Emerald’s Gem Box: Yesteryear vs. Today

We’ve all heard the stories that our parents and grandparents would tell of how hard life was when they were young; having to walk to school, having to salt-pack food because there were no freezers, having to cover meat in lard in order to keep it from spoiling, having to milk the cow every morning for fresh milk to drink, and/or having to travel by mule for days to get to “market” to buy something they needed. Those stories never meant much to me when I was a kid. In fact, it did nothing but make my parents seem even older than what I thought they already were.
But I watch today’s youth, and listen to the complaints of “how hard life is” and I just have to laugh. At my ripe old age of 45, just comparing my childhood to theirs seems insanely incomparable.
I sat and came up with some points from the 1970’s and 1980’s vs. 2014.
First and foremost – The majority of today’s youth do not know what a hard day of work is. The majority of them come home from school and sit on the couch and watch TV or play their electronic games all night.  The majority of them feel the world has come to an end if their parents make them get a job when they turn 16 or 18. In my household when we got home from school, regardless of our age, we worked.  When work was finished, THEN you went home and you did your homework. IF there was time left over before bedtime, then you got to sit and watch TV. In my household we either worked at the office supply store, the newspaper, the farm, or were planting pine trees till dark.
We didn’t have computers. We had to write everything longhand. We balanced our checkbooks via a paper statement, we paid our bills with a check and envelope, we did our business bookkeeping longhand on those 40-column pads, we had to handwrite school term papers or type them on a typewriter (without a delete key – and we had to use correction tape and white-out).
We didn’t have the Internet. If we wanted to know something, or write a school paper, we had to go to the library and search through encyclopedias. Of course, we couldn’t just use one source, so we had to get several different encyclopedias AND look up several books on the subject too by using the card catalog and searching through thousands of books to find that one book.
We didn’t have satellites and cable television. We had ONE channel – Channel 6.  Some of the lucky people got channels 6 and 10; and if you were really lucky, you got Channel 27 on good days (but possibly by putting aluminum foil on the rabbit ears to get it – and then you still had to watch the station through the “snow”). If the President was on that night – he was on all three stations; and the Jerry Lewis Telethon – that made television unwatchable for 24 hours. We didn’t have 100 plus channels to switch between.
Which leads in to “Where is the remote?” As children, we didn’t have a remote. If you were one of the lucky households to have two or three channels and you wanted to see something different, you GOT UP and went and changed channels yourself; and of course, we children were always “the remote” for our parents.
Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon didn’t exist. We got cartoons on Saturday mornings ONLY. We waited all week just to watch Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, the Smurfs, Scooby Doo and Speed Buggy.
We didn’t have email, texting, unlimited long distance or Facebook. If we wanted to talk to somebody, we had to write them a letter – with a pen and piece of paper. Then we had to put it in the envelope, go to the post office, buy a stamp and mail it. Then it would take a week to get to them, a few days for them to write back, and a week for them to mail it back to us. If we wanted to talk to someone on the telephone, long distance, our parents would time us so that the phone call wouldn’t cost them a fortune. And many houses had party-lines and had to share the phone lines.
We didn’t have cell phones. If we left the house, we just didn’t get to talk to any of our friends, until we came back home (and that was after school, work, and homework was finished).
We didn’t have PlayStation, Xbox or Wii. We had Atari with about two games; Asteroids and Space Invaders. No high resolution graphics, no killing other people, no digital surround sound. We shot at rocks or aliens, in black and white, and it was the same game over and over and over and over.
We didn’t have PSP’s, IPhones, Gameboys, IPads or IPods to play with in the car, on road trips; and we sure didn’t have portable or built-in DVD players in the car to watch movies on. We actually had to read a book, talk with the family or play games like: searching for every alphabet letter on billboards and signs, trying to find all 50 states on car tags, or playing the “I’m going on a trip” game. When things got really boring on a long road trip we could always revert to singing “100 bottles of beer on the wall.”
We didn’t have IPods to download thousands of songs onto. We had 45 and 33 1/3 RPM records, which we had to be very careful with as to not scratch them or we could never hear that song all the way through again. We had 8-track tapes and then cassette tapes. If we wanted to hear a particular song then we had to hit the fast forward button, click play, click fast forward, click play, click fast forward, click play…oops too far… click rewind, click play, click rewind, click play. But, the worst of it all was when your tape got “eaten” by the player. The tape would wrap around the player and we would spend 30 minutes very carefully unwinding the mess from the player and then keeping the tape straight as we would roll it back into the cassette with a pencil. If we didn’t have an 8-track or cassette with a song we wanted then we had to call it in to the radio station and sit by the radio all day with our tape recorder, ready to mash “record” when the song finally came on; and then the DJ would usually talk during the first part of the song and ruin it.
We didn’t have the luxury of complaining about our household chores with sayings such as “I don’t want to load/unload the dishwasher.” “I don’t want to unload the dryer”… we didn’t have dishwashers and dryers; we actually had to wash dishes by hand and hang clothes on a clothesline.
And there was no such thing as calling HRS if our parents spanked us.  If we did wrong, we got beat for it. If we did wrong at school, then the principal beat us and when we got home we would get beat again. Discipline was actually accepted back then and was considered a good thing. The saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” was alive and well because all of our friends’ parents had permission to beat us if we did wrong at their house, also.
As I sit here, in my “mid-life” age, I might not have had to walk to school “uphill in the snow, both ways” but I think my life was pretty dang “hard” compared to what today’s youth is “suffering” through.
And if you think your kids don’t think you’re too old as it is, turn on some black and white re-runs of Andy Griffith or Lucile Ball and see what kind of looks they give you then. But I might add, those sort of shows will ALWAYS be so much better than the garbage they put on television now-a-days.
Until then….see you around the town.
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