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The other day with some free time and home alone I decided to take a trip down memory lane and watch some old TV shows. The first one that came to mind was Hogan’s Heroes. It ran from for 168 episodes (six seasons) from September 17, 1965, to April 4, 1971.
I could only manage to watch a couple of episodes (I have ADHD when it comes to TV (ADHDTV) but it got me thinking about what a ten year-old would do on any random Friday in 1966 compared to 2023.
From what I can recall, this was my typical Friday in Cumberland, RI 1966 when I was ten years old and in the fourth grade.
It would go something like this.
A Ten Year old’s Day 1966
7:00 am, breakfast consisting of Cheerios (there was only one kind) with sugar surreptitiously added when Mom’s attention was elsewhere. Then grab my books and a bag lunch consisting of, if I was fortunate, a tuna fish or Deviled Ham sandwich (which would sit in my desk for hours regardless of the temperature and not kill me since we had mayonnaise that was impervious to heat) and a package of Twinkies since I had not consumed enough sugar at breakfast.
7:20 am, off to the bus stop by WALKING. Never a ride in a car regardless of how inclement the weather. To do so would be a sign of weakness. We used to enjoy those moments of driving rain or snow on those walks, at least that’s how my mind has altered the memory. Of course, we did enjoy the snow when school was cancelled. Inclement weather never meant one had to stay inside no matter how treacherous it might be.
7:30 am, bus arrives. Entire crowd rushes the door and piles on. Everyone has their favorite seat and seat companion.
Side note: One time, as first grader, I was trampled a bit by the big kids (4th and 5th graders) and split my chin open on the stairs as I fell. The driver never even looked at me. I put a handkerchief on it to stem the blood and took my seat. When I arrived, I got off the bus and headed to my classroom. The principal, a Ms. Geddes, who seemed to be both ancient (she was probably in her 40s) and omniscient, asked me what happened. I said I was fine but she insisted on my showing her the wound. Which I did. I have a vague recollection of her turning pale and redirecting me to the nurse. Mom was summonsed and I was promptly taken to Pawtucket Memorial Hospital, received several stitches, and returned to school in time for first recess. No one was sued, indicted, or executed for the incident.
Anyway back to the schedule.
2:00 pm Schools out, pile on bus, assume favorite afternoon seats, arrive at bus stop, charge off the bus, and run home. Toss books, put on sneakers (not allowed in school) and head outside where we engage (seasonally dependent, of course) in baseball, football, basketball, kick-the-can, or hide and seek.
Or, we go hunt frogs, attack beehives with rocks (sometimes the bees counterattack and we are forced to retreat), explore the meadow in the woods, work on the tree fort that’s been under construction for two years and is dependent on how many nails and useable pieces of wood we can recover from houses still being built, or just try to catch the deadly poisonous snakes we knew were under a log somewhere.
5:00-5:30 pm Dinner which has mandatory attendance and starts as soon as my father arrives home from his job as a Detective with the Rhode Island State Police. He would often bring these delightful cups of Hoods Ice Cream (Fridays were known as Hoodsie Night in the Broadmeadow household although they were often interrupted by the realities of a cop’s job.)
Just before the news, I’d read the Pawtucket Times newspaper after my father had finished with it during dinner.
6:00-7:00 Nighty News with Walter Cronkite or Huntley-Brinkley (Good night, Chet. Good night, David) and then we had the choice of the following TV shows to watch.
And that was it. In 1966 all we had was a console black and white TV in the basement where we all gathered to watch the shows. Depending on one’s age, you were peeled off for bed at the appropriate time.
Weekdays, it might be earlier. Weekends, a bit later. As the oldest I reveled in my position as the one able to stay up the latest. (Now, I have to force myself to at least wait until it’s dark out.)
As one got older, you could stay up for the Johnny Carson show (Fridays only) and then the stations would play a patriotic song, there might be some video of military jets flying in formation, and then the screen would switch to this…
Which stayed on until the next morning broadcasts began. Three channels, 12, 10, and 6. later augmented by PBS on 36 and a station out of Boston on 38. Five stations, sixteen hours of broadcast shows and 8 hours of a test pattern. Not sure what the significance of the Indian (nee Native American) was but we never questioned it either.
A Ten Year Old’s Day 2023
7:30-8:00 am up in bed texting friends
8:30 am Breakfast (while texting friends or watching a video)
9:00 am Mom texts from the car saying “hurry the drop-off line will be long today.” (even in perfect weather the lines at schools of parents dropping off or picking up amazes me. Bus rides were elemental to social foundation of character in the 1960s. Unless, of course, you were in Boston, then they were downright dangerous to people of color.)
9:15 am Text from Mom “Did you do your homework?” Reply “Smiley Face” (it’s not a yes and it’s not a no.)
9:30 to 2:00 class, recess optional, submit homework by email, text friends about plans after school, text Mom to make sure she has the air conditioner/heat on high for the friends that are coming with you at pickup time to dance/karate/yoga/STEM/meditation/piano/SAT practice/Holistic health class/Culture class/Sensitivity training.
4:30 text friends (who are all in the car) on the ride home. Text friends as they are dropped off to plan on texting later.
5:30- 7:00 dinner in shifts in between texting friends.
7:30 to ? flip through 70000000000 channels on 85″ TV mounted on wall in bedroom while texting friends. (I’d attach an image of the channel list, but it would exceed the size limit for images and take up several hundred screens to display.
Okay. I know, a bit harsh and perhaps a bit exaggerated but nevertheless therein lies some truth. I spoke to my friends, they watched me bleed on the bus. No one considered posting a video of the blood splatter or creatin a meme called “Cluttsy Joe Bleeding on the Bus.”
We laughed, argued, fought, reconciled, smiled, cried, joked, helped, played, planned, and enjoyed ourselves in person. Phone calls, on the one phone in most of our homes, were for special occasions, sometimes good news, sometimes bad but never the foundation of our interaction.
There has never been, nor will there ever be, a text, email, tweet, or other social media message or meme that will endure for a lifetime of memories.
And that is a tragedy.
If I think for a moment, I can still feel the snowflakes on my face and hands (we refused to wear gloves and hats) during those walks to the bus stop. And while I know I had many conversations by phone as I got older, I cannot recall one from 1966 that ever made a difference in my day.
But I remember those moments running through the woods, hopping from mound to mound in swamps, running from angry bees, and just being with friends. Not numbers on an anonymous computer database somewhere, actual flesh and blood friends on a sunny or rainy or snowy day in 1966.
The technology of instantaneous communication has robbed the world of the sincerity of personal interaction. In the end, it won’t matter how many “friends” you have on Facebook, or Twitter, or anything else when they can erase you with the flick of a finger.
All that will matter is if there are those who cannot forget you without forgetting part of themselves. That’s what a well-lived life should be.
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