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Redux: Today’s youth vs yesterday’s . . .

I found this post among those relegated to the dustbin of previous posts. I enjoyed it so much that I rescued it, dusted it off, added some images and now I am presenting it to those that may have missed it back in March 0f 2010. I confess that I did not create the original, but I can say, without a tinge of blushing, that I improved it before offering it up on my blog. I explained all that in the original post, and included a disclaimer concerning my additions to the original—read on, and enjoy.

Today’s youth vs yesterday’s

A special note: All the italicized passages in this posting are my thoughts—they are separate from the original e-mail, but some of the un-italicized passages in the posting are mine—see my disclaimer below.

I received this item in an e-mail from a friend, and I felt it was well worth posting on Word Press. As always, the e-mail contained faults caused by its wandering around the internet and also as always, at least almost always—well, let’s say sometimes—the writing was seriously in need of attention.

With the most honorable intentions of making good writing better—the best, actually—I took the liberty of tidying up the e-mail. For starters, I removed an estimated total of 250 exclamation points. I did not actually count them, so my estimate may have been a tad high, but there was a huge bunch of exclamation points. It appeared that the keyboard had a mind of its own, and for whatever reason it sprinkled a plethora of exclamation points that appeared randomly throughout the e-mail.

The original teller of this tale vacillated among first, second and third person perspectives so I corrected it. The story is now told by a person aged 30 years or more and directed to persons that have accumulated fewer than thirty years of age. It is specifically directed to the youth of today.

A disclaimer: I must now, in the interests of full disclosure, admit that my efforts to improve this posting were not restricted to exclamation point removal. No, I added my own thoughts here and there—mostly there—adding or taking away as I saw fit, and I can state, unblushingly, that my contributions, whether they involved addition or subtraction, improved the missive in a literary sense and added significantly to the plentiful humor evinced in the original e-mail.

Hey, it’s an internet e-mail—it’s not copyrighted. It came to me unbidden and now it’s mine—I can massage it and manipulate it anyway I desire. I consider it comparable to a whole banana tossed from a speeding auto. It may be a bit the worse from its contact with asphalt, earth and the prickly pear bush in which it landed, but if it isn’t peeled—if its skin is unbroken—one may retrieve it, peel it and consume it with no fear of lessened gustatory effects or legal retribution. In that vein, I cheerfully yield to viewers that may wish to interpose their own thoughts.

Here I will apply a phrase often used, in some respects too often, by Sean Hannity on Fox News, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

And now on to the posting—the original e-mail was untitled, so I seized the opportunity to title it:

Today’s youth vs yesterday’s . . .

If you are 30 or older, you should find this hilarious:

When I was a kid, adults bored me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up, what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning—uphill—barefoot—both ways, yadda, yadda, yadda.

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in you know where that I would lay a bunch of stuff like that on my kids about how hard I had it then and how easy they have it now. However, now that I’m past the ripe old age of thirty, I can’t resist looking around at the youth of today. They have it so easy. Compared to my childhood years, theirs are Utopian in every respect.

I hate to say it, but you kids today? You have no idea how good you have it.

When we were kids we didn’t have the Internet. If we wanted to know something we had to go to the library and look it up ourselves—in the card catalog.

There was no email. We had to write a letter by applying a pen or pencil to a piece of paper. We then folded the paper and secured it in a paper enclosure known as an envelope, and we sealed the envelope by licking the sticky side of its flap, and then we licked a postage stamp of the proper denomination and placed it on the envelope, and then we had to walk all the way to the sidewalk to put it in the mailbox and raise the flag, and it would take a week or more to get there and another week or more to get an answer.

Nowadays envelopes are pre-licked. In the unlikely event that you need to write a letter, you simply remove the safety strip and press the flap to seal the envelope—after first placing the letter in the envelope, of course.

Today’s postage stamps are also pre-licked. You only need to peel the stamp from its backing and affix it to the upper right corner of the envelope. We consider those advances—from licking envelopes and stamps to the present pre-licked systems—high tech.

Child Protective Services was unborn, and nobody cared if our parents beat us. In fact, the parents of our friends had permission to also kick our butts.

No place was safe.

There were no MP3s or Napsters or iTunes—if we wanted to steal music, we had to hitchhike to the nearest record store and shoplift it.

Either that or we had to wait around all day to tape it from the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and screw up the recording. There were no CD players—we had 8-track tape decks in our cars. We would play our favorite tape and eject it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless. But hey, that’s how we rolled, baby—can you dig it?

We didn’t have fancy stuff like Call Waiting. If we were on the phone and someone else called, they heard a busy signal—that was it.

And we had no cell phones. If we left the house we could neither make a call nor receive one. We actually had to be out of touch with our friends. Oh, my, God—think of the horror of not being in touch with someone 24/7.

And today there’s texting—you kids have no idea how much you annoy us with your damn texting.

And we had no fancy Caller ID either. When the phone rang we had no idea who was calling—it could be our school, our parents, our boss, our bookie, our drug dealer or a collection agent—we had no way of knowing. We had to pick up the phone—the one tethered to the wall—and take our chances.

We had no fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high resolution 3-D graphics—we had the Atari 2600 with games such as Space Invaders and Asteroids. Our screen guy was a little square, and we actually had to use our imagination. And there were no multiple levels or screens—we had only one screen—forever! And we could never win. The games just kept getting harder and faster until we died—very similar to the game of life.

