Friday, June 29, 2012

Roll Back

Because my parents were married for more than a decade before they had children, I knew they were older than most. While other kids in my neighborhood had moms and dads celebrating their 35th and 40th birthday, my folks were in their late 40s and 50s respectively. Being older, they had a bit more history under their belts. In fact, they married in the big middle of the Great Depression. So the story goes, an elderly aunt gave the the green light because, in her view, things weren't going to get better for a good while, so they might just as well find something to celebrate. Sounds familiar.
Now and then we'd get my dad talking about life in his childhood and adolescence. It was interesting to hear the price of a loaf of bread, the limited opportunities for transportation, and what a typical day without television or a car was like. New Yorkers got on quite well with public transit. If we really pushed it, we'd get him talking about the kinds of penny candy he sold in their little combo soda fountain/grocery store. I find myself in that position today when I talk to my niece's kids or even some of the young teachers I supervise. When I tell them my first year's salary (well under 15k) or how copies were typed and made with a ditto machine, they marvel. Still, they can only imagine the hours put in then. When I pay $4. for a gallon of gas or $2.50 for a quart of milk, I can only wonder what happened? The other day I took my niece's 9 year old to the store in my truck. Believe it or not, it still has roll down windows. This child had never been in a vehicle that had anything other than electric windows. When she looked miffed after trying to find the button to roll down the window, I had to demonstrate how it was done. She was enthralled. "That's so cool," she said. I've noticed that many childhood candy bars are now gone. No more Powerhouse. No more Hollywood bar or Milkshake. Hershey Kisses come in all sorts of flavors too. The 5 or 10 cent candy bar has been downsized for $1.50. Like shopping malls, the stores are full of the same things mostly. Nothing lasts forever. A price, a brand name, a window crank or even a birthday.

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