Whatever happened to good, old imagination?

Published 9:38 am Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A young man, actually still a teenager, recently inquired of how I communicated with my friends when I was his age.

With all the electronic gizmos young people of today have access to, I guess he thought we were forced to send up smoke signals or beat on a drum back when I was young.

We did neither….as a matter of fact, the youngsters of my generation enjoyed perhaps the best, most rewarding communication of all – we interacted face-to-face. We went outside and found each other.

While today’s generation of youth enjoys the creature comforts – cell phones, text messaging, computers (complete with FaceBook or MySpace accounts), hundreds of digital TV channels (viewed, of course, on hi-res widescreen), X-Box, PlayStation I, II, III and LVI, Wii, Guitar Hero, etc – we relied on our imagination.

What today’s youth would see as a dirt pile, to us it was Mt. Everest, primed and ready for a climb up its north face.

Ditto for a pile of discarded lumber. Today’s kids would probably think it’s cool to wet it down with gas and torch it…to us it, after assembly, was a fortress that no army dares to approach.

Fast food? Growing-up, those two words meant you were late for breakfast and grabbed something out of the kitchen on your way out the door to catch the school bus. Under normal circumstances, we ate at a place called home. Either my grandmother (who lived with us) or my mom (after her 8-5 job) would cook a full meal. We sat down together at the dining room table and if I didn’t like what was on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did.

And, by the way, when you did finish eating you better mind your manners and asked to be excused from the table.

Credit cards…ATM cards…Electronic checking accounts? The only thing even resembling today’s cashless society back during my time was something my mom and dad had called a revolving charge card. The card was good only at Sears & Roebuck. Now it’s just Sears…I guess Mr. Roebuck died.

We did have a TV set in our house. It was, of course, was black and white and we received only three channels (unless we wrapped our sister, Cindy, in tin foil and put her on the roof; then we might get five channels).

The only telephone in the house was in the living room and it was on a party line. Before you could dial you had to listen and make sure someone wasn’t already using the line.

Pizzas were not delivered to our home, but milk was.

All newspapers were delivered by boys and all boys delivered newspapers. I delivered GRIT. It cost a dime and I got to keep 3 cents.

Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies. Touching someone else’s tongue with yours was called French kissing and they didn’t do that in movies. I don’t know what they did in French movies. French movies were dirty and we weren’t allowed to watch them.

Does anybody remember the old Royal Crown Cola bottles? After consuming the beverage, mom stuck a cork stopper in the top and punched it full of holes. It was always within arm’s reach of the ironing board, filled with water used to “sprinkle” clothes because we didn’t have steam irons.

I didn’t think to tell the young man that it was my generation that created all the technology he enjoys today. I should have asked what his generation is doing to help the next one.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.