We had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on television, and we were screwed when it came to channel surfing. Remote controls had not yet been invented—in the good old days we had to get off our collective butts and walk over to the TV to change the channel.

I can hear it now: No remotes? No REMOTES? Oh, no, that’s impossible.

And we had no Cartoon Network—we could only get cartoons on Saturday morning. Do you hear what I’m saying? We had to wait all week for cartoons, you spoiled little rat finks.

And we didn’t have microwaves. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove—imagine that.

And our parents told us to stay outside and play—all day long and far into the evening. No, we had no electronics to soothe and comfort us, and if we came back inside we were forced to do chores.

As for car seats—oh, please—our moms threw us into the back seat and we hung on. If we were lucky we got the old safety arm across the chest at the last second if a sudden stop was required, and if we were in the front seat and our head hit the dashboard—well, that was our fault for riding shotgun in the first place.

Do you see it?

Can you dig it?

That’s what I’m talking about—you kids today have it far too easy. You’re spoiled rotten. You guys would not last five minutes in our day or at any time before our day.

Best regards,

The Over 30 Crowd

Time is a gift given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life—Norton Juster.

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My namesake—gospel singer or drunken deputy?

My namesake—gospel singer or drunken deputy?

My earliest memories include scenes and events that I can recall beginning at the age of three—that’s three years, not three days or three months. One item that is seared in my memory is why I was given the first name of Hershel—no, it wasn’t Herschel Walker—I would have been pleased to be named after Herschel Walker, but he began life far later than did I, and his name is spelled with a C and mine isn’t—also he  was a much better football player than I was. Click here to read about my prowess on the gridiron and lack thereof.

Note: In addition to the gridiron, that posting also contains some significant facts relating to the San Antonio Spurs NBA team and one of its star players—that alone is worth a visit to the posting.

This posting is the story of my naming, a story I heard numerous times from my mother and one that I have repeated with gusto over the years whenever the occasion arose, and one that I will repeat with the same gusto should the occasion arise in the future. When I was a little bitty feller—actually I’m still a little bitty feller, just a lot older—my mother told me that when I was born, one of the most popular shows on radio was the Hershel Collins Gospel Quartet, a group featured weekly on a Birmingham, Alabama radio station and beamed to local stations all over Alabama and adjoining states.

The broadcasts were live, of course, because tape recording was still in its infancy. I always felt that being named after a well-known radio personality was in some manner highly complimentary. Many of the boy babies born in that period were burdened with biblical names, and I was thankful to be different. I could just as easily have been named Hosea or Habakkuk or Haggai or some similar name—and those are just a few of the biblical names available in the aitches.

Just as an aside, as a youngster I never went by my first name. Everyone knew me as Mike—Mikey to my mother—and in my teen years those in my peer group would sometimes greet me with Hi, Hershel, are you a Hershey bar? Is that with or without nuts? My standard answer was, With nuts—so eat me, eat me! I do not remember anyone that ever asked me that same question twice. Hey, one has a right to defend one’s self, right? Right? Right!

I was to learn that I was not the only baby boy named after the gospel group leader. Many years ago while stationed at Kelley AFB here in San Antonio, Texas, my wife and I were in the base commissary shopping for groceries, and when we checked out I used a personal check to pay our bill. The young woman at the register glanced at my name and told me that her father’s name was also Hershel. I bet her that I could tell her where he was born, and that I could come close to his date of birth, and I said her father was born in Alabama, probably in the early 1930s.

She said I was correct on the state and close to the date, but she felt that I probably knew her father. The truth is that I did not know him. It was pure serendipity—it hasn’t happened since and it’s unlikely that it ever will, but trust me—it happened that time. And now looking ahead to the rest of this posting, I believe that you’ll agree with me that it’s highly unlikely the girl’s father was named after a drunken alcoholic deputy sheriff—please keep that thought in mind as you read on.

I’m the only surviving member of my immediate family—those that have gone on include my mother, father, one brother and five sisters—oh, and one stepfather, an unusual man, one-of-a-kind that my mother married when I was nine and one that loomed large in my preteen and teen years.

Over a period of 29 years the couple were married twice and divorced once. Between the first marriage and the divorce they were separated several times, separations that were initiated by my stepfather. He also initiated the several reunions, and our small family was reunited. The first marriage lasted about sixteen years, the divorce a couple of years, and the second marriage some eleven years until his death in 1970.

Click here for details of his death and my reaction—it’s an interesting story and well worth the visit.

As is my wont, I have digressed from my original reason for this posting, so back to the story of my namesake. Shortly before her death in 2003, my last surviving sibling asked me whether I knew my namesake, and I told her the story my mother told me, the same story that I told my wife, my three daughters and any others over the years that were willing to listen.

When I finished my answer to her question, she immediately refuted my mother’s story and told me that I was named after a small-town deputy sheriff, one that when not engaged in his official deputy sheriff’s duties spent most of his time in one of the town’s jail cells, sleeping off his constant drunken benders. I didn’t ask why he was repeatedly re-elected by the county voters—however, I deduced that his surname may have helped—the county was probably full of Smiths and most of them would have been his relatives—that’s how it was in rural Alabama counties.

I did not challenge her on her version of my naming—my response was a simple Oh, okay, so that’s where the name came from. My sister was very ill and died that same year. I knew her well enough to know how much she loved life and I knew that she was nowhere near ready to leave it. She was very proud of her two sons, their wives and their children, all successful in their lives and didn’t want to leave them.

