I come from such an interesting time. Like others, my family moved from a busy neighborhood to something quiet. We went from the active street behind Queens Boulevard to a less active, certainly quiet town away from the boroughs and into the suburban life. I have pictures of my old home somewhere. When we first moved in, the siding was brown on our two story cape. Our street was one of the main ones in the neighborhood. Across from us was a large empty field, several acres in size, bordered and separated by mound of dirt, which traced the outline of the vacant lot. Only, this was no ordinary field or vacant lot. This was once part of Roosevelt Air Field. I lived across the street from actual history that was left behind with only remnants of the old roads and fire hydrants to tell stories of its past. Else, it was nothing more than a field, or to us kids, it was a playground with tall grass, a few trails to walk through, and trails for dirt bikes and motor cross racing.
I was young when we moved here. Our country was also young, if not just younger than it is now and moving through a pubescent phase of time. There was still a sense of innocence to us. We were somewhat advanced as a society but still, we were absolutely clueless in too many ways. We were a super power in the world.
People stood for the flag without question. Yes, we had our differences and yes, as a country, we had our share of problems. We had respect, however. Our differences were our differences and our problems as a nation filtered down into our communities. There was racism. There was inequality and struggles with faith and freedom. There were certainly real problems during this time. Perhaps we were less interested in crying about them and more concerned with fixing the problems back then. There was no debates. There was no arguments between parent and child. For the most part, a mom or dad’s rule was law. Children were disciplined and taught respect. Had they not learned the easy way at home, they were certain to learn the hard way elsewhere.
Ford was president at this time. We were pulling out and ending our involvement with Vietnam. Nixon was Gone and so was his threat. The North Vietnamese came down to take over the South. We were mourning and healing with the return of soldiers that were never properly received or arrived with so much as a “Thank you,” for their efforts or a “Welcome home,” after witnessing the worst kinds of battle.
The fashion was certainly different then. There was still a trace of innocence to our country. Perhaps one could argue in this case; we were only innocent because we were ignorant (and ignorance is bliss). We were certainly less informed and no different from today, we were spoon fed the news and given accurate reports on unimportant instances. Meanwhile, the important news, which was pertinent to our life, had been altered to something more suitable for the family viewer and often remained inaccurate. We were before the era of technology. This was before our society was flooded with an overabundance of information and misinformation. We knew less. We saw less. We interacted more and we lived more.
Somehow, there was a trade here. We had what we had and lacked what we lacked. But we were fine with this. There were no microwaves. It took time to cook and prepare meals, which is why we all sat down as a family at dinner time.
“Your mother worked very hard on this meal and we’re going to sit down as a family to enjoy it, even if it kills us!” is one of the more famous lines from this time. Family time was certainly more important then.
My parents moved us to a small house on Merrick Avenue with hopes to build and create a better world. We were in the suburbs now. We had the advantage of a smaller town’s life. The streets were mainly quiet and crime was less threatening then. There was so much promise to this new house to which, my Old Man took to right away. He remodeled the home to look exactly as he wanted. He changed the bedrooms around, converting the downstairs master into a large den, or family room. Entering through the front door, our living room was on the left, which led to the dining room, and then the kitchen was next to this with a door leading out to the backyard.
My older brother had his room on the ground floor. His was in the rear corner of the house next to the bathroom. We only had one bathroom. This meant everyone needed to understand how to move quickly and efficiently in the morning.
There was only one television in the house. It was large in frame, but the screen itself was small. This is where life happened. This room is where we sat as a family. We watched shows together. We laughed together. Come Sunday, this was where The Old Man watched football games. We ate in this house. We grew and we lived.
We had a yard with a tree. We had a place for the dogs to run and play. Our home was not the largest. It was not the smallest either. Our yard was not a large plot of land. It was certainly larger than anything we would have had with apartment living.
We played outside. We went to the baseball fields down the block. We drank C&C Cola, and ate hot dogs there. This is when I learned an important lesson in life. I learned the proper mixture of toppings necessary to make a hot dog taste as good as it does. I tried other toppings. Onions and mustard are good. Ketchup alone is not bad. I prefer it this way—mustard, ketchup, and sauerkraut. This went best with an oversized pretzel, and of course, C&C cola was the drinks they sold at the ball field. They also sold White Rock. this is when I learned what grape soda tasted like and orange too. We had little league games here. I played t-ball as soon as I was old enough. Parents went to the games and cheered for their children. As I remember best, there was a parade through our town on baseball season’s opening day. I was so little then. My baseball hat was bigger than my head. The glove I used was bigger than my upper body, and my scrawny, bony legs hardly filled out the pants I wore.
