For small town America, which is where the majority of our readers reside, everybody knows everybody (including their personal business)… some good and some not so much. But even if you were born and raised in a place like the Bronx, NY you had ethnic neighborhoods that were your version of “small town” America.
Rule number one in every community or village is you never rat on others, whether it seemed right or not. When a classmate of ours was involved in a minor hit-and-run accident in our neighborhood, no one would rat him out. It took a while… but he came forward in the end and owned his mistake. All is well that ends well. That was the way it was.
In most small towns around America, an athlete is something of a god in the community. Glory fades as fast as it arrives… but during that brief moment in a kid’s life they relish that limelight. They feel like they are a god. That was the way it was. And sadly, for so many this might, in fact, be their mountaintop of accomplishment.
While much has remained dependable and constant, much more has changed. No question, today’s children have more choices because of education, technology and the existence of the global village.
Our three television channels in the sixties went off the air at 1:00 a.m. That has evolved into hundreds of outlets and on demand choices that could quench any appetite around the clock. My uncle owned the only color television in our family. Hardly anyone had more than one TV. Today, there is one in nearly every room of the house.
We bought long-play records made of vinyl or 45 RPM records. Today’s children have thousands of choices at the click of a mouse. The only three car makers were Ford, GM and Chevy… and they owned the car market. Nobody leased a car. You bought it with cash. Price was the only consideration, not the monthly payment because nobody financed a car. And what was a seat belt anyway? They only had those on airplanes.
Speaking of planes, no one could afford to fly so you took the family station wagon on vacation. Imagine being a member of my family of 11 children crammed into one car.
There was the boy’s side of the house and a girl’s side. We all shared one bathroom until my dad built a second one on as the family expanded. Any long distance travel was by bus. Planes and trains were a luxury most could not afford.
Some 40-60 percent of all adults smoked… anywhere and everywhere. There was no such thing as a “no smoking area” or for that matter, fast food restaurants. People ate a lot of vegetables, not because they were vegetarians but because they could grow their own. Thirty cereal brands have evolved into hundreds today and ketchup was considered a side dish.
The nice thing about small towns is people kept their private lives private. There was no Facebook where you hung your dirty laundry for the world to view. Yet all your neighbors knew your business. All they had to do was pick up the telephone party line and listen in on your conversations.
Jell-O was your occasional dessert and ice cream was a luxury. Retail stores closed at 6 p.m. Today, the trend is such that there will be few if any retail stores or malls in existence in the not too distant future. You will do all your shopping on-line.
In my home town of Lexington, SC, people were born, lived and died there. Divorce rates were half of what they are today and people died much sooner because of cancer, heart and endocrine-related disorders.
The pace was slower, there were fewer sports, gas was 25 cents a gallon and if you were 18, you could be expected to be drafted. We could hustle tea or lemonade on the corner. Today, you need a permit from the city to solicit sales.
Somehow, we were happier with less.