When I Was a Kid…

All parents find themselves repeatedly, incessantly, and annoyingly at some point saying to their kids, “When I was a kid…[this or that].” Since I have three kids spread so far apart in age, I’m always a bit surprised when I realize I haven’t told one of them something about when I was a kid. And with the little one, who knows what I’ll remember about those times once she’s a teenager! Because it’s during those teen years when the differences become so stark and shocking. So here is my list of all those annoying statements so that my kids can read them over and over again (and so I can remember them later on). It’s the best way to measure the changes in the times, I think, when it comes to growing up.

When I was a kid…

  1. There were only three channels on the TV, and the TV turned off at midnight! Or it went to static. Remember static?!
  2. There was lots of static!
  3. There was only AM radio! With lots of static.
  4. There was no VCR, DVR, or Tivo. You either saw a show or you didn’t.
  5. Half of the shows were in black and white.
  6. Phones were actually attached to the wall. You were lucky if it had an extralong cord, then you could walk around a little bit.
  7. Of course, there were no cellphones, no texting, no email, so if you went out and you didn’t tell anyone where you were, someone would have to search for you or they would have to ask friends. Real friends.
  8. There was no Facebook. No Twitter. No Pinterest or Instagram.
  9. Cameras required film, and you had to WAIT to see your pictures—sometimes for months, if you forgot to take your film in to be developed. Unless you had a Polaroid. Then you had to wait a minute to see your pictures.
  10. People smoked everywhere. Even in school. And in hospitals, and definitely at work and in all restaurants. The whole world smelled of smoke. All clothes smelled of smoke.
  11. People didn’t exercise unless they were athletes training to go professional. And you had to be a boy to do that. Girls didn’t really do sports.
  12. Gym was stupid and mostly consisted of dodgeball and square dancing.
  13. Girls went to “Home Ec” and learned how to sew buttons on clothes and make cinnamon rolls. Boys went to “Shop” and learned how to use a power saw.
  14. If you wanted to buy stuff you had to go to a store, and most of the stores were “downtown.”
  15. For music, you could listen to records or 8-tracks. 8-tracks were considered very modern and enabled you to listen to artists like Carole King and Johnny Mathis while being driven around in station wagons while not wearing seatbelts.
  16. Concert tickets cost $8.
  17. If you wanted to eat organic food, you had to grow it yourself, find a co-op run by some hippies, or go to the health food store that smelled funny.
  18. If you ate organic food, people would make fun of you and think you were really weird and not normal.
  19. Also, if you ate “health food,” it didn’t taste very good and no one wanted to be your friend.
  20. No one ate olive oil that I knew of. We used Mazola Corn Oil for everything.
  21. Pasta was not called pasta; it was called noodles.
  22. Everybody got sunburned. All the time.
  23. The only movies you could watch were the ones playing in the theatre.
  24. Sometimes, in the movies, there were intermissions and the theatres had curtains that opened and closed.
  25. Cadillacs came in purple. I know because my grandfather had one.
  26. If you wanted to write, you either wrote on paper or typed on a typewriter and if you made a mistake, you had to use Wite-Out or erase or type the whole thing over again.
  27. Women were simply NOT executives, chefs*, politicians, doctors, lawyers, firemen, policemen, or Army guys or artists.
  28. Women WERE teachers, nurses, secretaries, waitresses, or art teachers.
  29. * The only exception was Julia Child, but she didn’t really have a restaurant so she wasn’t a real chef, and she talked funny. Seriously, I remember having arguments about this in the backseat of a station wagon with a boy neighbor, and we were not wearing seatbelts at the time.
  30. Wonder Bread and Sunbeam were the standard breads. You could NOT ever get a loaf of whole wheat, multigrain bread with a crust unless you a) made it yourself or b) went to Germany.
  31. If you got in a fight with someone, you either had to talk the person or write a note or ignore him or her for the rest of your life.
  32. In school we wrote notes to each other for illegal fun. I still have some of them. They last longer than texts.
  33. If you wanted the news, you either had to read the newspaper or watch the morning or evening news, or know someone who did.
  34. If you wanted to share the news, you either had to call someone and repeat it or cut out the article and mail it or send it interoffice mail if you worked in an office.
  35. Skype was science fiction!



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32 Responses to When I Was a Kid…

  1. Tim Knecht January 30, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    “There were only three channels on the TV, and the TV turned off at midnight! Or it went to static. ”

    Remember that damned round, black-and-white, patterned thing that was on the screen if there was no show?

