Saturday, October 24, 2009

Back in the Old Days

I am one of your typical baby-boomers...born in 1947. I can also call myself one of America's first teen-agers. Did you know that prior to the 1950's the word was rarely heard, that us teens of the 50's were the first to stand out as a distinct age group with our fashion interests, music, and interests? Well, technically I didn't become a teen until 1960. I entered my teenage years the same year I entered high school. There was no such thing as middle school. I also have the honors of being one of your first latch key kids. Not that we were poor, we were middle class back in the day. But my mom worked for as long as I can remember, and I like to think that she was woman ahead of her time....and I remember that by the age of 11, I was letting myself in when I got home from school.

Yesterday a fellow blogger wrote and said that her school was in lockdown. Lockdown? Sounds more like a term that belongs in our prison system rather than our schools, doesn't it? Sadly, that is the sign of the times. Here in New York City some of our students find themselves guarded by armed police officers after they pass through the metal detectors to get in. Why can't youth just be youth without all these worries? But, when you really think about it, we had our worries in my day, too.

I grew up in the days of the arm's race. The early 50's saw the Korean War and the 60's saw the escalation of Viet Nam...and during the midst of it all, was the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. We lived with this constant gnawing fear that any day our world would come to an end; we wondered if we were going to grow up. We didn't have metal detectors in our school, but we did have those whistles that alerted us that it was time for an "air raid' drill. In some schools kids got under their desk when the whistle blew, but in my school, we lined up in single file and moved out into the hallway. There, with our backs against the walls we sat, knees up, heads arm under our head covering our eyes, the other straggled atop our head. As I think about it now, I have to wonder...did they really think that was going to save us? But, the Cold War ended, and it didn't have to. But, not all of my youth was doom and gloom. I have some seriously happy memories.

Just as today's teen will also have their fond memories, I have mine...hanging out with my friends at the malt shop, gathering around the little 'black and white' television and watching shows such as "I Love Lucy" and "Ed Sullivan" with the family, swooning over idols such as Troy Donohue and Fabian, Frankie Avalon, the junior and senior prom. And I'd say, as a whole, we boomers turned out pretty darned good.

After all with songs such as "Does Your Bubblegum Lose its Flavor on the Bedpost Every Night?" how could things have turned out differently.


  1. Cold War mentality was a funny thing, wasn't it? (not funny ha ha, of course, funny weird).

  2. It was. It was a strange period in history...the Cuban missle crisis. Oh, man, I remember being so frightened that I would sit up in my bed watching for the missles. I was still a little girl and scared about all the stuff i was hearing.

  3. Ah, this is a nice trip down memory lane - the mention of Troy Donohue and Fabian, Frankie Avalon - been a while since I've heard of them. Remember those silly beach movies..? I lived my teen years in south Florida and that made the Cuban missle crisis very well. I was living in Delray Beach, Florida about 40-50 miles north of Miami. People were packing up and fleeing north til it was over. My dad laughed at them because he said being so close to Cuba the missles would miss us altogeher because we were so close.
    And the latch key child thing - my mother was also a working mother and here I thought I was the only one. But she arranged for there to be a black maid (this is where the recently published book "The Help" related to my memories so much) to be in the house until we came home. These women began my brother's and mine second mothers. They were there to listen to our school day, read over the report cards first and to have a snack ready for us and to remind us to change out of our school clothese before going out to play...

  4. What memories, huh? How could I ever forget those movies? Sandra Dee, Tuesday Weld. Remember them? Annette? Those were the days.