I’m not one of those people who romanticizes the “old days,” but there are some truths worth remembering and revisiting.

I grew up in a different world. Play meant imagination. Physical activity. Jump rope, hide and seek, tag, Stick ball because no one owned a real bat. Stoop ball, jacks. Building a “fort” or climbing a tree. Cowboys.

Toys were simple, not electronic. Getting a new doll was a thrill. She never needed a reboot, unless you count having to find her lost shoe. Almost nothing except flashlights needed batteries.

If you were having a hard time with the bullies in school, you got up, got dressed and went to school. It didn’t mean you weren’t scared. I was plenty scared. It simply wasn’t a parent problem … it was mine. Yours. Ours.

You didn’t get a lot of pats on the back for “trying hard.” You might get an “attaboy” for doing exceptionally well, but you were expected to do your best. Nothing less was acceptable. Doing your best was your job. You took it seriously.

You learned your lessons in elementary school so you could go on to junior high school and then high school. You had to do well in high school because if you didn’t, you couldn’t get into college. We all knew — with 100% certainty — if you didn’t go to college, you wouldn’t go to heaven.

Pretty much every family has family members who didn’t make it. The ones who never found real job or formed a serious relationship. Or accomplished much. If they happen to be our own kids, it makes us wonder what we did wrong. Usually, we have a sneaking suspicion the problem isn’t what we didn’t do. More like what we did too much.

I don’t think we should be mean and uncaring to our kids, nor am I an advocate of corporal punishment, but I think it’s important to recognize we didn’t get strong by being protected from every pain, every hurt. We didn’t get everything we wanted the moment we wanted it. Or, at least I didn’t. If I got one really cool present, that was a big deal. Now kids get so much, it’s meaningless. They don’t appreciate anything because there’s always more where that came from.

So, in memory of the good times, the bad times, the hard times, the great times. The schoolyard battles we fought and sometimes lost. The subjects we barely passed or actually failed — and had to take again. The bullies who badgered us until we fought back and discovered bullies are cowards. Getting cornered in the girls’ room by tough chicks with switch blades, wondering if you can talk your way out of this.

Being the only Jew, Black kid, Spanish kid, fat kid, short kid or whatever different kind of kid you were in a school full of people who didn’t like you. Getting through it and coming out the other side. Being the only one who used big words and read books when everyone else was watching American Bandstand. Being the klutz who couldn’t do the dances and never had the right clothing or hair. Then, finally, getting to college and discovering the weirdos and rejects from high school were now cool people.

Magically, suddenly, becoming part of the “in crowd.” Metamorphoses. No longer outsiders. Whatever made us misfits were the same qualities that made us popular. And eventually, successful.

The fifties and early sixties were not idyllic, especially if you weren’t middle class, white, and Christian. Yet, whoever you were, it was a great time to be a kid. Not because we had more stuff, but because we had more freedom.

We had time. Time to play, time to dream. Whatever we lacked in “things,” we made up for by having many fewer rules. We were encouraged to use our imagination. We didn’t have video games, cable TV, cell phones and computers. We were lucky to have a crappy black and white TV with rabbit ears that barely got a signal.

We learned to survive and cope. Simultaneously, we learned to achieve. By the time we hit adulthood, we weren’t afraid to try even if success seemed unlikely. We had enough courage to know if it didn’t work out, we’d get up, dust ourselves off and try again — or try something else. We knew we would make it, one way or the other.

When we got out into the world, for at least a couple of decades, we had a blast.

Here’s to us as we limp past middle age into the so-called golden years. We really had great lives. We’re still having them, but more slowly.

Categories: Education, Family, Getting old, learning

Tags: , , , ,

17 replies

  1. What a wonderful blog piece! I’m re-posting on my blog so more people can come and read about “the good old days” and you put it succinctly too! It’s very true that one needs challenges to overcome to grow and become a thoughtful, sensible adult. America seems to have taken that notion and thrown it out the window with all the politically correct nonsense. We need to find a middle ground, not this one extreme or the other folderol. It’s destroying us! Thanks again for a great read! 🙂


  2. I made Peter sit down and read this and watch the video. He said there was a lot of wisdom there and I have to agree with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful post! In my growing up years, we didn’t have television, but I used to be glued to the radio to listen to “Amos and Andy, Little Orphan Annie, The Lone Ranger,” and many of the other “oldies.” I spent hours by myself reading. When I played outside with the neighborhood kids on a street in Kew Gardens, Long Island, outside our apartment house, it was without any adults around. We played jacks,hop scotch, jump rope, and skated around the blocks. No one supervised us. It was considered safe territory. In winter, we made snowmen and snow angels and got cold and wet, but we were happy. You’re right about kids having little or no time for themselves anymore. They go to school, play sports afterward, or else are driven to classes of some kind or another. Even their weekends are “managed.” They aren’t allowed to play on the street. However, last year, after our little neighborhood 4th of July parade and games later for the kids, I was delighted on my walk home to see a hop scotch game outlined in chalk on one of the sidewalks. Bigger boys skateboard down the streets once in a while. Kids and their parents bicycle. Many, many people walk their dogs past our house. We have a front yard like a meadow, with a huge Jacaranda tree and filled with California native plants of different colors. A lot of people that take walks around the neighborhood tell us how much they enjoy our yard as it is not a regular lawn. We had one neighbor tell us she bought her house on the next block because of our front yard. She decided she wanted to live here where she could be creative, too.


    • I think if ever cell phones stop being “the thing,” that kids will remember about playing … and if parents stop keeping minute-by-minute tabs on their kids, that would help too. I think youngsters don’t discover play until they are free to do it. And as long as they are on an electronic leash, they really leave home. Some of them are still leashed well into their thirties!


  4. Very well said. That was what life was about in those days, it was real and not according to the trade mark of the shoes you wore.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Many good points made here from the point of view of one who has seen much in a long(-ish) life! 🙂

    I think life is a long battle of trying to find the right balance between too much and too little of everything.

    Being given too much, too easy can be just as bad for us as being given too little and treated too hard, but it is a truth that to really gain you need to endure some pain (usually written as no pain – no gain)

    The last 10 years times have gotten much tougher thanks to the excesses of the start of this millennium which resulted in the GFC – we now have a lot of new ‘stuff’ but less opportunity’s to work in a long term or well paid job. It is a very confusing and frustrating time where changes take place too quickly for us to accommodate fully before the next is upon us leaving us in a constant state of stress.

    The only thing i can think of that may help is we all get at least one dog! 😉


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, I remember those days spending countless hours playing stoop ball, kickball, hot box, and exploring the known world on my bicycle. Those were great times when my body could still do everything I demanded of it. Thanks for the memories.


  7. Great essay, Marilyn and loved the video as well. I feel like I’m trying to get back to those times of doing more while doing less. Let’s see if I succeed.

    Liked by 1 person


  1. Reblog – Limping Into The Golden Years | sparksfromacombustiblemind

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