I believe that she was deeply depressed, and because of that depression she lashed out at me in frustration, perhaps unconsciously—and on second thought, perhaps consciously—seeking to relieve her sadness by projecting some of it on to me. Such projection is one of the defense mechanisms of repression. How’s this for an example of psychoanalysis? Take that, Sigmund Freud!

I understood her depression and frustration, and while in her presence I accepted her revelation, her version of my namesake. However, I do not accept the notion that I was named after a drunken deputy.

Others may believe that, but as for me, I’ll stick to the version told to me by my mother repeatedly over the years—I’m sticking to her contention that I was named after Hershel Collins, the leader of one of the best-known and best-loved gospel quartets of the time.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Snipe hunting—a tale retold . . .

From wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snipe_hunt

A snipe hunt, a form of wild-goose chase that is also known as a fool’s errand, is a type of practical joke that involves experienced people making fun of credulous newcomers by giving them an impossible or imaginary task. The origin of the term is a practical joke where inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the snipe as well as a usually preposterous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises. Incidentally, the snipe  (a family of shorebirds) is difficult to catch for experienced hunters, so much so that the word “sniper” is derived from it to refer to anyone skilled enough to shoot one.

In the most popular version of the snipe hunt, especially in the American South, a newcomer is taken deep into the woods late at night and told to make a clucking noise while holding a large sack. The others, who are in on the joke, say that they will sneak away and then walk back towards the newcomer, thereby driving snipes towards the bag holder. The frightened snipes, they say, will be attracted to the clucking noise and be easily caught in the bag. The newcomer is then simply left in the dark forest, holding the bag, to eventually realize his gullibility and find his way home or back to camp.

What follows is my posting dated June 21, 2009. Click here to read the original.

Age 13—banished from Boy Scouts of America . . .

Long, long ago in another century, having completed 16 years of life and in my seventeenth year, I told a little white lie concerning my age and enlisted in the Army National Guard of the sovereign state of Mississippi. My reason for enlisting was purely selfish—members reported for training one day each month on a Saturday. We dressed in one-piece fatigues, combat boots and fatigue cap, all of which (except for the cap) were far too big for me, and were paid $10 each for our attendance and efforts.

Big money.

My enlistment lasted for one month and 23 days, and then I resigned so I could enlist in the United States Air Force. I told a big non-white lie about my age, a lie which was duly sworn to by me, my mother and the recruiting sergeant (I was still six months short of 17, the age at which enlistment was permitted with parental consent).

A whole set of circumstances prompted that enlistment, not the least of which was the starting salary—$72.50 per month, with a guarantee of promotion from Private to Private First-class after only 13 weeks of training, providing, of course, that  I successfully completed the training. That promotion would include a pay raise of $2.50 per month for a grand total of $75 per month.

Don’t laugh—housing, food, clothing and the opportunity to see the world (after learning a trade) would all be  free.

Sweet!

But I digress—back to my truncated tour of duty in the Boy Scouts of America:

Just three years before I became a member of America’s fighting forces at age 16, I became a member of the Boy Scouts of America at age 13 in a small town (pop. 2,500) in Mississippi. I was the new kid on the block, and the Scoutmaster of the local Boy Scout troop invited me to join his group. Lured by the promise of adventure, companionship, and the opportunity to learn all sorts of useful crafts and how to survive in the wilderness, I unhesitatingly signed up.

My membership in the state’s Boy Scouts of America chapter lasted even less time than my membership in the state’s National Guard—I was a Boy Scout for one month—just one month, and I was given the boot, ejected with malice and aforethought. Had the Boy Scouts of America been giving dishonorable discharges, I would have received one.

In two short weeks after I joined the Boy Scouts of America, my fascination with that organization had soured, and I was not one to keep discontent bottled up inside. When things went awry in my life, I complained. One shining example of my treatment in the troop, and of my penchant to complain, was a boxing event scheduled by the Scoutmaster, an exercise ostensibly intended to teach us self-defense and proper sportsmanship.

The Scoutmaster divided the troop into pairs, and coupled me with a boy roughly twice my big—older, taller and heavier than I. After my opponent landed several hard blows in the first round (I landed none), I stepped out of the ring. Actually, I stepped across the ring’s perimeter—it was a square marked by a chalk line drawn on the floor. Once safely outside the ring and out of my opponent’s reach, I stated forcefully and emphatically that I was quitting (the fight, not the troop). When I made known my reluctance to continue the fight and my decision to concede, I included some improper language concerning the event. That language was in reference to my opponent and to the obvious lack of fairness in the selection of sparring partners, and was applied forcefully and impartially to my opponent and the Scoutmaster.

The improper language was properly addressed by the Scoutmaster. He admonished me on my behavior, my language and my obvious lack of sportsmanship, and told me that my tenure in the troop depended on my future performance. His lecture was delivered forcefully and loudly in full sight and sound of my erstwhile opponent and the rest of the troop.

Bummer.

Two weeks later the troop went on a 12-mile hike (six miles out, six miles back) to a nature area for an overnight stay. We started our trek early on Saturday morning and reached our destination several hours later, with stops along the way so the Scoutmaster could lecture us on local flora and fauna.For much of the trek we traveled at the Boy Scout pace—10 steps running, then 10 steps walking, 10 steps running, then 10 steps walking, etc.

We arrived at the nature area and established our camp near a small lake, where we  were scheduled for a morning swim the next day before setting out on our return hike to civilization. The rest of the day was devoted to hikes along well-established trails, with the Scoutmaster pointing out items of interest—with explanations such as these:

“This is a pine tree, and these are pine cones.”

