups with pictures on the lids? Milk with cream on the top?
• Decisions were made by going, “Eeeny, meeny, miney, moe”?
• Mistakes were corrected by simply exclaiming, “Do over!”?
• It wasn’t odd to have two or three “best friends”?
• Getting in trouble for having a weapon in school meant being caught with a slingshot or pea shooter or the ultimate weapon, water balloons?
• Spinning around, getting dizzy and falling down was cause for giggles, not a trip to the doctor’s office?
• Saturday morning cartoons weren’t 30-minute commercials for action figures?
• War was a card game?
• When drinking out of the garden hose and pouring a glass of water from the tap was a way of life? We would have laughed out loud if someone told us we would be buying water in plastic bottles in the near future.
• Baseball cards in the spokes transformed any bicycle into a motorcycle?
• Taking drugs meant orange-flavored St. Joseph aspirin?
• Lying on your back in the grass with your friends, and saying things like “That cloud looks like a …”?
• Coke machines dispensed glass bottles and glass bottles had “deposits” that you could get refunded?
• Using baby oil and iodine at the pool or beach to get tanned (or burnt)?
• Playing baseball or stickball with no adults around to help kids with the rules of the game or interfering in any other way?
• Medicine from the store came in easy-to-open containers without safety caps and hermetic seals because no one had ever tried to poison a perfect stranger?
• And with all of our progress, don’t you just wish, just once, that you could slip back in time and savor the slower pace and share it with your children and grandchildren?
I think most Baby Boomers like myself enjoy all things nostalgic and gravitate toward remembering how things were when we grew up. At first, I thought it was because I am getting older, but I truthfully think it’s more in response to how technology has changed our lives.
I believe we get nostalgic so often about these earlier times because life was so much simpler and more streamlined before we were hooked up to our devices and computers 24/7. Things move so quickly now that as soon as we learn something, it’s outdated and replaced by something newer and better almost instantaneously so we treasure what we left behind.
Sometimes, as I am flipping through channels, I stop on an old rerun like “Leave It To Beaver,” “I Love Lucy” or “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” Sure, they are outdated and cheesy and completely old-fashioned, but they are also a reminder of those simple, less complicated times when life was built on relationships. We could walk into a business and ask for a job instead of applying online, talk to a live person when we called to address a consumer problem and sit on our neighbor’s front porch for hours on a hot summer night instead of holing up in our air-conditioned houses.
Either way, nostalgia is just fun! Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my iPhone for a rotary, my microwave for an Easy Bake or my Starbucks venti for a cup of 1960s Nescafe for any amount of money! While it’s fun looking back, life goes on! I hope you enjoyed the throwback to the idealized wonder years. I tell my kids those years built good character, work ethic and values in the Baby Boomers. You can imagine the major eye roll that I get in response from that statement!