!!!Things That REALLY Piss Me Off
(Just a Memory Away

If ever there was a term that was very commonly used (or perhaps overused), it is the title of this chapter.  So what are the “good old days”, and why is everyone so quick to refer to them?  First of all, the good old days is definitely a generic term.  It doesn’t refer to one, specific, single period of time, like 1998 to 2005, but rather a fairly large group of specific time periods from the past.  The reason why there are multiple time periods with the tag “the good old days” is that the term has a totally different meaning to each end every generation because every generation has its own good old days which is different from other generations.  It is essentially that period of time somewhere from our early childhood years through and including our adolescent and high school years and, for some folks, extending into their time in college.  It is a period from which many of us carry a number of very pleasant memories, and it is specifically those memories which make those days “the good old days”.
Is there anything that brings a smile to your face faster and easier than a memory from the good old days?  But were the good old days really that good, or do our memories serve us perhaps selectively and not necessarily accurately.  There is something about nostalgia that seems to always make the past more appealing and appetizing than the present or even the future, but that is also quite likely the natural tendency for all of us to block out unpleasantries and to replace them with pleasant memories even if our recollection of the good old days may not always be entirely accurate.
And that got me to thinking about my good old days and what specifically made them so good (or not so good).  Here are some examples:
  •  The good old days were when I was six years old and in first grade and walked to school (about three blocks away) all by myself.  Alright, so there was an adult crossing guard on every corner, but what about the space between guards?  By todays’ standards, any of a number of horrendous things could have happened to me.  I could have been kidnapped, someone could have tried to sell or give me drugs or I could have been shot.  An alien could have abducted me, or monsters from another dimension could have feasted on my flesh.  But that didn’t happen.  Even at the young age of six, I knew by name all the crossing guards and most of the people who owned the homes I passed on my way to school.
  •  The good old days were when my parents gave me thirty five cents every Saturday to go to the movies with my friends.  If you got there by noon it was only twenty cents which left me fifteen cents to buy candy.  Full size candy bars were a nickel a piece, and popcorn the same.  In other words, that remaining fifteen cents was enough for me to eat like a pig and totally saturate my innards with sugar.  Even better, the hour from noon to one o’clock was filled with coming attractions, cartoons, and serials (stories told in weekly installments) staring characters like Rocket Man, Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry who, to a young adolescent, seemed like real people whom we aspired to be like.  After the feature film were even more cartoons and so called shorts (short films on a particular subject which were usually funny or educational), and when we finally left the theater four or more hours later, the sudden exposure to sunlight after being in the dark for so many hours made us shade our eyes like bats who had not made it back to their caves before the sun came up.
  •   The good old days were when I was in grade school, and at 9:45 every day the world seem to come to a halt while my teacher supervised the handing out of small milk bottles (yes, bottles, not cartons).  Because my mother finally relented and wrote the required note, I was one of less than half of my classmates who were allowed to partake of chocolate milk instead of the plain old white stuff.  I can still remembering sitting at my desk and very slowly sipping my brown colored milk as if it were a thirty year old malt scotch.  But I doubt any scotch ever tasted that good!
  • The good old days were when remorseless, stone cold killers were sentenced to death, and then the punishment was actually carried out! 
  •  The good old days were when my friends and I would spend a weekend night at our favorite local pizza parlor eating what was undoubtedly the world’s greatest pizza and enjoying a bottle of white birch beer along with a Lucky Strike or Chesterfield cigarette in between slices.  Somewhere around the age of seventeen, we discovered a local bar that tended to look the other way when it came to underage drinking, and because of that eye wink to the law, we were able to trade in the birch beer for a bottle of local suds….also more enjoyable that a thirty year old malt scotch! 
  • The good old days were when you had the flu or some other bug, and the doctor came to you…and I mean you as in your house!  That’s what used to be called a “house call” which has since gone the way of the old floppy disk.  The doctor actually drove to your home, sat on your sick bed and examined you.  And when he was done, he’d use your house phone (cell phones were still about fifty years away!) to call a prescription into the nearby neighborhood pharmacy which was most likely a Rexall drug store.