“This is an oak tree, and these are acorns.”

“This is a turtle.”

The turtle comment was prompted when one of the Scouts spotted a species of reptile idling along near the trail. I knew it was a land-based tortoise, but being fully aware that I was in enough trouble already, I wisely kept that knowledge to myself.

Near nightfall while returning to our camp, we encountered a remarkably lethargic full-grown Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake lying in the trail. It was a creature of heroic proportions—our Scoutmaster properly identified the snake thusly: “This is a rattlesnake, and its bite is deadly poisonous.” He explained that since snakes are nocturnal and hunt for food at night, this one was probably still digesting his catch of the night before.

He then efficiently and effectively killed the snake, consigned it to the bushes beside the trail so later passersby would not be alarmed by the sight of a dead rattlesnake lying in the trail—a very thoughtful and solicitous person, our Scoutmaster.

At the time my sympathies were with the rattlesnake, but considering an event that transpired later that night I came to appreciate and even admire—nay, I came to bless—the Scoutmaster for his actions.

Read on:

For our evening meal we had an open fire over which we burned, and feasted on, wieners and marshmallows. At a late hour, near midnight, one of the older boys asked if any of us wanted to go snipe hunting. I innocently declared that I had never heard of snipe hunting—as a result of my innocence, I was selected to straddle a ditch in the woods and hold open a burlap bag, and the other boys would spread out and drive any snipe in the area in my direction. I was told that the snipe would be moving very fast, and that I would feel them when they hit the inside of the bag. When I felt them hit, I was to close the bag and return to camp with my catch.

I straddled the ditch, held the bag open and listened to the others shouting and shaking limbs to get the snipe moving in my direction. I held my position and the bag firmly as the noises  faded into the distance and for several hours after that. I held my position and that damn bag into the wee small hours of the morning, until I finally realized, and accepted, the fact that I had been had, thoroughly and severely.

And during all that time I kept my head on a swivel with my eyes and ears wide open, looking and listening for rattlesnakes, deadly poisonous creatures that search for food during the hours of darkness, knowledge that I had gleaned—and retained—from the Scoutmaster’s lecture a few hours earlier. Blessed, or perhaps cursed, with deductive powers, I deduced that their food could possibly include a Boy Scout, especially one of diminutive size.

When I returned to camp all the others were asleep.

I awoke the next morning to an empty camp and footprints all over my opened backpack, a container that had sheltered my breakfast, a meal that should have included bread, bacon and fresh eggs—and would have except for the fact that the eggs were smashed and the bacon and bread slices were in the dirt. I could faintly hear the shouts and laughter of my fellow scouts—my friends—down at the lake, enjoying a morning swim after a hearty breakfast, one which I slept through because of my late return to camp.

Please be patient—I’m almost to the end of this tragic tale.

I arose, dressed, tinkled into the smoldering campfire ashes (I felt that as a Boy Scout, it was my solemn duty to do my best to prevent forest fires) and started a search for the dead rattlesnake. I found it, took it by the tail and dragged it, unseen behind me, down to the water’s edge near the dock. All my fellow scouts—my friends—were in the water and none paid any attention to me as I walked down the slope.

When I got to the water’s edge I began whirling the dead snake around over my head, and when I had it moving fast I shouted, “Snake!” and loosed the rattler toward the largest group of Boy Scouts in the water. The snake scored a direct hit, a splash-down right in the middle of the group. The boys scattered in all directions, some swimming for the dock, some for the bank, and some for open water—one boy put his head down and frantically thrashed toward the dock, sporting a rooster tail as he swam. He neglected to raise his head to take his bearings and crashed into the dock, opening a nice gash in his scalp as a result of his negligence.

When we left the nature area the Scoutmaster would not allow me to march with the troop for the return trip—I was banished to the rear of the formation and ordered to “stay there and eat dust.” That was no problem for me—I hated that routine of running ten steps, then walking ten steps, etc., etc. The troop stuck to the routine and trotted out of my sight long before we reached town.

On our return to town I was drummed out of the Boy Scouts unceremoniously, without being accorded the entertaining formalities used by old-time military commanders and depicted in Hollywood western movies.

Picture this:

John Wayne standing stiffly at attention with his commanding officer ripping off epaulets, stripes, shoulder patches, sleeve patches showing years of service and service overseas, and the chest-full of medals and decorations Wayne had earned by fighting the deadly redskins, all witnessed by the entire company, and then his hip-twitching slow walk out of the fort as the massive gates were swung open for his exit, away from the fort, the U. S. Army and his long-time fighting companions and into whatever the future might hold in store for him, all accompanied by the sonorously sad beat of the drum.

No, I had not earned the privilege of being officially drummed out of the Service—I was simply told, “You’re out. Don’t come back.”

No explanation was necessary—I knew very well why I was no longer a Boy Scout. In retrospect, I rationalized that I never really wanted to be a Boy Scout anyway—after all, I was invited to join in the beginning, and I succumbed to pressure exerted by the Scoutmaster and a few of my peers.

I was innocent—the fault was theirs.

That’s it—my enlistment in the Boy Scouts lasted only one month, three weeks short of my stint in the Mississippi National Guard. I earned no merit badges, not one, didn’t even come close to earning one. I earned no diplomas, received no recognition (other than the Scoutmaster’s acknowledgment of my nefarious activities). I never had an opportunity to assist a little old lady across the street or splint a bird’s broken wing or start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, and I never had a prayer of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

Joke:

Wanna know how to start a fire in the wilderness?