Our teams were sponsored by local businesses. It seemed as if the entire town showed up on game day. There was a better sense of concern and involvement with our community. Summertime was unparalleled to any other. It snowed in winter. Fall was the fall and springtime was a new promise at life.
There was pride in this time. People in the community cared for their homes. Many homes had the American Flag waving from the front doorstep. We loved ourselves and we loved our community.
To put this in perspective, when we first move in, the average cost of a home at this time was approximately $39,000. The average income was approximately $14,000. A ford Mustang cost just a little more than $4,000. Opec decided to raise crude oil prices by 10% and barrel of oil cost $13.00
Patty Hearst was arrested for bank robbery. Ali beat Frazier in Manila. Saturday Night Live made its debut on NBC, and Springsteen released the album, Born to Run. We moved here in 1975. I was three years old.
I grew up in a time and town where it was safe for a boy to be a boy. I was able to grow and see the different seasons. Year after year, I was a little bit taller.
My time of awareness and my decade to be a kid was the 80’s. Fashion was certainly different. We had no computers games or handheld devices. We had an imagination. We played games together. We were forced to interact with each other. In truth, it was a beautiful time.
By junior high school, I saw my first truly beautiful girl. Granted, I was too shy to talk to her. I watched her though. I saw her walking towards the bus ramps with a small radio in her hand. She was listening to Led Zeppelin and the song was Black Dog.
I had my first girlfriend that year. And granted, this only lasted three or maybe four days—at least it happened. At least I learned what it was like to kiss a girl on the lips and feel the swirl in my stomach.
I have been filtering through a series of old movies from my childhood. Each movie represents a different part of my teenage life. Some of these parts were the best parts. Some were the out of hand parts. Some of these movies represent the wild times and the need for thrill. Other movies represent the struggle I went through and act as a measuring stick to my social awkwardness.
I suppose I watch movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High because it reminded me of some of the fun times. I assume the ending of Sixteen Candles is what set the stage for every girl in my generation. This is what they wanted. They wanted love to appear like it did at the end of this movie where Jake Ryan waited for Sam across from a church. His back leaned against a red Porsche. His outfit was cool and so was his hair. Sam was an average girl with an average life on a day when no one, including her own family, remembered her birthday. She sold her underwear to geek played by Anthony Michael Hall, and thus, a generation of moves were bred from these actors and actresses.
Of course, there was The Breakfast Club, which represented one person from each of the social groups in high school. There was a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. They were all stuck in a room on a weekend as a means of detention. Their differences were obvious; however, their similarities were poignant, incredible, and painfully real. This was an accurate representation of our time. I understood this. I felt it.
I drove by the old home last week. I thought about the backyard and how it looked when I was a boy. My dog Tammy was buried underneath the tree in the back yard. We used to have a little aluminum rowboat in the far, back corner. This is when I was very small. I used to sit in the rowboat for hours and pretend to fish. I sat their quietly and peacefully without understanding the threats of terror or the wars at hand. I didn’t need a computer. I had my imagination to keep me occupied.
This is when and where I came from. In a few days, I will be entering my 44th year of life. I have grown and aged quite considerably since this time. I now have a family of my own. I have a home and live in a small quiet community. I have political interests and I curse at the opposing ones on television. I curse at the news anchors and call them liars. I hate the weatherman. I hate presidential debates and both candidates for the upcoming election. Same as my Old Man before me, I moved here away from the hustle of the boroughs and Long Island traffic with hopes to make my world a little better.
I wonder though. I wonder of all childhoods always seem innocent when we look back. I agree society has degraded. No one goes outside anymore. Parents have accepted the trade and allow their children to sit mindlessly in front of a computer; whereas in our time, our parents told us lies like, “Too much television is no good for you. You could go blind. Now, go outside!”
Parents today can’t tell their children this. Children today have Google and they have computerized search engines to disprove our parenting lies. We never had anything like that. I didn’t have Google. I had my Old Man and The Old Man knew everything. Even if we did have Google when I was a young boy—my Old Man would beat up Google if they told him he was wrong.
Today, everything our children want to know is no further away than push of a button. When I was a kid we had to work for our research. And no kid wants to work. Maybe this is why we learned and loved to play more. Everything else required too much effort.
I’m wondering what would happen . . .
If we decided to make life less easy for our children; if we decided to make them work for their research and go through life with actual experience, would they improve? Would we improve as a society? Would we be less lazy and more interested in living instead of looking for a computer application that lives for us?
Back when we first moved into the house on 277 Merrick Avenue, we had so much less than we do now. Or maybe I have this wrong. Maybe we had more then and somehow, we let technology take all this away.
You’ll have to excuse me now. Since The Old Man isn’t around anymore, I’ll have to go ask Google the answer to these questions.