Every generation talks about how hard life was for them compared to the new young generations. As a Baby Boomer, I remember my parents telling us that we were “spoiled” and “had it made” compared to the things they had to endure as kids and teens.
Now that the Baby Boomers have grown into the Establishment, this is a good time to tell today’s young generation how “spoiled” they are and how they “have it made” compared to what our generation dealt with in life.
As I was watching television in my apartment the other night, I picked up the remote and as I changed channels I saw a promo for the new CNN series, “The Sixties” and it brought back memories of sitting on the sofa in the 1960s and having to get up, walk over to the TV set, and physically change the channel. If you were trying to avoid the commercials, you had to stand there and try to time out when you thought the commercials were over so you could physically turn back to the show you were watching. That made me think about how different life is for today’s younger generations, who grew up with remote controls as an appendage, and that led to thoughts about all the other things young generations will never have to endure!
When I think about all the changes resulting from the concern for safety of kids, I have to wonder how my generation even survived! We used to ride our bikes without helmets! And later we rode motorcycles without helmets. If we fell, our heads hit the concrete. Today, kids have technically advanced and tested helmets to protect their noggins. There were no ridiculous laws about fastening your seatbelt. That was as optional as using a turn signal today.
When listening to music years ago, most albums had bad songs you wanted to skip. We used to have to get up, walk over to the stereo, pick up the needle tracking on the vinyl record and move it to the track we wanted. And that was not a precise maneuver. More often than not, you would miss the beginning of the new track you wanted and it took a few tries to get it to the right starting point. Today, young generations just hit a tiny button or touch a screen to advance precisely to the beginning of the desired track.
And if you were in the car, you couldn’t listen to “your” music (at least until 8-track tapes and then cassettes). Your only option was whatever that guy on the radio was playing, and for many years that guy was Scoot in the Morning!
When our generation was young, our parents put us in a basic stroller. Today, kids travel around in strollers that bear a striking resemblance to a recliner and appear safe enough to withstand re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Parents have places for everything they need to take care of their kids for several days in the wild – and a convenient cup holder for a cold beer.
When we were bad in school, we got spanked, often with a wooden paddle. We also could not talk back to our teachers. Today, young generations do not fear the dreaded wooden paddle, and they seem quite comfortable with talking back to their teachers. Oh, how I wanted to do that when I was in school!
As I kid, my parents made me endure something that not many young people would have to tolerate today – we took a summer trip every year from New Orleans to Phoenix, AZ, where my grandparents and aunt lived. It was a 3-day drive each way. We had a white Ford station wagon with no air conditioning! We looked forward to checking into a motel along the way that had a swimming pool. The next morning we were back in the hot car for a full day of driving through one of the hottest parts of the country! But, we never complained, because that’s all we knew. I can’t imagine taking that trip today, especially with kids or teenagers.
While we were traveling in the car, we passed the time by playing games. I don’t even remember what games we played, but one had something to do with license plates, and another had something to do with singing stupid songs with my parents. Today, young generations have movies, video games and cell phones that act as full entertainment centers.
If we were driving in the city or on the road, and my parents needed to make a phone call, they had to pull over and search for a pay phone. Today, phone calls and communications in general are instant. Being a teenager in love was so painful because when you were not at home you did not have the option of staying in touch with your young love. I remember my girlfriend went to Europe for two weeks and I got a letter from her from Austria – after she retuned home!
Today, young generations have drills to practice what to do if there is a school shooting. When we were young, we had drills to practice what to do if a nuclear bomb hit our city. School shootings are a terrible reality for modern students, but the threat of a nuclear bomb hitting us was more imminent than the threat of school shootings today. And there was no talk about arming teachers with nukes in the event the Soviets attacked our school.
Young generations today have hundreds of TV channels to choose from and immediate access to movies. We grew up with three channels, or four if you were in a family sophisticated to watch public television. And if you were sick and couldn’t sleep, there was no overnight entertainment – except radio. Televisions went off the air at midnight or shortly after. There was no late night TV! Nothing brought on feelings of dire loneliness more than hearing the Star Spangled Banner playing on TV late at night. It was almost creepy! Oh – and we only had one TV. So we were forced to watch a lot of shows our parents watched.
I am not complaining, because when we were young, we had everything we thought we needed to be happy – and we were. Every generation witnesses their kids’ generation with conveniences and new technology that makes life seem easier and better than it was for them.
But today’s young generation, with cell phones, computers, tablets – 360 degrees of entertainment 24 hours a day, seven days a week – will one day be in a position to tell a new young generation how hard life was when they were growing up.
But I can’t imagine what they might complain about. Maybe something like “When we were young, we used to have to actually plug in our cell phones and laptops when the battery went dead!” To which a new young generation will wonder – “How did you guys live that way?”
Scoot: What young people need to know about how we grew up
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Knowledge required physically touching books!
I still own a set of Brittanica encyclopedias - just because. I have shown them to my kids and been met with blank states and/or glazed over eyes. We had to look up our topic, find it alphabetically, read it and paraphrase. Usually writing a report involved multiple books, writing our own footnotes and/or bibliography. There was no Google, no Wikipedia and no pre-prepared bibliography. Not to mention having to look words up in the dictionary if we weren't sure how to spell them!
To add to your phone comments, Scoot, I would say having to hang around in the kitchen on the ONE phone we had, connected to the wall by a not very long cord, also made for limited privacy on those "young love" phone calls.
Hey, and I didn't mind having to listen to that Scoot in the Morning guy back in the day - he was pretty entertaining!