  •  The good old days were, with one notable exception, when rubbers (condoms) were, available only from a pharmacist who stood guard behind the prescription counter at your neighborhood drug store.  For a teenager to ask him (and in very whispered tones) for a packet of Trojan Lambskins was accompanied by the same level of embarrassment as asking your grandmother if she used regular Kotex or super absorbent sanitary napkins.  Today, supermarkets devote more shelf space to condoms than to citrus fruits! The one exception referred to above was that the men’s rooms in some bars had what were known as “raincoat machines” where for the price of two quarters you could purchase a small package containing two small foil wrapped packets each of which contained a no name condom.  It was generally accepted that these no name condoms were not very reliable and could necessitate your having to come up with a baby name a few months after being used!  But since they usually spent most of their lives in some adolescent male’s wallet and rarely (if ever!) were taken into battle, what difference did it make?
  •  The good old days were when cigarettes were twenty five cents a pack and smoking was cooler than owning the latest IPhone or having a really spectacular hair day.  Consider for a moment how much attitudes have changed toward smoking over the last twenty or thirty years.  I can remember being hospitalized in the 1970s for pneumonia.  Not only was I kept as an in-patient for an entire week (something you’d never see today), but I also smoked in my room which, by the way, had two ashtrays….one for the patient and one for guests!  I can also remember pushing a shopping cart down the aisles of our local supermarkets with a cigarette dangling from my lips.  And when I was done, I simply dropped the butt on the floor and crushed it out with my foot.  When my mother died at the age of 100, my two daughters (who were in their thirties at the time) fought over a cigarette case which my mother had kept on an end table in her TV room.  When I was a child that same case held cigarettes which were offered to guests, but for the past thirty or more years it contained a lone box of spearmint Chicklets which miraculously always seemed to be full no matter how many Chicklets my kids had eaten on their last visit to Nana’s.  
  • The good old days were when you misbehaved in class, failed to follow directions or were just an old fashioned smart ass, you were unceremoniously wacked on the hand with a ruler, slapped on the top of the head or just plain old yelled at until you cowered in your seat.  (…not that any of those thing ever happened to me personally!)
  •  The good old days were when Christmas (even for the Jewish kids!) was a real novelty  and much anticipated holiday because decorations didn’t go up until the week after Thanksgiving and Christmas songs didn’t start playing in stores until about three weeks before Santa’s arrival.  Now days, Holiday decorations are up in stores when your Thanksgiving turkey is still a chick and even before the neighborhood kids have the opportunity to shout “Trick or Treat”!
  • The good old days were when I went into work with my father on Saturday mornings.  On the four or five mile ride from our house to the store, we’d pass an intersection which had a gas station on each of the four corners.  On the way in to town in the morning, the gas might have been on the order of nineteen cents a gallon, but on the way home it would have dropped by two or perhaps even three cents a gallon.  They had a term for it back then which hasn’t been used since probably sometime in the 1960s.  The term is “gas war”, and it was when nearby gas stations fought for customers by undercutting the other guy’s price.  An attendant enthusiastically filled your tank, checked your oil and fluid levels and, upon request, check your tire pressure and add air if required.  And, by the way, at no charge!
    As an added bonus, in the three or four weeks leading up to Easter many gas stations would attract customers by giving away baby chicks.  (Yup…that’s right….that’s “chicks” as in real live baby chickens!)  But to add even further to the allure of owning a genuine clucking and crapping baby chick was the option of selecting what color you preferred your baby chicks to be.  There was royal blue (quite regal in appearance), scarlet red (who doesn’t love basic scarlet red!), back to earth green (a real favorite of tree huggers), and even purple, though purple never seemed to enjoy the popularity of the other three colors.  And of course, there was the perennial favorite, natural, undyed, chick yellow for those less adventurous in their color preferences.  I never actually saw the colorization process take place, but more than one gas station attendant told us the chicks were simply dunked into a pot of die.  (Hmmm, I wonder why the vast majority of gas station give-away chicks died within a few weeks?  And, hmmm, I wonder why the undyed yellow chicks always seemed to live a lot longer than my parents wanted them to?)  In fact, after a period of residence in a good home, nearly all of the natural yellow chicks usually had to be dropped off at night to nearby farms because they had become too big to be housed in residential basements.  Do you think chemicals in the dye might have had anything to do with the premature passing of the dyed baby chicks?  Hmmm, I wonder…? 
