This is why today feels like an alien planet to oldies like me. I have added to the ideas in this email currently going the rounds…
There are two aspects to this. How it was when we were kids and how it was when we became Parents. Then, life didn’t change very rapidly, so much of what applied to me as a kid, also applied to my children. Some things were REALLY BETTER then. My next post will be on some things that were REALLY WORSE then.
We survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos. We smoked and/or drank while we carried our own children. The modern horrors of doing so didn’t seem apparent in any way.
We took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can. We ate for two when we were pregnant. And we just ate well at other times and didn’t get tested for diabetes, breast cancer or cervical cancer. It didn’t seem common. Not too many people were fat.
After that trauma of childbirth we recuperated in hospital so we could cope when we got home. We drove home proudly carrying our new babies in our arms in the front passenger seat. Our baby cots when we were in them were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints, but we were aware it was not good for our own babies. Our babies slept on their stomachs or propped on their sides so they wouldn’t choke on their own vomit.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. We rode in the back of pickups – it was the best fun.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Babies sat in baby seats that simply hung over the back of the seat. There were no headrests.We weren’t strapped into car seats or booster seats.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We did not have plastic bottles. Liquids came in glass bottles that we recycled for extra pocket money by returning them to the shop.
Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds , KFC, Subway or Nandos. There was no convenience food in the shops. Restaurants were what rich people went to. Everything we ate was made by our Mums or, as Mums ourselves, we made everything from scratch.
Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn’t open on the weekends, somehow we didn’t starve to death! We had to stock up for the weekend, or really stock up before Christmas, New Year or Easter – or Bank Holiday weekends. Chicken was really special and we had it roast on Sundays. Sundays were a special day. Mushrooms only grew in fields not in sheds.
You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time. We made our own Christmas decorations and Christmas trees were real. Rich people could afford to buy Christmas Decorations.
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We swapped Measles, Mumps, Chicken Pox and Whooping Cough. Everyone got these illnesses. You got to stay off school!
Boys would collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Sweet Cigarettes, Gob stoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. Little kids played “doctors and nurses” to learn stuff like their parents did.
We also ate biscuits, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because we were always outside playing. We had midnight snacks of condensed milk and sardines if our friends stayed over. Girls didn’t know much about sex and the boys were equally ignorant. If we kissed we worried we might fall pregnant. Being really bold was to have a puff on someone’s Dad’s stolen cigarette.
On weekends we would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. To phone home we had to use the Telephone Booth. With a hairpin in the workings, we could get free calls.
Boys would spend hours building go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out they forgot the brakes. Girls and boys built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii , X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY, no video/dvd films, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms. Seeing a live picture of someone talking to you from far away was science fiction – unimaginable.
Boys were given air guns and catapults for their 10th birthdays. They rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!
Girls did not play Rugby or Cricket or Soccer. Rugby and Cricket had try outs and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that. Getting into the team was based on merit. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes or throw things at us. By the time we had children, they were still doing that – mostly. But now they added weird activities like standing with your nose on the wall during break, to avoid the growing criticism of physical abuse.
A punishment for swearing was having your mouth washed out with soap. If you were really bad, you got spanked. If we were really really bad – there were “the police”. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law. Neighbours and strangers pulled us up if we were found misbehaving. We belonged to a neighbourhood. It felt safe.
Only girls had pierced ears or wore earrings and jewellery. They wore girly clothes and curled their hair. When we were girls, most Mums didn’t have to go to work to help dad make ends meet. Divorce was unconventional.Our parents didn’t invent strange names for their kids like ‘Kiora’ and ‘Blade’ and ‘Ridge’ and ‘Vanilla.
No one went to “Psychologists” or “Psychiatrists” – you just got on with things if life was horrid.
We must be a really strong bunch to survive all that – and we are still going!
That was before scientific “statistics”, government “nannying” or the “blame” culture.
Of course some things were REALLY WORSE then. But more about that later…