Rub two Boy Scouts together.

Sorry about that and I apologize, but it’s out of my control. I can’t help it—it’s in my nature.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Today’s youth vs yesterday’s . . .

A special note: All the italicized passages in this posting are my thoughts—they are separate from the original e-mail, but some of the un-italicized passages in the posting are mine—see my disclaimer below.

I received this item in an e-mail from a friend, and I felt it was well worth posting on Word Press. As always, the e-mail contained faults caused by its wandering around the internet and also as always, at least almost always—well, let’s say sometimes—the writing was seriously in need of attention.

With the most honorable intentions of making good writing better—the best, actually—I took the liberty of tidying up the e-mail. For starters, I removed an estimated total of 250 exclamation points. I did not actually count them, so my estimate may have been a tad high, but there was a huge bunch of exclamation points. It appeared that the keyboard had a mind of its own, and for whatever reason it sprinkled a plethora of exclamation points that appeared randomly throughout the e-mail.

The original teller of this tale vacillated among first, second and third person perspectives so I corrected it. The story is now told by a person aged 30 years or more and directed to persons that have accumulated fewer than thirty years of age. It is specifically directed to the youth of today.

A disclaimer: I must now, in the interests of full disclosure, admit that my efforts to improve this posting were not restricted to exclamation point removal. No, I added my own thoughts here and there—mostly there—adding or taking away as I saw fit, and I can state, unblushingly, that my contributions, whether they involved addition or subtraction, improved the missive in a literary sense and added significantly to the plentiful humor evinced in the original e-mail.

Hey, it’s an internet e-mail—it’s not copyrighted. It came to me unbidden and now it’s mine—I can massage it and manipulate it anyway I desire. I consider it comparable to a whole banana tossed from a speeding auto. It may be a bit the worse from its contact with asphalt, earth and the prickly pear bush in which it landed, but if it isn’t peeled—if its skin is unbroken—one may retrieve it, peel it and consume it with no fear of lessened gustatory effects or legal retribution. In that vein, I cheerfully yield to viewers that may wish to interpose their own thoughts.

Here I will apply a phrase often used, in some respects too often, by Sean Hannity on Fox News, “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

And now on to the posting—the original e-mail was untitled, so I seized the opportunity to title it:

Today’s youth vs yesterday’s . . .

If you are 30 or older, you should find this hilarious:

When I was a kid, adults bored me to tears with their tedious diatribes about how hard things were when they were growing up, what with walking twenty-five miles to school every morning—uphill—barefoot—both ways, yadda, yadda, yadda.

And I remember promising myself that when I grew up, there was no way in you know where that I would lay a bunch of stuff like that on my kids about how hard I had it then and how easy they have it now. However, now that I’m past the ripe old age of thirty, I can’t resist looking around at the youth of today. They have it so easy. Compared to my childhood years, theirs are Utopian in every respect.

I hate to say it, but you kids today? You have no idea how good you have it.

When we were kids we didn’t have the Internet. If we wanted to know something we had to go to the library and look it up ourselves—in the card catalog.

There was no email. We had to write a letter by applying a pen or pencil to a piece of paper. We then folded the paper and secured it in a paper enclosure known as an envelope, and we sealed the envelope by licking the sticky side of its flap, and then we licked a postage stamp of the proper denomination and placed it on the envelope, and then we had to walk all the way to the sidewalk to put it in the mailbox and raise the flag, and it would take a week or more to get there and another week or more to get an answer.

Nowadays envelopes are pre-licked. In the unlikely event that you need to write a letter, you simply remove the safety strip and press the flap to seal the envelope—after first placing the letter in the envelope, of course.

Today’s postage stamps are also pre-licked. You only need to peel the stamp from its backing and affix it to the upper right corner of the envelope. We consider those advances—from licking envelopes and stamps to the present pre-licked systems—high tech.

Child Protective Services was unborn, and nobody cared if our parents beat us. In fact, the parents of our friends had permission to also kick our butts.

No place was safe.

There were no MP3s or Napsters or iTunes—if we wanted to steal music, we had to hitchhike to the nearest record store and shoplift it.

Either that or we had to wait around all day to tape it from the radio, and the DJ would usually talk over the beginning and screw up the recording. There were no CD players—we had 8-track tape decks in our cars. We would play our favorite tape and eject it when finished, and then the tape would come undone rendering it useless. But hey, that’s how we rolled, baby—can you dig it?

We didn’t have fancy stuff like Call Waiting. If we were on the phone and someone else called, they heard a busy signal—that was it.

And we had no cell phones. If we left the house we could neither make a call nor receive one. We actually had to be out of touch with our friends. Oh, my, God—think of the horror of not being in touch with someone 24/7.

And today there’s texting—you kids have no idea how much you annoy us with your damn texting.

And we had no fancy Caller ID either. When the phone rang we had no idea who was calling—it could be our school, our parents, our boss, our bookie, our drug dealer or a collection agent—we had no way of knowing. We had to pick up the phone—the one tethered to the wall—and take our chances.

We had no fancy PlayStation or Xbox video games with high resolution 3-D graphics—we had the Atari 2600 with games such as Space Invaders and Asteroids. Our screen guy was a little square, and we actually had to use our imagination. And there were no multiple levels or screens—we had only one screen—forever! And we could never win. The games just kept getting harder and faster until we died—very similar to the game of life.

