Perspectives: The way it was, things our kids will never experience

Photo by Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images; St. George News

OPINION – Just for fun, I recently asked my Facebook friends to name something their kids or grandkids will never experience. It turned out to be an eye-opening exercise.

Their answers ran the gamut from funny and nostalgic to somber and deeply philosophical. If nothing else, it was remarkable to be reminded of all the things that used to be a normal part of life that have vanished forever.

Card catalog drawers | Public domain photo via Pixabay, St. George News

There were times when I wasn’t certain whether a respondent was being insightful or being a buzzkill. Some truths had a bit of a sting to them.

For me, the answer is living in a world without computer screens. We happily learned things the old-fashioned way by exploring and seeking out the information we needed.

We read books and encyclopedias and learned the Dewey decimal system so we could utilize the card catalog at the library. It was actually fun to get the latest magazine in the mail.

Today, if our Wi-Fi goes down, we act like we’ve been transported back to the Stone Age.

A number of respondents mentioned how our means of staying in touch have changed. We wrote letters by hand and mailed them to each other. For people far from home, receiving a book of stamps was better than getting a $5 bill.

Rotary payphones | Public domain via Pixabay, St. George News

Kids today are mystified by rotary dial telephones. They can’t imagine a time when the phone was connected to the wall and you had to stretch the cord around the corner if you wanted any privacy.

Those were the days when you could have the satisfaction of slamming the phone down as you hung up on a jerk – a sensation no cellphone can give. Prior to caller ID, a clever kid with time on his hands could pull off a surprising number of prank calls in total anonymity.

Youngsters today can’t imagine how terrible it must have been for us to call a telephone number and for the person we were calling to not be at that location. There were no answering machines for most folks.

The only thing we could do was wait and try later or leave a message if someone else answered. We had no way to launch a barrage of texts demanding to know why that person wasn’t answering our calls.

And yet, somehow, life went on.

A title card still from the April 4, 1968, edition of the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, the evening of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. | Photo by source, fair use, via Wikipedia, St. George News

More than a few responses referred to the days when we rode in the back of pickup trucks or traveled across the country in the family vehicle without a single seat belt or car seat to protect us.

We rode our bikes without helmets and drank from nonculinary-grade garden hoses, and still, somehow, we survived to tell the tales.

One friend spoke of a time when we could walk our loved ones all the way to their gate at the airport and kiss them goodbye and then watch their plane fly away. Going to the airport today is nothing like the days when we could freely walk about without being manhandled, intimidated and ordered about.

Some who posted on the thread spoke of how our consumption of news has changed. Instead of being bombarded by news around the clock with pithy crawling banners at the bottom of the TV screen, the news was published or came on the TV once a day.

We had three networks to pick from, and for the most part, the newscasters stuck to the facts and left it up to their viewers to decide what it all meant. It’s interesting that the term “fake news” wasn’t necessary when the news media didn’t regard itself as enforcers of allowable opinion.

Some respondents spoke of how a child growing up beneath the smothering obsession with public safety isn’t likely to enjoy the kind of genuine freedom to be a kid that most of us did.

Norman Rockwell’s “No Swimming,” the cover for The Saturday Evening Post, published June 4, 1921 | Image of painting by Norman Rockwell via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

It wasn’t uncommon during the summer to go outside to play until dark with no adult supervision whatsoever. No one called child protective services on our parents.

Kids in rural areas were free to hunt and fish or swim in canals, rivers and ponds. And no one batted an eye at a kid riding his bike or walking to the outskirts of town with a rifle or shotgun over his shoulder.

Back then, neighbors would smile and wave and not a single one of them was concerned that you might be a terrorist.

How do you suppose that would play out today?

Look, it’s one thing to simply look back with fondness on a time when we had less responsibilities and common sense was more common. It’s clear, however, that some of what’s being touted as progress reflects a clear mental shift towards servility.

We can embrace the technological advances that have improved our lives while still actively preserving what’s worth keeping for future generations.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events viewed through the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • Craig June 5, 2017 at 11:21 am

    Very nice. I hope we learn from this.

  • comments June 5, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    All I can say is… we gettin’ old, Bryan. We gettin’ old …… haha

    Kids today are content to stare at their handheld devices basically every waking minute. I see it every day. Strange times.

  • DB June 5, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Three thoughts…To ‘comments’, I live on a golf course and have seen kids walk across the fairway without even looking up from their phones. Strange times? Our parents probably said the same thing. I remember answering the phone and hearing that hissing sound…LONG DISTANCE!, usually not good news.

    We lived in CA, our relatives in PA. We’d fly back and forth every few years on those ‘dangerous’ planes. When arriving safely home, we’d place a ‘person to person’ call to the loved ones in the other state. The relative receiving the call would of course say “she’s not here”, both alerting all that we didn’t crash and saving the cost of of a call. Any young person reading this has no idea what I’m talking about…

  • desertgirl June 5, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    The liberal progressives would like to replace humans with robots; probably not far off and as unreal as it may sound.

  • r2d2 June 5, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Good article. I forgot about the person to person call. That was funny. It was $49.00 for 3 minutes from the Philippines. Gas wars, rubbing mercury onto dimes, short hair cuts or you got sent home from school, cigarette vending machines, drive in movies. I miss them all.

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