In the spirit of all of the complaints about young people today, I present you with a guest post by Mrs. Norbert Thrummox (nee Delphine Brumley), my entirely fictional great grandmother.
We didn’t have anything, get anything, or expect anything. Christmas was pretty much like every other day of the year, only colder. Our parents didn’t even know our birthdays, let alone celebrate them with cake and presents! We never heard of such luxuries.
Breakfast was weevily cornmeal sprinkled on a half-sheet of newspaper, lunch was what we could forage on the playground at school, and supper was what we could beg from the bar we’d have to drag our daddy from at closing time. (Mostly pickled eggs, or sliced radishes in summer.) This was difficult, as we’d have to get up at 5 a.m. to make it to school by 8, but we were usually good and hungry for our suppers by 1 a.m. or so. But we didn’t mind! We were free. Most things were free, because we didn’t have any money. Theft was non-existent in our community. I’d like to say that we never locked our doors, but that would imply that we had doors. Most of us didn’t.
School was just one room 7 miles away, and the teacher wasn’t from one of your fancy normal colleges–just an Eighth Grade graduate, and that only if we were lucky. But our teachers were really demanding and strict, and they got excellent results. I was translating Catullus in the third grade, at least the poems without the dirty parts, and my brother was doing trigonometry in fourth grade. That was probably because we knew teachers could administer fatal beatings to us if they wanted to. Yes, teachers got results back then–they didn’t need a fancy normal college degree, and they knew that parents would back them up if they administered a fatal beating. Unlike today.
Because we couldn’t afford flour or flour sacks, we kids used to amuse ourselves making newspaper dresses for each other. Instead of stickball, we just played “stick” because we couldn’t afford a ball. In the summers, we’d pretend we’d swing from a rope and plunge into the river for a swim, because our swimming costumes were made of newspaper, too. (Besides, we didn’t have a rope.) But, we had such fun! Fun such as you’ll never, ever know, because it was a simpler time. A time when a lot of what we had was made out of newspaper by our own two hands, before all of the pool parlors, the filthy comic books, the lemonade stands, and crystal radio sets ruined American childhood. Where is the imagination in opening a comic book and reading a story? Where is the creativity in just turning a dial to hear music? Who couldn’t make a tasty drink sweetened with sugar? We used to make our own fun. Now they just buy it like it’s for sale, like something cheap made in Occupied Japan.
Lord, I don’t know.
Leave your reminiscences of the “good old days” (real or fictional) in the comments below.