We had to use a little book called a TV Guide to find out what was on television, and we were screwed when it came to channel surfing. Remote controls had not yet been invented—in the good old days we had to get off our collective butts and walk over to the TV to change the channel.

I can hear it now: No remotes? No REMOTES? Oh, no, that’s impossible.

And we had no Cartoon Network—we could only get cartoons on Saturday morning. Do you hear what I’m saying? We had to wait all week for cartoons, you spoiled little rat finks.

And we didn’t have microwaves. If we wanted to heat something up, we had to use the stove—imagine that.

And our parents told us to stay outside and play—all day long and far into the evening. No, we had no electronics to soothe and comfort us, and if we came back inside we were forced to do chores.

As for car seats—oh, please—our moms threw us into the back seat and we hung on. If we were lucky we got the old safety arm across the chest at the last second if a sudden stop was required, and if we were in the front seat and our head hit the dashboard—well, that was our fault for riding shotgun in the first place.

Do you see it?

Can you dig it?

That’s what I’m talking about—you kids today have it far too easy. You’re spoiled rotten. You guys would not last five minutes in our day or at any time before our day.

Best regards,

The Over 30 Crowd

Time is a gift given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life—Norton Juster.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Age 13—banished from Boy Scouts of America . . .

Long, long ago in another century, having completed 16 years of life and in my seventeenth year, I told a little white lie concerning my age and enlisted in the Army National Guard of the sovereign state of Mississippi. My reason for enlisting was purely selfish—members reported for training one day each month on a Saturday. We dressed in one-piece fatigues, combat boots and fatigue cap, all of which (except for the cap) were far too big for me, and were paid $10 each for our attendance and efforts.

Big money.

My enlistment lasted for one month and 23 days, and then I resigned so I could enlist in the United States Air Force. I told a big non-white lie about my age, a lie which was duly sworn to by me, my mother and the recruiting sergeant (I was still six months short of 17, the age at which enlistment was permitted with parental consent).

A whole set of circumstances prompted that enlistment, not the least of which was the starting salary—$72.50 per month, with a guarantee of promotion from Private to Private First-class after only 13 weeks of training, providing, of course, that  I successfully completed the training. That promotion would include a pay raise of $2.50 per month for a grand total of $75 per month.

Don’t laugh—housing, food, clothing, medical and dental services and the opportunity to see the world (after learning a trade) would all be  free.

Sweet!

But I digress—back to my truncated tour of duty in the Boy Scouts of America:

Just three years before I became a member of America’s fighting forces at age 16, I became a member of the Boy Scouts of America at age 13 in a small town (pop. 2,500) in Mississippi. I was the new kid on the block, and the Scoutmaster of the local Boy Scout troop invited me to join his group. Lured by the promise of adventure, companionship, and the opportunity to learn all sorts of useful crafts and how to survive in the wilderness, I unhesitatingly signed up.

My membership in the state’s Boy Scouts of America chapter lasted even less time than my membership in the state’s National Guard—I was a Boy Scout for one month—just one month, and I was given the boot, ejected with malice and aforethought. Had the Boy Scouts of America been giving dishonorable discharges, I would have received one.

In two short weeks after I joined the Boy Scouts of America, my fascination with that organization had soured, and I was not one to keep discontent bottled up inside. When things went awry in my life, I complained. One shining example of my treatment in the troop, and of my penchant to complain, was a boxing event scheduled by the Scoutmaster, an exercise ostensibly intended to teach us self-defense and proper sportsmanship.

The Scoutmaster divided the troop into pairs, and coupled me with a boy roughly twice my big—older, taller and heavier than I. After my opponent landed several hard blows in the first round (I landed none), I stepped out of the ring. Actually, I stepped across the ring’s perimeter—it was a square marked by a chalk line drawn on the floor. Once safely outside the ring and out of my opponent’s reach, I stated forcefully and emphatically that I was quitting (the fight, not the troop). When I made known my reluctance to continue the fight and my decision to concede, I included some improper language concerning the event. That language was in reference to my opponent and to the obvious lack of fairness in the selection of sparring partners, and was applied forcefully and impartially to my opponent and the Scoutmaster.

The improper language was properly addressed by the Scoutmaster. He admonished me on my behavior, my language and my obvious lack of sportsmanship, and told me that my tenure in the troop depended on my future performance. His lecture was delivered forcefully and loudly in full sight and sound of my erstwhile opponent and the rest of the troop.

Bummer.

Two weeks later the troop went on a 12-mile hike (six miles out, six miles back) to a nature area for an overnight stay. We started our trek early on Saturday morning and reached our destination several hours later, with stops along the way so the Scoutmaster could lecture us on local flora and fauna.For much of the trek we traveled at the Boy Scout pace—10 steps running, then 10 steps walking, 10 steps running, then 10 steps walking, etc.

We arrived at the nature area and established our camp near a small lake, where we  were scheduled for a morning swim the next day before setting out on our return hike to civilization. The rest of the day was devoted to hikes along well-established trails, with the Scoutmaster pointing out items of interest—with explanations such as these:

“This is a pine tree, and these are pine cones.”

“This is an oak tree, and these are acorns.”

“This is a turtle.”

The turtle comment was prompted when one of the Scouts spotted a species of reptile idling along near the trail. I knew it was a land-based tortoise, but being fully aware that I was in enough trouble already, I wisely kept that knowledge to myself.

