When I was a kid I would occasionally hear grownups talk about “the good old days.”
They spoke longingly of an earlier time, when life was slower and sweeter, when neighbors came to one another’s aid during sickness, in times of crisis or when something big like a barn-raising needed to be done.
It all sounded wonderful until I gave it more thought. There were few automobiles, no televisions and only the wealthy had radios and telephones.
Dishes were washed by hand, clothing was cleaned on a washboard and personal bathing was a once-a-week, Saturday night ritual — whether you needed it or not.
There wasn’t even any football, let alone the NFL. What kind of life was that?
Now that I’ve attained official senior citizen status, I find myself turning into my parents and grandparents and I understand their nostalgia. I too long for the good old days.
Television was beamed in black-and-white on a 12-inch screen — 15 inches if you were lucky. Although the screen was tiny, programming was enormous.
Our town only got three channels, but each did what it was supposed to do. Situation comedies like “The Honeymooners” and “I Love Lucy” made us laugh. General entertainment shows like “Ed Sullivan” and “Arthur Godfrey” entertained us, and dramatic series like “Highway Patrol” and “77 Sunset Strip” kept us on the edge of our seat.
Most amazing of all, the nightly news gave us the news — free of the anchor’s opinion.
And parents didn’t need to cover their kids’ eyes and ears during telecasts — it was all wholesome.
That wholesomeness carried over to the big screen as well, where movies were even in color on occasion. Parents could give their kids a quarter, drop them off at the Bijou (or the Loma in my case), and not worry. It was all family entertainment.
That also applied to drive-in theaters. Any X-rated activity on the premises took place in the cars — not on the screen.
Although parents often berated our music, it was similarly G-rated and had the added advantage of having lyrics that were actually understood. One notable exception was “Louie, Louie,” which was called dirty even though no one had a clue what the Kingsmen were actually singing.
I didn’t need a coach or PE instructor to teach me the rudiments of football or baseball. My older brother Bob provided all that in the back yard — and he did a lot better job than any professional coach could have.
Dinner was a time to talk. With my mom’s prompting, everyone related their day’s victories and defeats, homework assignments, and current events. There were four kids in our family, so there was always plenty to talk about.
We were each engaged with one another because there were no iPhones, iPads, or other electronic devices to distract us. There was just us, and that’s the main difference between then and now.
Social media has since replaced actual face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball interaction. The human race needn’t worry about being replaced by robots — we’re willingly turning ourselves into robots.
What television began, social media and personal electronics finished.
We understood our neighbors because we personally interacted. We celebrated their successes without jealousy; we debated political differences without rancor.
We were civilized then.
While walking through a mall recently, I repeatedly altered course to avoid running into people walking the opposite way. They were oblivious to their surroundings. Their faces, void of expression, were concentrated solely on the tiny screen of their smart phone.
Every once in a while we’ll read an item about the possibility of an electronic pulse bomb — a device that would leave buildings intact and people alive, but “fry” and disable anything with electronics.
Motor vehicles would come to a standstill, power plants would be silenced and all electronic devices would become junk.
If that were to happen we’d eventually get back on our feet. But in the intervening years something amazing would happen. We’d start talking again. We would become civilized.
Michael Dorstewitz is a retired lawyer and has been a frequent contributor to BizPac Review and Liberty Unyielding. He’s also a former U.S. Merchant Marine officer and an enthusiastic Second Amendment supporter, who can often be found honing his skills at the range. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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