By Paul Big Bear
“When I was young” when you hear those words how do you feel? Do you roll your eyes and think “Oh please, here we go again” or do you sit and listen. Is this going to be a trip down Guilt Boulevard because you have it so much better or a look at life in another time, your past? “I walked to school, in the snow, uphill both ways.” “When we sat down to dinner we had two choices, eat what was made or don’t eat.”
“I played football, offense and defense.” “At your age I was working all summer.” Then there were the stories of the people, places, and events that stand out like; my father’s story “the time Ed and I went out in his father’s car and drank a full bottle of Rock & Rye and driving home he got sick on the dashboard. His dad was so mad he made him clean it with a toothbrush.” Other “by the time I was your age stories” included neighborhood events, vacations, people that visited, birthdays, holidays, family reunions, and the list goes on. I told my sons that I walked to school every day in sunshine, rain, or snow uphill both ways and they laughed until I took them on a road trip to visit my old neighborhood and showed them that I lived at the top of the hill and would walk down the hill and then up the hill to my school, every day.
My win, but how many stories have I tried to recall the fine points; names of people, towns, events, dates, times oh if only I had taken notes, written something down. Remember we didn’t have cell phones that recorded every move and a social media to share it with the world. We ate meals at set times, watched TV (the only TV we owned) together as a family in the living room, we read books, did homework, we played outside and knew when to be home. The good old days how I wish I could revisit and remember them more clearly, how lucky are our children and grandchildren growing up in a world where you ride a bus to school and you get snow days off, you eat fast food for dinner and families don’t eat together. Everything you do is preserved not only on your phone/camera but on social media and on some electronic storage cloud. At 14 you can take a job as a clerk in a store or work in an office and make over a hundred dollars a week.
“I remember cutting lawns with a reel push mower, shoveling snow with a heavy metal coal shovel, delivering newspapers on my bike, why we even returned bottles and newspapers for money.” If we cleared fifty cents for mowing a lawn or shoveling a driveway or a quarter for a wagon load of soda bottles we had a good week. Yes we worked physical jobs and we learned that if you didn’t work you didn’t have, if we didn’t show up for work we didn’t have a job. We learned responsibility, work ethics, the value of hard work, and we knew the value of money because we didn’t have a credit card, cell phone, computer, and car by the time we were 16. What we had we worked for so good old days? Yes. Have things gotten better? Yes in a lot of ways but things change and each generation has its own “Good old days”, its own comfort foods, how about their own romance. Was ours better? Good question, somehow I feel that when we slow dance then and today to “our song” “Love Me Tender” it still has a lot more sentiment than dancing to something titled “WAP” will ever have.