Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Well, back when I was a kid....

I was born in 1948. I have some very clear recollections of what things were like when I was about 8 years old. The year would be 1956 and by this time we were living in San Pedro, CA. As can be imagined, it was quite a bit different than today.

First of all, my mom didn't smoke or drink while she was pregnant with be but if she did, it was something that wouldn't have caused any concern to anyone. CPS, or Child Protective Services was about 20 years into the future.

She took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

When I came home from the hospital, my baby crib was covered with bright colored lead-based paints. I slept on my stomach and I shared the room with my sister and brother.

There were no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when I rode my bike, I had no helmet and sometimes, no shoes. Hitchhiking was not considered a risk.

Back then, none of the families cars had seat belts and, yes, as a result of a sharp turn, in the back seat, we would slide from one side of the car to the other. The first car that we had with seat belts was my moms 1965 Pontiac Catalina.

If our parents took us with them to the store, we could be left in the car or outside the store with a bag of Fritos without being abducted.

We drank water from the garden hose and bottled water did not exist other than the 5 gal. bottles from Sparkletts.

Buying "take out food" was a very rare event in our house and was from Foster's Old Fashion Freeze on 4th and Gaffey. (15-cent hamburgers, 19-cent cheeseburgers, 20-cent milkshakes and 10-cent sodas). No Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell or Subway. We didn't even know about McDonalds as it was in its infancy.

We ate meals all together as a family. We all ate the same thing at the same time and in the same place; the kitchen table. You ate what you were served, no excuses. My mom had a habit of giving you one more spoonful than you asked for. If you wanted 2 spoonfuls of beans, she would give you 3. If you wanted 1, you get 2. If you didn't want any, you get 1. And you will eat all of it.

Everything closed at 5.30 pm and I do mean everything. If you needed milk or sugar at 6:00 pm, you had to borrow from your neighbor. (7-11 got it's name from the hours that they were open, 7:00 am to 11:00 pm, which was revolutionary but they didn't appear on the West Coast until 1964) And no one was open on Sundays. Yes, getting through a Sunday Bar-B-Que required proper prior planning!

We shared one soda amongst four friends, everyone drank from the same bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. This was usually a 7-cent Coca Cola in a bottle purchased at the "Little Yellow Store" located at the SW corner of Summerland and Bandini (long since gone). It was customary to wipe the opening of the bottle with your shirt after taking a drink and before passing it on. We probably thought that that alone killed cooties.

We would collect used glass soda bottles and cash them in at the "Little Yellow Store" and buy candy and ice cream with the earnings. We shared the candy. Small bottles yielded 2-cents but the bigger Par-T-Pak bottles were 5-cents.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank sodas with real sugar in them, but we weren't overweight because...... WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!

It was common (normal) to leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as I was back when it started to get dark. No, no cell phones or pagers. No one was able to reach me all day. And I was just fine. We would walk to Peck Park Pool, pay 35-cents and spend all day there until it closed. No one ever came by to see if any of us had drowned. That was the lifeguards job.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill on the north side of Oliver Street next to Bandini Street School (only to find out we forgot the about brakes). We built many tree houses and cubby holes and played in the canyon (area behind Mom's house) with our toy trucks (made from stamped and formed steel). We actually would pick teams for a semi-organized "Rock Fight" that also took place in the canyon. Yes, we threw rocks at each other. There was only one requirement that one had to meet in order to play. Well, it was more of a promise than a requirement. And that was that if you were hit with a rock, you would not cry and you wouldn't tell. Ones ability to fulfill that promise was always regulated by the force with which the rock struck you multipled by where the rock struck you. We weren't very good shots but once in a while someone who threw the rock would get lucky and inversly, the one who was struck was not as lucky. Oh well, just another day of wholesome play.

We explored the harbor, the ponds at Averill Park, the woods around Peck Park and any abandoned places we came across, and never drowned or got lost.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound. We had one black and white TV in the living room and with the antenna on the roof, were able to get channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 11. If the weather was clear, you might get channel 12 which was a Spanish language channel. No, in 1958, multi-language anything was an unknown concept. Channel 12 was broadcast from Tijuana, Mexico.

Kites and Yo-Yos had their own season. We made our own kites from newspaper.

We read comics and books and learned to make them last.

There were no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet chat rooms.....BUT.....WE HAD REAL FRIENDS (flesh and blood humans) and we went outside and found them! We rode bikes, we boxed, wrestled, climbed trees, made tree houses, fought and made up.

I was hit by a car, fell out of trees, got cut, and there were no lawsuits as a result of these accidents.

Only girls had pierced ears and long hair and only men had tattoos and short hair.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt (the worms didn't live in us forever).

And in December, there was only one festive holiday....... CHRISTMAS ...... and everyone wished each other a MERRY CHRISTMAS without any concern about being criticized for saying it. Take it or leave it!

I was given an air rifle that shot BBs for my birthday.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them to come out and play!

Little League Baseball actually had tryouts at Peck Park and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with their disappointment (You know, suck it up!). Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on skill and not because of any concept of fairness. Strange but true!

I went to Catholic School from 1st grade through the 8th grade. Our teachers, nuns from Our Lady of the Presentation, would smack the back of your hand with a wooden ruler or smack you on the rear with the belt they carried around their waist, depending on the severity of your crime. Bullies always ruled the playground at school.

The idea of a parent confronting a teacher for using corporal punishment on their children was unheard of. They actually sided with the teachers! As a matter of fact, if you "forced" a teacher to use corporal punishment on you, once your parents found out, and they would, they would most likely punish you with additional corporal punishment. Of course, corporal punishment was not a commonly used term back then. It was referred to as a "spanking" and nothing more. Nobody wanted one but no one died from one either. No big deal. It came with the territory of "being a kid".

We had the freedom to fail, the freedom to succeed and were taught to assume responsibility for either outcome. My mom stressed this to me time and time again when she told me that "If you use it, you put it away, if you dirty it, you clean it, if you break it, you buy it". (Emphasis on "YOU")


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