When I Was A Kid: Reflections Of A 50-Year-Old American (Edward L. Daley)
When I was a kid…
If you mouthed off to an adult – even a teacher in school – you’d more than likely get the taste slapped out of your mouth, and anybody who saw you get smacked would assume you had it coming.
Doctors made house calls, and they were usually paid in cash for that service.
Boosting a kid’s self-esteem was maybe the last thing any teacher cared about. Forcing their students to study and get good grades was the top priority, and accomplishing that goal naturally led to kids feeling better about themselves.
Climate change was a concept we were keenly aware of, although, back then we just called it weather.
Black folks were called blacks, colored people or Negroes by most whites and blacks alike. There was no such thing as an African-American. Even immigrants from Africa who had passed their citizenship tests weren’t called African-Americans, they were just Americans like the rest of us.
There wasn’t a single kid in my school who couldn’t read, write, do basic math or recite the Pledge of Allegiance by the time they were eight years old… not one.
The word gay just meant cheerful.
Wearing a helmet while riding your bike was far more dangerous than not wearing one, because if other kids saw you in sissy gear like that, they’d beat the crap out of you.
Israelis were known as the survivors of the worst genocide in modern history, and Palestinians were thought of as just a bunch of Arab Nazis pretending to be the victims of Jewish tyranny.
A rich person was somebody you aspired to be like, not somebody you sought to punish.
Communism was an almost treasonous concept that only doped-up, America-hating hippies experimented with.
Every classroom in my grammar school had a Christmas tree in it at Christmas time, and if any parent had complained and tried to force us to remove them, that person’s car would have ended up with sugar in its gas tank, a busted windshield, four flat tires and the words ‘Merry Christmas’ spray-painted on its hood.
Our heroes were people like George Washington, Neil Armstrong, Mother Teresa, Thomas Edison, Amelia Earhart, Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, General George S. Patton and Albert Einstein.
We understood that the Vietnam War wasn’t lost by U.S. military forces, it was lost by incompetent politicians in Washington DC.
Only wimps played tee-ball.
Most folks had home computers, although they were more commonly known as calculators.
After school, on weekends and during the summer months – unless the weather was particularly bad – kids could be found outside playing with their friends. We didn’t hang around inside, watching TV or playing board games before dinner, and even if we’d wanted to do that, our parents would have forbade it.
Most black voters were Republicans.
Popular music was incredibly diverse, and most performers knew how to play instruments, compose complex melodies and lyrics, and sing entire songs without proving to their audiences that some notes can, indeed, be strangled to death.
Able-bodied people who received public assistance were pitied by other folks, and most of them felt shame for allowing themselves to become dependent on the government for their sustenance.
Nobody played any game just for the fun of it. That’s why we always kept score. If you weren’t playing to win, the game was pointless.
If you saw a grown man cry, it was probably because either his mother or his dog had just died or his team lost the World Series or Super Bowl.
It was mostly Europeans who thought of Hitler’s Nazi party as a right-wing political movement. Americans generally understood what the term National Socialist implied.
Reality TV shows included Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Candid Camera and The Undersea World Of Jacques Cousteau.
We didn’t need government warming labels on everything. We knew that electrical appliances were dangerous if used improperly, that smoking was bad for you, that swallowing things like marbles and those little, plastic, toy soldiers could choke you to death, and that placing a scalding hot cup of coffee between your thighs while riding in a car was as good a way as any of proving to emergency room staff just how freakin’ stupid some people can be.
Books were more popular than food stamps.
Respect was something that your parents were entitled to, your friends earned, and politicians pretended they deserved.
Gas station attendants didn’t just take your money, they pumped your gas, washed your windshield, checked your oil level and even applied a pressure gauge to your tires if you asked them to. And their service didn’t cost you a penny extra.
Only teenage boys bragged to their friends about having sex, especially when they hadn’t. Most teenage girls denied that they’d had sex, especially when they had.
Heavy drinkers didn’t have a disease, they simply lacked self-control. Diseases were things you had no control over.
A liberal was an open-minded, intellectually honest individual who looked at all sides of an issue before arriving at a thoughtful conclusion, not a scatterbrained, reactionary jackass whose natural inclination was to spout socialist theory as a default position on practically every topic.
Everybody who was born in America was a native American.
Men were builders, risk-takers, hunters, warriors, protectors and heads of their households. Women were refiners, nesters, nurturers, teachers and disciplinarians who were usually willing to let their male counterparts delude themselves into thinking that men were the heads of their households.
Most folks understood the difference between discrimination and bigotry.
Marriage was an institution that a man and a woman entered into when they wanted to exhibit their commitment to one another, their willingness to accept adult responsibilities, and their desire to legitimize their offspring. It had nothing to do with making a political point.
Teenagers bringing guns to their high schools was commonplace – especially during hunting season – and anyone who complained about such a thing was generally considered a nutcase.
Illegal aliens were called illegal aliens by practically everyone, because that term best described foreigners who’d snuck into our country in defiance of our laws.
The greatest movie ever made was The Great Escape.
On the scale of human trustworthiness, the vast majority of politicians fell somewhere between used car salesmen and coke whores. In fact, the only people who ever exhibited any level of trust in politicians were the people who had enough money to buy them off.
Plumbers were more respected than Harvard law students.
My friends and I genuinely cared about nature because we spent a lot of time hanging out in it. We went into the woods and built forts, fished in streams, and made campfires, employing the lessons we’d learned in the Boy Scouts and from studying American Indian cultures. We respected nature because we knew what nature really was; a hostile, unforgiving place that would kill you if you didn’t know your way around it. We loved the challenge of the wilderness, and soldiering through it made us appreciate our cushy home lives all the more.
Making fun of other kids or calling them names – while generally frowned upon – wasn’t considered bullying. A bully was a guy who punched you in the head and took your lunch money.
The President of the United States wasn’t a father figure to anybody but his own kids.
Mainstream news reporters were pretty much the same sort of biased, dim-witted, arrogant, ass clowns that they are today, only we didn’t have the internet at our disposal to easily prove just how unreliable they were.
Video games were things you played at arcades, unless you were lucky enough to get an Atari Pong console for Christmas.
Abortion wasn’t a privacy issue, it was a moral issue, and people who committed abortions weren’t “pro-choice”, they were baby killers.
The application of oil and its byproducts to run machinery and generate electricity was widely understood to be as important to the advancement of human civilization as the discovery and utilization of fire, the practices of cultivating crops and breeding livestock, and the development of a written language.
Nobody I knew gave half a damn what people in other countries thought about anything.
Concepts like honor, integrity, courage and chivalry were alive and well.
The United States of America was the greatest nation in the history of the world, bar none, and just about every American school kid knew why. Our brilliantly conceived Constitution, Judeo-Christian ethic, free market economic system, adherence to the rule of law and willingness to embrace people from every culture on Earth made us great, and we were conspicuously proud of that fact.
Mary Hopkin - Those Were the Days 1968
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