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The Good Ol' Days

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Those flip phones were totally cool Those flip phones were totally cool

Jinxed

I have always thought that it would be so romantic and “fun” to live back in the days before modern technology took over the world. Before LED lights and digital cameras. My father had a movie camera as big as a toaster oven and while he was filming us, he would be yelling, “stay still,” which kind of defeated the purpose. That could be the reason there are more movies of our family pets, trains and clouds than there are of us kids. 

I think, back in time, I would have been a hunter-gatherer, taking long walks through the trees and bringing back twigs and wood for the fire. I definitely would NOT have been the “fire starter” as I am extremely handicapped in that area. I was almost single-handedly responsible for a forest fire up Trestle Creek, after discovering how well pinecones burned. I just never learned to moderate the use the pinecones properly. Example: pinecones are really good used as tinder, but throwing a five-gallon bucket of pinecones onto a smoldering flame is a very bad idea.

I can imagine a world with no electricity to power up lights, no cell phones, no landlines or X-boxes. My 18th Christmas was spent playing a new TV game system, Atari. Our family spent hours glued to the TV set, watching marathon PONG matches between my sisters and I. It was thrilling to hear the “ping” and then wait for the little ball to cross our 15-inch TV screen to be hit by the paddle, “pong”. There is no way my kids could sit through a game like that now. Atari, however, was an arcade revolution in my little world! 

Old world technology also would mean no microwaves and I am pretty sure without that appliance we would starve at my house! I vaguely remember a time when there was not a microwave in my house. We actually had to plan meals ahead so we could defrost them for hours. The idea of trying to cook on a wood burning stove makes chills run up and down my spine. The smell of cooking flesh as I tried to move the pans off the stove is a frightening and very unappealing thought. 

Of course, we did have TV dinners as I was growing up and I cringe to think of what preservatives might have been ingested by our generation! We had to cook our meals in real pans, I can’t even remember a crock pot, much less a microwave in our house. I did get a microwave when my kids were in junior high, mid 90s, about the same time that I got a VHS player. Both of those items were huge. The VHS player was about the size of a stove and the microwave about the size of a large TV. Every year I have watched them each get smaller and the VHS has become almost obsolete. I can remember seeing DVDs and CDs at the store and thinking to myself that they would NEVER catch on. 

Then came the portable CD players, a gadget that my GRANDKIDS will never remember, because iPods burst into existence. Still, my more tender side longs for the days when we couldn’t be found every waking minute of every day! A place where cell phones didn’t reach us while we are on camping trips in the mountains. A cell phone was for the rich, and the phones came in big suitcases and weighed a good 30 pounds each! Now we have cordless, speaker and speech activated!

I myself have a hard time using my little princess phone when the electricity goes out and my cordless looses power. Of course, without those convenient little phones, I would have been stuck for who knows how long on a couple of twisted and muddy roads! 

There was a time when our kids actually had to play outside and use their imaginations. I am not even sure kids today know what an imagination is! We wrapped sheets around our necks for capes and wore pantyhose on our heads for hair and dug our own tracks in the dirt and mud for our cars. (Okay, maybe that pantyhose part was just me and my sisters!) My kids had imaginary friends that lived in their belly buttons and small villages between their toes. (Thankfully, those friends have since moved on.) Jamie had an imaginary friend named “Ben” who had a crush on her twin sister, Stacey. Perhaps they had more imagination than most. 

Now the kids don’t have to pretend that their toys are talking to them, the toys actually DO talk, and the toys teach them other languages. I had a hard time grasping the concepts of my own language much less another one. (And if you asked Trish, while she was editing, she would probably tell you that I STILL have difficulty with it!) 

Toys that required batteries in the past were like walkie-talkies; now the batteries are needed so that the doll you bought your little girl can POOP! Why on earth would we buy a doll with bodily functions that are best kept private? 

It seems like we are sitting here fast forwarding through our lives, not really stopping to notice the changes in the world. I always have enjoyed talking to older folks because of the interesting stories they tell, and now my grandkids are asking ME what it was like to live without TV remotes and interactive books! You would think I was a dinosaur or, at the very least, raised by cavemen. 

I remember when MTV actually was an all video channel (“I want my MTV”). The closing credits of the initial broadcast was a song by Led Zeppelin—my kids are saying, “Led who?”! Which brings a whole new subject up in music. Knowing my love of guitar music, a few years back my daughter brought me a CD of Rob Thomas doing a duet with a “new” guitarist. SANTANA. Seriously? New? I didn’t know whether to laugh or just emerge myself in a giant vat of Oil of Olay and Geritol, because I suddenly knew for a fact, I was officially old. 

Trying to be a good Yaya, I was going to help my granddaughter Billie with her homework a while back. I couldn’t figure out how to gracefully back out of it after looking at the actual problems on her pages. She was looking up at me with those big green eyes and expecting answers from me, while I could not make head nor tails of it. “They didn’t do math when you were little, Yaya?” Well, of course we did math, pull out an abacus and I got it covered! 

Out of curiosity, I asked my grown daughter if she had ever even used an abacus. I am pretty sure she thought I was talking about a new spice. After explaining what its use was, she informed me that the world had come out with a new and improved tool called a calculator. She is helping Billie learn to tell time now. I am not allowed to help because apparently she thinks I would be teaching her child how to read a sundial and it is not necessary any longer. 

Not that a kid really needs to learn how to tell time anymore. Watches can speak now. Car accessories have come very far since I was a child. I can remember a time, getting into the old family car (that weighed a bazillion pounds), lying in the back dash of the car, pumping my arm up and down in hopes that the passing truck would honk and the peals of laughter from my sisters and I if he did. NOW getting my granddaughter in the car is an experiment in terror. I have to make sure she weighs enough not to be put in the cumbersome baby seat, but can instead sit in her equally cumbersome booster seat. I am not even sure our old family car HAD seat belts, but now we strap our kids in a 5-point harness almost complete with a neck brace. 

I would not even consider visiting Texas or Oklahoma without air conditioning, yet as a child, air conditioning consisted of shorts and a tee shirt, while heat was three pairs of pants and matching shirts. My dad drove us to church every Sunday through the fog without “fog” lights; instead my daddy rolled his window down and drove using the white lines as his guide! 

Heaven help the trucker today who honks at the smiling child in the back seat. He would immediately be labeled a pervert. My parents worried about drugs while I was growing up, of course, but they were thinking like an overdose of Midol. I am pretty sure they would croak if they had to worry about their children “cooking” drugs in their bathroom, using the ingredients from beneath the kitchen sink. 

I have done without a lot of things in my life. Not only do I remember not having a computer at ALL, but I remember DIAL-up! Now, the only way I even keep up with my son and his family is via Facebook and the internet. Dial-up has come and gone and now we expect information at light speed and a touch of a button. I can remember leaving a page to load and coming back hours later to find it not quite done. I am pretty sure my nerves could not handle that today, as I am spoiled to the instant info on the computer. Technology has come so far, only 60 years between the Wright brothers and Neil Armstrong, and only a mere 40 years between the birth of VHS and DVDs. 

All in all, the “good old days” sounds really fun and adventurous on the surface. But there is a lot to be said for hot water and indoor toilets!

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Author info

Jinx Beshears Jinx Beshears is a southern transplant to North Idaho, and shares her confusion with the Pacific Northwest Lifestyle in her column, Jinxed. When not writing, or living, her outlandish stories, she's generally lost somewhere in the mountains with her dog, Aspen.

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technology, aging, Jinxed, Jinx Beshears

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