    AND, we had to actually get up OFF THE SOFA, cross the room, and change channels BY HAND! Oh, the agony……

  2. Nikki Lindqvist January 30, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    Love it!

  3. Mary January 30, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    This is a great list! My mom is Italian, so we did have olive oil and all kinds of pasta. Buying olive oil (by the gallons) was an annual event because our local store didn’t carry it. And… I wish I still had some of my school notes 🙂

  4. Rebecca Bennett January 30, 2013 at 11:48 am #


  5. Renee January 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    And our family had ONE car. Which meant my mom walked to the grocery store – around the corner – with 3 or 4 children in tow – to do her weekly shopping. And one of the teenagers who worked at the store delivered it to our house by pulling it in a wagon up the hill. My dream is to shop in a grocery store with the EXACT same number of SKUs that existed in 1967. Had everything we needed.
    And love that my grandparents’ black wall phone had their own number listed in the center circle starting with BLackbird, instead of 2-5.
    Love your list!!

  6. Melissa January 30, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Wonderful – thank you for the trip down memory lane, especially #15! Our station wagon had wood-look sides and a luggage rack. My Dad said we didn’t need air conditioning because we had “flow through air”. I’m going to share this list with my family. It’s too good to keep to myself!

  7. ruthie January 30, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    great list.
    hey renee….i don’t think there were SKU’s back then! 🙂
    and don’t forget the national anthem with the flag waving before the static came on at midnight.
    no seat belts meant older sisters got to sprawl across the big seats in the fury II, younger sisters were relegated sometimes to the footwells.
    my mom went door-to-door to collect for the heart association or whatever other groups and she would stand and visit with each neighbor for a while. i loved to go with b/c they would talk and talk and share all the news of their families and so on…no on-line donation button. sigh.

  8. Donna January 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    I also remember my aunts kitchen full of women trying on the newest shades of lipstick from the Avon Lady, a neighbor, in those tiny little lipstick containers! This was all happening while sharing coffee or tea.

  9. Peggy January 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    In the summer, we went outside to play, until we got hungry or it got dark, and then we came home. Mothers didn’t worry until someone didn’t show up for supper and we all made a search party. I remember toddlers out with 5 year old big brothers watching them.

  10. Hope January 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Home movies, which also had to be developed and had no sound, were played on a big projector onto a free-standing screen or a sheet. Oh, and slides were good, too.

  11. betty January 30, 2013 at 4:41 pm #

    I lived in a community of self-sustaining farms. We all ate organic food, but we didn’t know to call it organic. I’m glad the smoking is out, but I really like all the others. Wish we could return to the same TV and phone service; then, maybe teens would study and get some sleep. These were good and sensible times. Change is not always an improvement.

  12. Laura K. January 31, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Most of this list brought back great feelings. You know, except for the smoking bit and thinking about bare legs sticking to the seats of that station wagon in hot weather. I wonder if kids today will have the same feelings when they look back at their childhood.

  13. Kathy D February 4, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    What about sleeping in summer with your head at the foot of the bed so you could catch a breeze from the window? Or car trips with games (counting out of state license plates or how many VW’s you saw, etc.) to keep the kids occupied in the backseat instead of videos?

  14. C February 6, 2013 at 11:39 am #

    So simple an era, in many ways it was a kinder, gentler time; funny how everyone seemed happier or more satisfied then.

  15. Amy February 6, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    School reports? (Now “research papers.”) What a nightmare! We lived out of town and road the bus and my parents would not have even considered a trip to the library. 12 miles away! Think of the gas! So we used my aunt and uncle’s ancient set of World Book Encyclopedia and faked other sources. They lived a mile away and we could ride our bikes. Then we’d get a reprimand for poor grades on same reports.

  16. Karen February 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Love this list! I started having flashbacks to all these childhood moments!

  17. Keeder February 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    I remember watching Friday night comedy. My dad would take me to the local convenience store where I would get cheese doodles and a coke for my tv viewing. The adults would be in the kitchen playing cards! What a simple, cozy memory – very thankful for it! The 50’s, 60’s and first half of the 70’s were definitely a more peaceful time to grow up.