Near nightfall while returning to our camp, we encountered a remarkably lethargic full-grown Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake lying in the trail. It was a creature of heroic proportions—our Scoutmaster properly identified the snake thusly: “This is a rattlesnake, and its bite is deadly poisonous.” He explained that since snakes are nocturnal and hunt for food at night, this one was probably still digesting his catch of the night before.

He then efficiently and effectively killed the snake, consigned it to the bushes beside the trail so later passersby would not be alarmed by the sight of a dead rattlesnake lying in the trail—a very thoughtful and solicitous person, our Scoutmaster.

At the time my sympathies were with the rattlesnake, but considering an event that transpired later that night I came to appreciate and even admire—nay, I came to bless—the Scoutmaster for his actions.

Read on:

For our evening meal we had an open fire over which we burned, and feasted on, wieners and marshmallows. At a late hour, near midnight, one of the older boys asked if any of us wanted to go snipe hunting. I innocently declared that I had never heard of snipe hunting—as a result of my innocence, I was selected to straddle a ditch in the woods and hold open a burlap bag, and the other boys would spread out and drive any snipe in the area in my direction. I was told that the snipe would be moving very fast, and that I would feel them when they hit the inside of the bag. When I felt them hit, I was to close the bag and return to camp with my catch.

I straddled the ditch, held the bag open and listened to the others shouting and shaking limbs to get the snipe moving in my direction. I held my position and the bag firmly as the noises  faded into the distance and for several hours after that. I held my position and that damn bag into the wee small hours of the morning, until I finally realized, and accepted, the fact that I had been had, thoroughly and severely.

And during all that time I kept my head on a swivel with my eyes and ears wide open, looking and listening for rattlesnakes, deadly poisonous creatures that search for food during the hours of darkness, knowledge that I had gleaned—and retained—from the Scoutmaster’s lecture a few hours earlier. Blessed, or perhaps cursed, with deductive powers, I deduced that their food could possibly include a Boy Scout, especially one of diminutive size.

When I returned to camp all the others were asleep.

I awoke the next morning to an empty camp and footprints all over my opened backpack, a container that had sheltered my breakfast, a meal that should have included bread, bacon and fresh eggs—and would have except for the fact that the eggs were smashed and the bacon and bread slices were in the dirt. I could faintly hear the shouts and laughter of my fellow scouts—my friends—down at the lake, enjoying a morning swim after a hearty breakfast, one which I slept through because of my late return to camp.

Please be patient—I’m almost to the end of this tragic tale.

I arose, dressed, tinkled into the smoldering campfire ashes (I felt that as a Boy Scout, it was my solemn duty to do my best to prevent forest fires) and started a search for the dead rattlesnake. I found it, took it by the tail and dragged it, unseen behind me, down to the water’s edge near the dock. All my fellow scouts—my friendswere in the water and none paid any attention to me as I walked down the slope.

When I got to the water’s edge I began whirling the dead snake around over my head, and when I had it moving fast I shouted, “Snake!” and loosed the rattler toward the largest group of Boy Scouts in the water. The snake scored a direct hit, a splash-down right in the middle of the group. The boys scattered in all directions, some swimming for the dock, some for the bank, and some for open water—one boy put his head down and frantically thrashed toward the dock, sporting a rooster tail as he swam. He neglected to raise his head to take his bearings and crashed into the dock, opening a nice gash in his scalp as a result of his negligence.

When we left the nature area the Scoutmaster would not allow me to march with the troop for the return trip—I was banished to the rear of the formation and ordered to “stay there and eat dust.” That was no problem for me—I hated that routine of running ten steps, then walking ten steps, etc., etc. The troop stuck to the routine and trotted out of my sight long before we reached town.

On our return to town I was drummed out of the Boy Scouts unceremoniously, without being accorded the entertaining formalities used by old-time military commanders and depicted in Hollywood western movies.

Picture this:

John Wayne standing stiffly at attention with his commanding officer ripping off epaulets, stripes, shoulder patches, sleeve patches showing years of service and service overseas, and the chest-full of medals and decorations Wayne had earned by fighting the deadly redskins, all witnessed by the entire company, and then his hip-twitching slow walk out of the fort as the massive gates were swung open for his exit, away from the fort, the U. S. Army and his long-time fighting companions and into whatever the future might hold in store for him, all accompanied by the sonorously sad beat of the drum.

No, I had not earned the privilege of being officially drummed out of the Service—I was simply told, “You’re out. Don’t come back.”

No explanation was necessary—I knew very well why I was no longer a Boy Scout. In retrospect, I rationalized that I never really wanted to be a Boy Scout anyway—after all, I was invited to join in the beginning, and I succumbed to pressure exerted by the Scoutmaster and a few of my peers.

I was innocent—the fault was theirs.

That’s it—my enlistment in the Boy Scouts lasted only one month, three weeks short of my stint in the Mississippi National Guard. I earned no merit badges, not one, didn’t even come close to earning one. I earned no diplomas, received no recognition (other than the Scoutmaster’s acknowledgment of my nefarious activities). I never had an opportunity to assist a little old lady across the street or splint a bird’s broken wing or start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, and I never had a prayer of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

Joke:

Wanna know how to start a fire in the wilderness?

Rub two Boy Scouts together.

Sorry about that and I apologize, but it’s out of my control. I can’t help it—it’s in my nature.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2009 in Childhood, friends, Humor, Uncategorized

 

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Unto you this day a child was born . . .

