When I was your age....

I am 28, and I have had the good luck to live in a pretty easy time. No wars. White collar jobs. So as a result, I won’t have any stories like the ones told to me.

“I walked five miles through the snow to get to school. I fought off a bear with my loose-leaf notebook.”

So here are the stories that I’ll tell my grandchildren.

-We use to connect to the Internet at 14.4 kilobits per second.
-We use to have computers with only 32 megs of ram, and that was the best you could do.
-We would listen to music on cassette tapes, and we would have to fast forward to the next song. It could take you seconds to find the start of the song.
-Stamps use to cost a dime.
-We didn’t have self-adhesive stamps

So what will you tell your children?

– Tron was cutting edge
– Marathons were called Marathons, not Snickers
– People got excited over a 1.5k expansion pack for a VIC20
– There were only three network TV channels. No cable.
– Nottingham Forest were quite good
– Punk was original

When I was learning how to drive a car, we had to learn using a manual transmission >>>with a clutch<<<. It took real nerves to come to a complete stop on an uphill slope.

Garments wrinkled. I had to lift a heavy, hot object to “press” the wrinkles out.
I had to wait days to get paper mail.
Sometimes I had to call a person on the telephone three or four times before somebody was home to take a message. There was no “redial” either.
I had to grow my own fingernails.

My preschool-age daughter is already impressed with her school’s film projector and “little tiny movie screen”. She also thinks that the record player is pretty neat :).

When I was a kid, we only had two TV channels, and I had to walk a mile to school, sometimes in the snow (but not barefoot or uphill both ways. Sometimes there were big dogs–no bears, though.) Computers had green and black screens, and only made beeping sounds. There was no internet or e-mail (for the average person). Thirty-two megs? Feh. I remember 64K, and no hard drive, and computer programs on cassette tape. Mom used to leave us in the car while she ran into the store. You didn’t have to wear your seat belt. You had to “dial” the telephone, and the receiver was attached to the phone with a “cord”. Long-distance phone calls were a big deal, and expensive. You had to pick up your pizza from the restaurant if you wanted to eat it at home. Movies came on “videotape”, which you played on a device called a “VCR”, and many people rented the machine itself along with the movies. If you did not “rewind” the “tape” before you brought it back, you got charged a “rewind fee”.

And we liked it!

When I was your age, computers were so big we kept them under our desks, instead of in our pockets. And we had to use keyboards and mice.

I had to get up, walk across the room and turn a knob to change one of my 6 channels. And then I had to turn another knob to change the volume. My friends family had a remote control with a wire.

Ya had to STUDY. You couldn’t put your books under your pillow and learn through osmosis.

Books were made out of paper, and you had to buy them in stores instead of downloading them on the internet. (Please I hope that never happens.)

We had this thing called the Superbowl. Yes, before people outlawed football, they thought it was cool to watch non-good looking guys running around after a pigskin (granted its not made out of that anymore), and at half time, sock-clad bitches would sing. (Sorry that was a bit of a rant.)

  • We listened to music on vinyl platters. When we did listen to music on tape, it was on open ten-inch reels, not in cassettes or on CD.
  • Stereo sound was a special deal; often our music systems played sound on only one channel. One speaker.
  • A satellite dish was something only NASA or the military could afford. The dish couldn’t fit in a house, though a house could often fit in the dish.
  • We thought a seven-transistor radio was pretty hot stuff; none of that ten million transistors on a microchip stuff for us!
  • Sex was generally safe and cancer was a sure death-sentence.
  • In dictionaries, the primary definition for “computer” was “someone who computes,” and had nothing to do with a machine.
  • TV shows came only in black-and-white, and B&W wasn’t done for artistic purposes.
  • Ronald Reagan was just a cheezy actor. Wait…

-Our cars didn’t need fancy computers to tell them how to run, and we could fix them ourselves with simple hand tools.
-My first computer stored programs on cassette tape, and we “played” them into the computer.
-Our telephones didn’t have a number pad. We had to make do with a dial. And all the phones were black, not colored.
-We needed antennas to pick up television. We only had 4 channels, and one of them was in French.