  • The good old days were when families (two different generations) sat down and watched TV together.  Deciding what program to watch was made considerably easier than today because of the fact that there were only three TV stations to choose from, and most of the offerings were original programming, not reruns!
  • The good old days were when grocery shopping was so much easier because there was, quite literally, a small fraction of the food products now on the market.  Where cereal aisles in today’s super markets contain somewhere on the order of fifty or more cereals, back in my good old days that number was probably barely ten, and the variety of other products was similarly greatly reduced.  Women spent a lot more time in the kitchen cooking and baking because the availability of prepared foods was so much less than it is today.  I guess back then women were so tied to the kitchen that they couldn’t have worked real jobs even if they wanted to!
  • The good old days were when a presidential election campaign began about a year before the election and had sporadic and incidental news coverage until just before the two parties held their conventions.\
  • The good old days were when certain words had completely different and more benign meanings than they do today.  Just about anyone from my generation can tell you about Jerry Vale’s 1960s hit “Pretend You Don’t See Her” which contains the lyric “But smile and pretend to be gay.”  (Need I say anything further?)  Today, there’s no pretending about it!  Talk about taking on a whole new meaning!
  • The good old days were when you could take leave of the world for a day or two by just not listening to or watching the news.  Today, our attachment to and dependency on cellular devices and social media make that all but impossible. 
  • The good old days were when everything didn’t have to be done immediately.  Letters sent by USPS snail mail, and which took three or four days to deliver, were the norm and still the only avenue for written communications, and “overnight” still usually meant “spending the night” rather than a form of expedited delivery.  UPS was an option for businesses to deliver larger packages that the US Postal Services wouldn’t take, and Fed Ex wasn’t even yet an embryo of an idea in someone’s head.        
  • The good old days were when our only communications and in-house entertainment costs were MA Bell for the phone (on average perhaps $30 per month) and cable TV which, for the five or ten channels we received, cost at most $5 a month.  Today our costs for those same services including cellular services and devices is more on the order of between $300 and $400 a month! Another thing that made it the good old days was that there was no cost for fixing telephone service or equipment problems.  The phones of those days were built from a material stronger than hardened steel.  If you dropped one from the top of the Empire State Building, you might do damage to the pavement where it hit, but other than perhaps a scratch or two on the phone, it would still work fine.  That’s more than a little different from the disposable world we live in today where you’re lucky to get three years from a cellular device.
  • The good old days were when the auto manufacturers released the new models in late September and early October and all within about two or three weeks of one another.  Back then the design changes from year to year were so significant that sometimes you couldn’t tell what make or model a new car was without looking at the name on the car.  The introduction of new models was so big of a production that they actually put brown paper over the showroom windows so that you couldn’t see the new models until the day of the big unveiling.  The suspense and drama created put the annual introduction of new Apple products to shame!  The cars of today barely change from one model year to the next.  In fact, if you were put in suspended animation and then awakened ten years later, you probably wouldn’t notice any significant difference.  (Any changes would most likely be along the lines of, “Oh my god!  The new Jeep Grand Cherokee’s wheels have five spokes instead of six this year!”….or, “I don’t believe it!  The new Volvo has different stitching in the leather seats!”)
  • The good old days were when instead of getting personal and calling each other names likes grade school kids in a playground, presidential candidates debated their different points of view on important topics such as whether a tax cut or increased government spending would best stimulate the economy, and these different perspectives were aired and debated in a civil and respectful tone.  (Don’t you wish those good old days were here again?)
    The good old days were when the worst thing a teenage boy could do was wear his hair in a DA and turn up the back of his shirt collar.  (Man, those were such “bad” kids!)  

    And finally, what made the good old days so good was that (1) they were old memories and (2), and even more importantly, they were your memories.  And like fine wine, they grew better and better with age!






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