Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Childhood Back Then

 Remembering my early childhood:

  • We rarely watched television. Our family was the last one on the block to get a TV. It was, of course, black and white and the TV stations stopped broadcasting at midnight.
  • Most people had "party" and not private telephone lines. Everyone was listed in the phone book.
  • Few houses had fences, but some had oleander hedges. There were plenty of irrigation ditches.
  • Kids played all over the neighborhood. A popular game was "kick the can." Those games would last until darkness made play impossible.
  • We read a lot. Even in the summertime, we could check books out of the school library.
  • There was a morning and an evening newspaper. Most people subscribed to one or the other. It seemed like everyone subscribed to LIFE magazine, Reader's Digest, and The Saturday Evening Post. The Book of the Month Club was also popular.
  • My parents were not poor, but money was tight. Buying clothes at rummage sales was common. So were "hand me downs." My older brother got old shirts from a cousin. Those were handed down to me and then to my younger brother.
  • My father worked at the power company. He started as a laborer and worked up to middle management. He would often interrupt family drives to show us a new power station.
  • Every Saturday at noon, the fire stations would test their air raid sirens.
  • It was not unusual to see large spotlights swirling around in the night sky as a way to lure people to a car dealership.
  • My mother "took in ironing." We eventually had an "Iron Rite" machine in our kitchen to expedite the ironing. I got to be pretty good on it.
  • She was also active in the local PTA and the Arizona women's clubs.
  • Neighborhoods had a status and income mix. You had judges living in the same area as plumbers. I knew of no kids who went to private schools. The caliber of the public schools was well-regarded. 
  • There were no blacks living in the immediate neighborhood, but there were several Mexican American families. A Chinese American family owned and ran the local grocery store. The largest family I knew was Irish American. They had nine kids.
  • We had an old encyclopedia that was very outdated. It was a good lesson in not believing everything in print.
  • There were no leash laws. Pets wandered at will.
  • We walked a lot. If you wanted a Coke, you could walk to a soda fountain around a mile away. We thought nothing of walking great distances.
  • Paperback books were 25 cents, then 35 cents, then 50 and 75. I remember buying the paperback version of The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich for $1.25. A little jarring, but it was a big book. Most of our paperback purchases were at the drugstore.
  • Our elementary school had a lot of male teachers. Most of them had served in World War II or the Korean War. Our school principal had been a POW after being shot down over Germany.
  • Across the street lived a man who'd been in the Hitler Youth and served in the German Navy.
  • The men often repaired their own automobiles. My dad rarely took a car to a mechanic.
  • Our pediatrician always had a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes in his pocket. 
  • The elementary school had a Buffalo Barbeque as an annual fundraiser. You had a choice of beef, venison or buffalo meat.
  • There was a lot of emphasis on "do it yourself." The grade schools had Industrial Arts classes for the boys and Home Economics classes for the girls.
  • We had "swamp" coolers instead of air conditioning and yes, we walked to school, but since this was in Phoenix, Arizona we had it easy: there was no snow.


Wally Bock said...

You triggered lots of similar memories. We were one of the few families in town that had a private line, supposedly because my father was a pastor and the conversations might be delicate. This never seemed to me to be a great idea because the operators could always listen in. Our phone number was 4.

We had one of the first televisions in our small town. My father said that we got it so we could watch the coronation of Elizabeth II. After that, though, we watched Milton Berle, and Ed Sullivan. I watched cowboy shows. My parents would invite people over to “watch TV.” that was an event in itself. The invitation never included what it was that we were going to watch together.

Michael Wade said...


"Our phone number was 4."

I am going to be quoting that!

I was also an avid western watcher. Good programs with good values.