Our roller skates were made of steel and they had 4 steel wheels.
You could actually buy stuff at the 5 & 10 for a nickel or a dime.
The board of education was made of wood.
You shared a phone line with someone else.

Unfortunately, my husband has all the good sob stories to tell the future kiddies.

When he was growing up, they didn’t have indoor plumbing until he was 16. He had to walk in the dark to the outhouse in the middle of the night, trying to avoid spiders & snakes. When they finally did get indoor plumbing, they had to flush the toilet with buckets of water.
They did all their cooking on a wood stove.
When he was a teenager, they got television and only had 4 channels.
When was this? 1920? No, he’s only 32.

  • We sold Girl Scout Cookies and school fund-raiser candy (gasp)door-to-door. None of this “Mommy and Daddy” takes the stuff to work so ‘widdle darling snookykins’ can get the top prize for selling 50,000 bars of chocolate.
  • We had cable: the cable remote box was 15 buttons with a 3-way switch that made it 60! channels (of course not all of those channels worked). And the box was connected to the tv by a cable.
  • We had ice makers in the refrigerator - they were called ice cube trays.
  • The trash compactor was called ‘a foot’.
  • We could call our next-door neighbor by dialing 7 digits, not ten. And they (as well as most of the state) were in the same area code.

Geez, I feel old all of a sudden! When we wanted to connect to a modem, we actually had to put the handset of a dial phone into a special contraption that connected it to whatever we were connecting it to. We got our first color TV when I was 8 years old (this would have ben 1968 for those of you who are counting). I saw all of the MAS*H episodes when they were originals and not syndicated on the FX channel. One word… PONG!

We got our first color TV in 1973 – a 25" Zenith, in a big 'ol floor cabinet. Two separate knobs, for VHF and UHF channels. Cost us $650.

Cable then had just 12 channels – five Buffalo stations, four from Toronto, a public access station, a community bulletin board, and one showing nothing but the image of an analog clock and thermometer. $5 a month.

Don’t forget the single black Western Electric rotary phone, hard-wired into the wall.

You heard most hit music and rock on AM stations. FM had drugged-out progressive rock, “beautiful music” that the elderly listened to while they were waiting to die, jazz and classical.

You could shop at a Sears store that wasn’t attached to a mall. Many local department stores were freestanding, too. One local chain gave out S&H Green Stamps.

ATM machines in the late '70s – yes, they were out there – had mechanical displays, similar to the flipping digit displays on the digital clock radios of the era.

Fast food restaurants didn’t have drive through windows. There were still some McDonalds without indoor dining rooms.

Casino gambling was legal in only one state.

There were still eight major department stores in downtown Buffalo.

I’m already telling these stories to my kids.

When I was a kid, we couldn’t play Nintendo. It wasn’t invented yet. We had to get stacks of quarters, and put them into machines at a place called the arcade. Everytime you ran out of lives, you’d have to put another quarter in.

Pac Man was the game to play.

Phones were all black and rotary. You had to physically spin the dial, and phone numbers with lower numbers were easier to dial.

Calculators were very expensive, and used a LED display. Not everyone had one.

To see a movie, you had to go to the theatre. Of course, it was cheaper then, and you could load up your car with as many people as would fit in for carload night at the drive in. Our province didn’t have a seat belt law then. There were no VCR’s, or they were so expensive that most people rented them to watch movies. I used to listen to my favourite movies on record with a book that I would look at.

Michael Jackson was cool. Duran Duran had girls dropping in the aisles. Everyone had a Rubik’s Cube.

We used to buy little records called 45’s. You had to put a little plastic thing in the center to make it play on the record player.

To reheat leftovers, I had to put my food in the oven. Very few people had microwaves, they were terribly expensive, and had large dials to indicate cooking time.

Very few people had home computers. My favourite computer game at school was on a cassette. There were no real graphics like there are now, and to navigate, I used my arrow keys.

I didn’t have cable. We had two channels, and I was the remote control.

We had a black and white TV until I was in school.

Eight year olds would pick up smokes from the store for their parents, and often didn’t even need a note.