DISCLAIMER: There is a possibility, albeit slight, that some viewers may associate this title with a different birth, one mentioned in the King James version of the Holy Bible (Luke 2:1) wherein it is said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Granted, there appears to be a certain similarity but the relationship is purely coincidental—please be assured that this posting refers to a different child, in a different time, in a different place and under remarkably different circumstances. To those who are familiar with the biblical passage and thus recognize the similarity, I offer my congratulations and my respect.

To continue with my posting:

September in West Central Alabama is a pleasant month—a beautiful month, with foliage exploding in a riotous collage of colors. The days are cool and the skies are clear, and in 1932 the smell of wood smoke was in the air. In that era most homes in Alabama’s rural areas were lighted by kerosene lamps and heated by open fireplaces, and that would continue for several more years until electricity finally made its way to my place of birth, a farmhouse well off the beaten path, located in a thickly forested area some five miles south of Vernon, the county seat of Lamar County, Alabama.

The small clapboard house built on piers is long-gone, replaced with a modern brick-and-mortar edifice with electric lighting, gas heating, air conditioning, computers and telephones. Moreover, the locations of the garbage can and toilet have been reversed—now the garbage can is outside the house and the privy, formerly an outdoor toilet, is now inside.

The smoke came from fireplace chimneys and kitchen stovepipes. Smoke from rich pine chunks, burning in cast-iron stoves, and hardwood oak burning in open fireplaces emerged from stovepipes and chimneys to merge and fill the air with a scent both sweet and pungent. Since fall was hog-killing time in rural Alabama on most farms, some of the smoke came from fires laid around and under iron wash-pots. The water in the pots had to be at, or near, its boiling point before dipping the carcasses of freshly killed hogs in it, a process necessary to loosen the hog bristles so they could be cleanly scraped from the skin.

Shortly before midnight on September 18, 1932 a country doctor completed the successful delivery of a boy baby, the seventh and final child of the 35-year old mother. After he congratulated her and voiced his post-natal instructions, he turned his horse and buggy around and set off on the return trip to his home in Vernon, a small town some five miles to the north. He arrived there on September 19 during the wee small hours of the morning. Though sleepy and tired from his arduous day, he felt obligated to record the birth before retiring from his labors. Because of that tiredness, perhaps, he mistakenly recorded the baby’s birth as 19 September rather than 18 September.

I was that child, and because my mother said I was born on the eighteenth of September, each year on that date I added another year to my age, a process which would continue for many years. The year 1949 was an important milestone in my life. In that year I wanted to join—nay, urgently needed to join—the US Army and I had no birth certificate, so I traveled (hitch-hiked) to Vernon to seek the doctor who delivered me. I found him in his office and told him I was in search of a document showing my date of birth.

In order to know where to begin his search, the doctor needed to know my age and the year I was born. I told him I was 17 years old, born on September 18, 1931. He found his pen-and-ink record of my birth in a huge ledger and noted that I was not 17—I was 16, and I was born on September 19, 1932, not September 18, 1931. He said that was what the ledger showed, and that was what would be reflected by any document he might issue. I was unnamed in his ledger, so he consented to accept the name I gave him (I have often regretted giving him my real name—shucks, I could have been anybody I wanted to be!).

I apologized for my “little white lie” and explained that I needed to be 17 years old, the minimum age required to join the army with parental consent (otherwise the minimum age was 18). I explained that my mother was willing—eager, actually—to sign a false document. My pleas were rejected, and I left the doctor’s office with a certified document showing my date of birth as September 19, 1932.

No matter—where there’s a will there’s a way. The Army recruiting sergeant (a very resourceful recruiter who, at that time, had successfully achieved his recruiting quota for 12 consecutive years) took a bottle of ink eradicator, and deftly using the bottle’s tiny brush to apply the liquid, removed the “2” from the 1932, and placed the birth certificate in an upright Royal typewriter (the state of the art at that time). After several tedious moments he was satisfied that he had the “1” key appropriately placed. He struck the key firmly and—voila!—a “1” appeared in the exact spot where the “2” had been, perfectly aligned with the “3” in 1932. With that one stroke of a typewriter key and its resulting imprint, I officially became one year older.

The rest, as some are wont to say, is history. My mother (my sole guardian) willingly and unashamedly signed the paper attesting to my age and thereby giving her permission for me to enlist, and I was scheduled for a swearing-in ceremony. However, before that time came the Army recruiter had made his monthly quota for that service and enlistments were closed. He told me I could wait until the Army recruiting quota opened the following month, or I could go into the US Air Force immediately.

I accepted the Air Force offer without hesitation and was duly sworn-in, and on the morning of March 7, 1949, shortly after my mother had taught me how to to make a Windsor knot in a necktie, I boarded a train in Columbus, Mississippi (note: 2-digit codes for states had not yet been developed) bound for New Orleans. In that city I changed to a Southern Pacific train, the Sunset Limited headed for California.

In the midst of a gaggle of other enlistees, I left the train at Sunset Station in San Antonio, Texas and presented myself, all 110 pounds of me, at the tender age of 16 years, five months and 18 days, to a burly military policeman. That worthy used some really colorful language to form us into some semblance of a military formation, a formation which he strained mightily to maintain while we waited for the bus which would transport us to Lackland Air Force Base to begin basic training.

My association with the United States Air Force lasted 22 years, plus several more months and a few more days. As one might expect, events of those years now threaten viewers with an infinite number of additional inane blog postings.

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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