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Tag: Generational Differences

Was Yesteryear “Better” Than Today?

the good old days
Cartoon by Dan Gibson

Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted the following on her wall (which was copied from somewhere else):

The way I remember it, too.

I grew up in Ohio and never once questioned my Dads income, it was never a discussion. We drank Kool-Aid made from water that came from our kitchen sink with real sugar. We ate fried egg sandwiches, or even tuna (which was in a can not a pouch), PB&J & grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, but mostly homemade meals consisting of meat, potatoes, and vegetables, and meat loaf or fried chicken on Sunday’s.

We grew up during a time when we mowed lawns, pulled weeds, babysat, helped neighbors with chores to be able to earn our own money. We by no means were given everything we wanted.

We went outside a lot to play, ride bikes, run with friends, play hide and seek, or went swimming. We rarely just sat inside. We drank tap water from the water hose outside, bottled water was unheard of. If we had a coke, it was in a glass bottle, and we didn’t break the bottle when finished. We saved it and cashed it back in at the store for a refund.

We watched TV shows like Leave It To Beaver, Gilligan’s Island, Happy Days, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Sanford and Son, Disney on Sunday night, McHales Navy, Andy Griffith, and I Love Lucy. Mom decided everything we watched or didn’t watch. After school, we came home and did homework and chores, before going outside or having friends over. We would ride our bikes for hours.I had to tell our Mom where we were going, who we were going with, and be home when the street lights came on!

You LEARNED from your Mom instead of disrespecting her and treating her as if she knew absolutely nothing. What she said was LAW, and you did not question it, and you had better know it!

We watched what we said around our elders because we knew if we DISRESPECTED any grown-up we would get our behinds whipped, it wasn’t called abuse, it was called discipline! We held doors, carried groceries, and gave up our seat for an older person without being asked. You didn’t hear curse words on the radio in songs or TV, and if you cursed and got caught you had a bar of soap stuck in your mouth.

“Please, Thank you, yes please, no thank you, yes ma’am, no ma’am yes sir, and no sir were part of our daily vocabulary!

The world we live in now is just so full of crooked people, hate and disrespect for others.

Consider re-posting if you’re thankful for your childhood. I will never forget where I came from and only wish children nowadays had half the chance at the fun and respect for real life we grew up with! And we were never bored!

The woman who posted this is in her late seventies. Born in the late 40s, her “world” was very different from the world of today. I can say the same thing myself. I was born in 1957. My childhood was very different from that of my grandchildren. Polly and I married in 1978. We will celebrate our forty-fifth anniversary in July. When we married, we owned a car that cost $200. Our rent was $225. We had a black dial telephone, a record player, an eight-track tape player, an RCA AM radio, a 13-inch black and white TV with a metal clothes hangar as an antenna, a toolbox of tools, a few games, clothing, shoes, jewelry, used furniture, and home furnishings. That’s it. We had no cable bill, no Internet bill, and no cellphone bill — though we did pay twenty-five cents a minute to make long-distance phone calls on our home phone. Simple times, to be sure. However, were these times “better” than today?

Baby boomers are known for romanticizing the “good old days,” much like their Great Generation parents before them. We seem to forget that the good old days were not, at times, “good.” Vietnam; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers; the Birmingham church bombing; the KKK; Jim Crow; race riots; AIDS, and countless other things that happened in the good old days.

Polly and I have evolved with the times. We have embraced change, even when there are days when we want to sell everything and live off the land. Many older baby boomers don’t use computers, and if they have a cell phone, it flips. I chose to embrace computers, buying my first DOS PC in 1991. Polly had no interest in computers, but in the late 2000s decided to finally join the technology revolution. Today, she uses a computer at work, owns an iPad and iPhone, and still says, “Hey, Bruce, something is wrong. Please fix it.” 🙂

I quickly fell in love with modern technology. I even owned my own computer service and repair business for a few years. I still devotedly read Maximum PC. At one time, I received four other computer magazines, including Computer Shopper. I would scan its pages of BBS (bulletin board service) listings, looking for new local connections.

Today, we have a $40,000 automobile, a cellphone bill, an Internet bill, streaming services bills, expensive medical, home, and auto insurance, all sorts of modern kitchen appliances and gadgets, lots of books, a 65-inch TV, a DVD player (which we rarely use), a ROKU box, an AV receiver, awesome speakers, clothing, shoes, and all sorts of other stuff. Polly and I are “rich” compared the young Bruce and his bride when they first married. (Yet, we feel less financially secure than we did in the 70s; always worried about the next big health crisis. We just surpassed our $3,050 annual medical insurance deductible this week. Woo Hoo, right? Sure, but that means we have already spent over $3,000 on medical costs, in addition to the $68 we pay every week for the insurance. So, forgive me if I am not in a Woo Hoo mood.)

Several years ago, I was complaining to my therapist about something one of my children was doing discipline-wise with their kiddos. I framed my complaint as old people often do; that the way we did it raising our children was better. He replied, “better, or just different?” As I pondered his words, I thought, “he’s right. What we often consider “better” is just different. Who’s to say which way of doing things is better?

When I find myself carping about the behaviors of Gen-Z, Millennials, or Gen-X, I try to remind myself of what my counselor tried to teach me: that just because there’s a difference between A and B, doesn’t mean that one or the other is better. Learning this allows me to see my children and grandchildren as they are: people whom I love trying to make their way in life. While I still interject stories and advice now and again, I try to give them the freedom to make mistakes and carve out new paths just as Polly and I did so many years ago. That’s how we learn.

A year from now, two of our granddaughters will be headed off to prestigious universities. Not Bible colleges; not looking to marry a preacher or be a missionary. Almost perfect grades throughout high school will likely give them numerous colleges to choose from. On that day, I will definitely say “better.” When we see the curse of mind-numbing Christian Fundamentalism broken with our children and grandchildren, both Polly and I will say “better.” And then we will say, “Dammit, can’t our boys buy their girls pants without holes in them?”

We’re old . . . 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser