I grew up in a suburb near Boston, Massachusetts. My father was a school principal and in the later years my mother worked as a bookkeeper. In the early years my mother stayed home to raise us and money was tight, especially during the inflationary period in the seventies, but my parents watched every penny and made it work. As a child growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, life was simple.
Necessities Were Simple
The home I grew up in was a modest, split-level home. Throughout most of my childhood I wore hand me downs or clothing bought at steep sale prices. If the clothes didn’t fit right my mother would get out her sewing machine and work her magic. We had all of our basic necessities taken care of. We ate three meals a day all made from scratch, and we didn’t own a microwave until I was a teenager. We also had a small garden in our backyard that provided green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lots of berries throughout the summer. I still remember my father sitting on the front steps of our house, snapping the ends off the green beans, and putting them in a large bucket of water while I played in the front yard.
For most of my early childhood we didn’t have cable television. In fact, our television couldn’t have been more than 22 inches big with a thick brown frame and large rabbit ears that always pointed north. It did the job. For entertainment I was sent outside to play with the other kids in the neighborhood. We didn’t have fancy toys, but we had each other. We did have some board games and we got bikes for Christmas, but overall it didn’t take very much to make us happy. “Kick-the-Can” was our favorite game to play and it required nothing more than a soda can. Most of the time all we needed to have fun was our imagination.
Celebrations Were Simple
Birthday parties were easy. We would invite some kids from the neighborhood over and my mother would bake a cake and serve it with some ice cream. When we were young we played “Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey”. For decorations we would string up some balloons and buy some cheap party hats. Nothing fancy. For special events my parents would invite guests for a backyard BBQ and throw some hot dogs or hamburgers on the grill.
Entertainment Was Simple
For music we had a record player. My father liked to play Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary, while my mother liked to play Olivia Newton-John and The Beatles. One Christmas I got my very own record player that played 45’s. About twice a year we all went to the movie theater and I will never forget seeing the movie E.T. on the big screen. What a movie! We didn’t have a VCR until I was about fourteen years old. Back then VCR’s could only record one thing and it would be what you were presently watching. Not sure why we needed this thing. As time went by we started to see video rental places pop up and they quickly became our source for watching movies.
Communication Was Simple
Our phone was a corded rotary phone. We communicated in person or by telephone, and day-to-day business was conducted mostly by snail mail via the U.S. Post office. We used to order things from catalogs by phone, and in the second week of November my sister and I could hardly contain our excitement as we waited for the Sears “Wish Book” to arrive. If you’re not familiar with the Sears “Wish Book”, I would have to describe it as the coolest and biggest toy catalog on the planet! My sister and I would battle over who got to look at the catalog first, until we were eventually told by our parents that Santa wouldn’t come if we continued to misbehave. Both of us used to spend countless hours pouring over the catalog and perfecting our list for Santa.
Technology Was Simple
The first video game console we got was Atari and our first game was Atari Pong. Picture a black screen with a vertical white line down the middle. We had a about a two-inch, small white line on both the left and right side of the screen that acted as the paddles, and a ball that moved horizontally back and forth across the screen. The paddles had limited mobility and moved up and down in a straight line. I’m embarrassed to admit that my sister and I would spend hours and hours playing this stupid game. My homework was done first on a typewriter, then on a word processor. Do they still have those? The first computer I ever saw was a black and white Apple computer that took up the entire table in my high schools new computer room. I took my first computer class as a Junior in high school and also got my very first F. Trust me when I say back then computers were complicated. At the time, it didn’t occur to me how life changing this new technology would turn out to be.
Things Are Different Now
Today families buy frozen, prepared meals and pop them in the microwave, or they stop off for fast food as they shuttle their kids back and forth from their expensive after school activities.
If they go outside and play, it’s free.
Birthday parties require a cake from the bakery. Ponies and bounce houses are rented, or better yet, professional party planners are hired to take care of all the details and make life easier.
Do those $600 dollar designer cakes really taste better than homemade?
We have high-speed internet, cable, and high-definition smart tv’s with theater systems that make you feel like you’re at the movies. For a few thousand dollars up front and a couple hundred a month, you’re all set. Movies and music can be downloaded at an instant for a small charge.
Don’t worry! I’m sure all that radiation and those electromagnetic fields we created are perfectly safe. Besides, you have spend your income on something.
We have five and six hundred-dollar smartphones with contracts that run a couple hundred dollars or more per month, which are used to communicate mostly by text.
People? What are they? And we definitely need the internet on our phones. How else are we to keep up with Facebook? We need to be able to report that we are getting gas and picking up some new underwear. If we don’t have texting, how in the world will we be able to tell our friends that we should both wear red socks today? This is important stuff! We’ll die without it!
Game consoles are so advanced, you would think you’re playing the game for real. Remember the movie Tron where a teen get’s sucked into a video game? Well it’s now a reality. With several hundred dollars for the console and a cost of $50 per game on average, you too can experience this mind-blowing technology.
Has anyone stopped to think what some of these games might to doing to the minds of children?
Modern day vehicles are now computerized. Instead of a steering wheel, a gas pedal and brakes, cars now have computers that entertain us and give us directions. With all of the new devices, automakers have made it easy to hook everything up so we can talk and text. Nowadays most people do just about everything while driving.
Soon to be released on the market are self driving cars. Now people will be able to cook themselves breakfast or paint their toenails on their way to work. Does anyone out there know how to read a map? Remember those?
Where Does It Stop?
Cashiers are disappearing as we automate the registers. Waitresses are disappearing as we automate the ordering process. Banks are disappearing as we do most of our banking online. Receptionists are disappearing because we automated our phone systems. Customer service is disappearing so we can talk to a computer. Tax professionals are disappearing because new software has allowed all of us to become experts. Office workers are disappearing as we become paperless. Retail stores are slowly disappearing as online purchases continue to grow. And thanks to this new cloud technology, many more jobs are expected to disappear. Who’s next? Will drones replace our delivery drivers?
We suffer from a lack of employment, underemployment, student loan debt, credit card debt, and there are many who are barely able to save a dime. Crime is at an all time high, our schools are plagued with violence, family units are broken, and we live in a nation of people who grow angrier by the day. With a nation either at war or heading into war, carrying a national debt load of $18,155,729.727.216.00 with a population equal to 321,663.649 to pay it off…what comes next?
Even though I grew up with rose-colored glasses, I still miss the simple life.
Image of Boston Public Garden courtesy of Erin McDaniel, Image of Retro TV courtesy of Wittaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net