People didn’t have cell phones.

I hardly ever got a ride anywhere. That’s what my bike was for. My dad would make me walk to school because it was too cold to start the van. Good thing I had my leg warmers.

Are you sure you are 28? I’m only 26 and my very first computer had to load programs from a tape recorder. The PC I had in high school had a 2400 baud modem and could only hold 2MB of RAM. The modem only connected to CompuServe since the Internet was only for researchers, and there was no such thing as an ISP. Still, WordPerfect 5.1 was a lot more stable than the Microsoft junk we have to put up with these days.

Also… There was no such thing as a video camera. Parents used 8mm film cameras to film their kids. There was no video recorder either - you had to watch a show when it was broadcast. Car windows and locks were manual, and you had to lock each door separately by hand. (Wait, I still have that same car…)

We used to play outside until dark.

The movies were 50 cents for a whole afternoon of cartoons, short subjects (Our Gang), westerns (Roy Rogers, Gene Autry) or monster movies (The Blob!). Popcorn was a dime!

Special effects meant they taped a fin to a lizard and got in close with the camera. Remember 3-D?!

My allowance was raised to $1.50 a week my Freshman year in high school. We wore crew-cuts or flat-tops and black sneakers.

No book bags. School lunch was 35 cents, milk 15.

Every once and a while a siren sounded and we had to get under our desks and cover our eyes and neck. There was some kind of wall-thing in Berlin. The Chinese were always starving. And the French…well, they haven’t changed much.

Kids did not come from a test tube. You took home what the stork brought and you were happy if s/he had 10 fingers and toes.

Bobby Vinton, Mickey Mantle and Leave it to Beaver…not Emenem, Dennis Rodman and Temptation Island.

My first car, a Metal-flake green '49 Plymouth Coupe, cost me $200!

Gas was (gasp) 26 cents!

We couldn’t see the air. Sunday meant church…and donuts!!!

Ever take your date to a drive-in movie in your '57 Chevy to make out?

If you were wild you might bring a little sloe gin or Boones Farm Strawberry wine. Coke was a cola.

Or we went to a dance where we actually touched our partner (who was invariably of the opposite sex). Then to the malt shop for a cherry coke and fries. If you were going steady both you and your girl wore matching shirts–without logos. She wore your school ring on a chain around her neck or on her finger with a gob of tape so it would fit. On Fridays, she got to wear your Block Sweater. (Yes, we participated in school–and LIKED IT!!)

Getting to third base was pretty much all you could hope for. Five girls in the whole school district (nine schools) got pregnant-none at my school. No built-in day care centers on campus.

Nobody smoked cigarettes or wore facial hair. The entire scope of our “drug problem” was when three players on our football team (I learned at my class reunion) took diet pills before a game.

We were all Americans then, none of this hyphenated stuff. We spoke English and had to say “Please” and “Thank you.”

…and we’re still crazy after all these years!


<Cue music, fade to black>
Those were the days, my friend.
We thought they’d never end.
We’d sing and dance
forever and a day.

We’d live the life we choose.
We’d fight and never lose!
Those were the days!
Oh, yes, those were the days!

Before the school year began, and then again in spring, our mother would make us get dressed up (my sisters had to wear something called a “petticoat”) and ride downtown to the big department store where we would get new clothes.

We didn’t wear helmets. When we fell off our bikes or while roller-skating, injuries came in two categories: “shake it off” or “hospitalized.”

A woman who had a baby would spend a week in the hospital. When she returned home, an older female relative (usually the unmarried aunt) would stay with the family for a month to help her recover.

When Dad wanted to show off, he’d tip the waiter a dollar for a good table.

We were shocked when a 7th grader snuck a bottle of cheap wine into school and took nips from it while the teacher had her back turned.

Flying was too expensive. Trains had too many connections. When we went on vacation, Dad drove, Mom sat next to him telling him which turn he’d just missed, and all the kids got scrunched together in the back seat. There was no air conditioning, it was noisy with all the windows down, and everyone fought. At least one thing would go wrong with the car while we were on vacation, always in a small town.