  18. Malcolm White February 6, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Stores closed at 5pm, and they rolled up the sidewalks downtown. They closed at noon on Saturday and nothing was open on Sunday. Unless you were lucky enough to live in the city. When it was hot in the summer you opened the windows. Dogs didn’t have to be on a leash. Grandma made her own noodles and hung them to dry on strings all over the kitchen. Mom knew how to sew and made clothes for the family. If something got torn she mended it. There was only one kind of sneakers. We had family reunions every year and played “pass the button.” We went swimming in a water hole and caught crawdads. You got to ice skate when the ponds froze in the winter. Mom raised chickens and we had fresh eggs every day. Nothing was sold in blister packs; the stores had bins full of toy soldiers and rubber balls. You had to wind your watch. Someone filled the gas tank, washed your windows, checked your oil and aired your tires, with a smile, and didn’t expect a tip. You could lay in the back window of the car and look at animals in the clouds.

  19. Edwin Losiewicz February 6, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

    Your just a kid. I remember running downstairs on Saturday mourning yo listen to the kid shows om the radio. When we got the first T.V. in the neighborhood, everyone wanted to know where the projector was and how we changed the films.

  20. Abby February 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    How about walking 2 miles to the bus stop for school, and having a “party line” phone line?

  21. Linda February 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    Smiles!!!! Great list of memories.

  22. Linda February 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Abby, Your right, she missed that one. LOL. Party lines OMG!!! Remember the phone numbers started with letters not numbers too.

  23. Nancy February 6, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    And…no weather channel. You looked at the sky and if it was summer and dark clouds appeared, it meant rain. If it was winter and cold and dark clouds appeared you guessed it might snow.

  24. Dakota Sunshine February 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Only needed 3 TV channels. What was there to watch? Ed Sullivan, Lassie, and Captain Kangaroo!

  25. Kathryn February 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Great list! Not only was our phone on a wall, we had a party line. I swear that the old PA Dutch couple next door got their kicks listening to my mother talking to her sisters on a Saturday night!

  26. Jodi Pollock February 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    I remember buying groceries and someone in line was talking about how one day we will be able to pay for things with a card, and the money would come right out of our bank account!

  27. Donna in Delaware February 7, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Ditto to all of the above! You could get 15 to 20 bags of groceries for $100.00. You didn’t have to lock your doors at night, you could be out until 2 in the morning, and your parents didn’t worry (and this was in the neighborhood or someone else’s neighborhood. Girls couldn’t wear pants to school, if you did in winter, you had to slip into the bathroom and take them off, before going to class. We had about 4 channels on the tv. The milkman delivered your dairy items unless you wanted to go to the supermarket. We had a partyline on our phone too! Lovely princess phones and yes, a kitchen wall phone with a long curly cord, if not, we sure did stretch that cord until it couldn’t go any further, much to our parents chagrin! LINDA, our number was EL 543-21. Unbelievable! This is fun, remembering. We played outside until we couldn’t play anymore. Out summer camp was vacation bible school! The kids shared everything. The ice cream came to you by way of a truck, that was highly anticipated. You used fans in the summer and sprays of water from a hose in the back yard to cool off (air-conditioning, what’s air-conditioning?) open the windows and let the hot air in at night why don’t you? There was a Blue Law. No alcohol sold on Sundays, and barely Saturdays.

  28. Donna in Delaware February 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    I still have my old report cards from grade school and notes that teachers wrote home to my mother about me. If you did something wrong, your parents knew about before you got halfway home because a neighbor saw it and reported it! Couldn’t get away with much!
    You never embarrassed your parents in public! Never!

  29. Donna in Delaware February 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Pole Lamps, lava lights, and console TV/stereo combos!

  30. janay February 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    hula hoops, homemade stilts, chopping kindling & filling wood box for wood burning cook stove, mowing w/push lawn cutter (NO motor!!!) – the phone – what a kick – ours was WAbash 🙂 thanks for the memories

  31. Deb February 11, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    And, my parents friends were all Mr. and Mrs. **. Old folks got respect just for being old. We all ‘dressed up’ to go to church (another sign of respect) and wore our ‘Sunday manners’ as well.

  32. Roberta February 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    My childhood was WWII in Austin, TX. No TV, no air conditioning,. We had gas rationing, food rationing. We played outdoors and made up our own games. Movies cost 9 cents. On summer evenings my mother would stand barefoot in a pan of cold water that had melted from the icebox and do the ironing. We kids would be sprawled on the floor coloring in our coloring books while listening to Inner Sanctum, I Love a Mystery and others. Happy memories! However I really appreciate modern medicine, the internet, seat belts and other wonders.

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