Friday, August 31, 2012

My! How Things Have Changed!

When I was a kid, way back before the turn of the century (I love saying that) my family moved from Utah to California. I was almost 11 at the time so this was in 1958 or 1959.

My Dad had a job with Mountain Bell (telephone company) and thought that he had a job with Pacific Bell in Southern California but when we arrived he discovered that the transfer had fallen through and he was out of work. We were in California and basically - for the time being - homeless.

Dad eventually got a job as a Tool and Die maker (machinist) but during that first summer we lived off of our Parent's savings and what little they could make at whatever part-time jobs that were available.

My Aunt (Mom's sister) and Uncle invited us to stay with them at their home in Lawndale, California. They had six (I think) kids (cousins) and I and my sister had a ball! My sister was about six years old and she and I didn't hang around together much that summer. I and my two cousins, David and Ted were like the Three Musketeers all summer long.

Once we were up in the morning our day was like this (keep in mind that we were 10 to 12 years old): We would put on a pair of swimming trunks under our jeans, grab a towel and whatever money we could scrounge (usually much less than a dollar) and hitch-hike to the beach! Alone!

We would go to Manhattan Beach which was about 10 - 15 miles from the house (it could have been more or less - I wasn't worried about the distance). We would hit the nearest main thoroughfare and stick out our thumbs and before ten minutes passed - we'd have a ride! It seldom took longer than that and we almost never had to get another ride to make it all the way to the water's edge. Bliss!

Before I was allowed to do this the first time, my Mom was worried about my safety and asked her sister if it was really safe. My Aunt Lorraine replied, "They'll be allright". From that point on, we were golden!

We'd hit the beach, look for some friends of my cousins - boys and girls - and hang out all day long. We'd spread a towel on the sand and take off at a run for the water. This is where I learned to body-surf and play in the waves and swim like a fish. We had a great time!

When it started to get dark, we'd gather up our stuff and hit he road. I remember on at least two occasions that we got a ride back from the same person who had given us a ride in the morning. We'd spend what little change we had on a Coke and a hot dog or on candy. We knew that we'd have a "decent" meal once we returned home.

During this period, the cities of Southern California were separated by a mile or three of fields growing fruit or vegetables. These days, the city of Los Angeles is a continuous metropolitain city from North of the San Fernando Valley almost to the Mexican border. The fields are no more!

I think of this often and wonder how many parents would let ther 10 year-old kids hitch-hike fifteen miles to the beach, spend all day unsupervised then hitch-hike all the way back home every day all summer long. It ain't happening! Not today.

Back then we were never once touched "inappropriately" by a nasty old pervert or harmed in any way. Often some of the folks giving us rides would contribute to our lunch fund. People were nicer back then and they showed it.

The world just isn't the same as it was back in the fifties. In more ways than I can count. First of all, the kids today would get arrested for hitch-hiking (if they were lucky!) or just disappear, never to be seen or heard from again. Sixty years from now their skeletal remains would be discovered when an old house was being demolished to make way for a new anti-gravity gymnasium or a holographic interactive theater.

Kids today have been too conditioned to believe that strangers are evil and dangerous beings... and maybe they are. Maybe we no longer have that sense of innocent trust of one another that we had back then. Maybe deservedly so.

Today we have people getting shot at work or at a movie theater just because someone has had a bad day or believes he or she is something that they aren't (sane). It really is a sad situation for all of us.

This was also the time that I discovered my love of motorcycles. One day at my Uncle's house, a friend of his came to visit. My Uncle was a stone mason of great skill and his friend worked with him on several jobs. His friend pulled up in front of the house riding a loud Harley Davidson motorcycle. As they talked inside, us kids gathered around the bike and checked out the chrome and the pipes. It was a magical beast!

This ocurred not long after we moved in with my Uncle's family and, being the "newcomer" I was struggling to be accepted.

When the man came back outside and saw us all around his bike he asked us if anyone wanted to go for a ride. The other kids were either too shy (hard to believe) or just flat afriad to ride. This was my chance! I spoke up and accepted the offer. I climbed aboard and off we went in a cloud of exhaust smoke (no EPA emission laws back then) and a rumble of pipes!

We were gone for close to fifteen minutes. When we got back I was now the most popular kid there. I was cool! I was also sold on motorcycles and as soon as I turned sixteen, I had my own. I have one to this day but sadly, it's for sale. Too much arthritis pain to ride for any distance.

Childhood is magic. When we are young we don't have the concerns of the adults. We don't worry about jobs or money where the next meal is coming from. We worry about friends, having fun and being kids. Every day was a big adventure back then. I look back and shake my head remembering the things we used to do and wonder what on Earth we were thinking! Apparently... not much!

If you have little ones at home, don't worry what they think about you being out of work or having to move to another community or neighborhood. They'll get over it and make new friends. Kids are flexible. They adapt faster and easier than us old folks. Kids don't judge you the same way you judge yourselves. All they want is to be loved and cared for. As long as you do that, you will be a successful parent.

The Geezer hopes that you all had a wonderful childhood that was full of fun and adventure. Age is just a number - so, let's all go to the beach!

1 comment:

I'd be interested to hear your comments. Thanks for reading The Geezer Guide!