I have wondered recently just how I managed to got through my first 75 years without a lot of things that the youngsters of today believe they just cannot get along without. Heck, I used to say my day was complete if I had just been able to be with friends all day long. Today, the youngsters have all kinds of entertainment. I believe at times they feel that they are to be entertained all the time. When I was young we had to make our own fun, not rely on a gadget to do it for us. We didn’t play video games, we didn’t have any. We would play Monopoly, cards, slips and anything else that might come to mind.
We made a lot of our own toys, such as rubber guns, skate boards of sorts or numerous other things that we found we could make and play with. I had a ball, as did most of my friends, when dad would have a refrigerator box we could play with. That cardboard box became whatever our minds made it. It was a train, car, house, shop; anything we wanted it to be. And it lasted for some time. When it wore out or we lost interest the flattened box made a great sled, summer or winter. In the summer we would wet down the grass and that made the cardboard slide quite well. We even used the container as a fort with our BB guns, something our parents were not aware of nor did any of us care to inform them of.
Hodges Branch ran all the time back then and even had small fish and huge numbers of crawdads in it. We would make homemade boats out of scrap wood and float them down the water all the way to Memorial Park and watch them go underground out to the other end of town. We had baseball leagues in the summer, but if we had a mitt we were happy. Now, my grandsons have a huge bag full that they lug to each and every game and practice. Heck, not all of us even had a baseball let along a baseball mitt. Now, everyone has their own bat, mitt, head gear (which we would never have used, too sissy for us) gloves, balls and numerous other items it is felt needed to play baseball.
If any of us had a dime in our pockets at any one time we felt pretty well heeled. We could get a soft drink, one scoop ice cream cone or even a candy bar for that dime. Our favorite place to shop was Danners Five and Ten or Ben Franklin Five and Ten. They had numerous items that cost a dime or nickel and we knew just what we wanted and could afford; so, we were never in debt. If we couldn’t pay for it we just didn’t get it. No charging or anything like that; cash and carry only in most places. I saved for a couple of weeks to buy my yearly bamboo fishing pole from Fishers Hardware downtown and a new bobber and some hooks from Western Auto.
When I lived on Second Street right by Metzger Lumber Company I would go to their shop and con Bob Fudge into some boards for a boat. He would find a small piece of wood that was not big enough to use and then saw a front and back of a boat, put on a dowel for a sail, even help me find a sail to put on the dowel. Bob was a nice guy and enjoyed the youngsters who stood at the door and dreamed big dreams as they watched him cut those big boards up. It was fun just to stand and watch. We enjoyed the same thing by watching the local Coca Cola Bottling Plant doing their thing on a weekly or even daily basis. We would stand on the sidewalk in front of the plant and watch through large glass windows as they bottled everyone’s favorite drink.
At night, our parents might take us to the bowling alley above the Coke plant. There were only four lanes and some teens got jobs as pin boys. They would pick up the downed pins and put them in a machine that would, when they wanted, drop down and put the pins upright in the correct spot. They also sent the bowling ball back to the player. Some managed to get hurt by being hit with a tossed bowling ball, but it paid fairly well so there was no lack of takers for the job. Everyone had to keep score by hand, too; no computers that did it for you.
To me, the biggest difference between my youth and today’s is we actually talked back and forth. I have seen teens today sitting right across from each other and looking each other in the eye and texting back and forth. This is realistic how? We made do with so little I can’t help but think our youth of today are spoiled with computers. iPads, iPods, Kindles, all kinds of stuff that has come along within the last 30 years or so. Frankly, I am not too sure it is for the best for our future generations.