by Curt Kovener
“What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?” a middle school aged youngster asked me.
“We didn’t have fast food when I was growing up,” I informed him. “All the food was slow.”
“C’mon, seriously? Where did you eat?”
“It was a place called ‘at home’,” I explained.
“My Mom cooked everyday and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the kitchen table, and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did.”
I didn’t tell him the part about how I had to ask permission to leave the table. Or if I didn’t eat what she prepared, it would be on my breakfast plate the next morning.
But there are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his mind could handle it.
Some parents never owned their own house, wore blue jeans, set foot on a golf course, traveled outside the country or had a credit card. And debit cards weren’t even invented yet. In their later years they had something called a revolving charge card. The card was only good are Sears & Roebuck. But then Roebuck must have died because it became just Sears. And now Sears is dead. And Penney’s, the other revolving charge card provider, isn’t too healthy either.
My parents never drove me to soccer practice. This was primarily because we never heard of soccer. I got to my Little League practice by using a bicycle. I had a bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds and had only one speed…as fast as I wanted to pedal.
We did have a television in our house. It was a square black and white model that sat on a table. We were able to receive three channels, two out of Louisville and Channel 4 out of Bloomington/Indianapolis. Channel 4 had the best cartoons, Popeye & Janie, Cowboy Bob, and later as I got older I got to watch scary movies hosted by Sammy Terry.
Of course the very best show was the weekend TV rasslin’ matches with Dick the Bruiser, Bobo Brazil, and Cowboy Bob…a different one from the cartoon show host.
I remember when I tasted my first pizza, though then it was called ‘pizza pie.’ There wasn’t a pizza joint on nearly every corner. The best pizza back then came from the old Tony’s & Pauly’s restaurant & pub in Scottsburg. When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth. Then the cheese slid off, swung down and plastered itself against my chin and burned that, too.
And unless Dad brought one home, pizzas were not delivered to our home. But milk was. All newspapers were delivered by boys and nearly every boy at some time delivered newspapers.
I never had a phone in my room. The only phone in the house was on a stand in the hallway and it was a party line. Before you could dial—a rotary dial not a push button— you had to listen and make sure other people weren’t already using the phone. And if they were we were not to listen in but quietly hangup quickly. Though sometimes Mom didn’t.
If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food (though, admittedly, even the places today that claim to be fast food are not anymore), you may want to share some of these historical narratives with the grandchildren or the neighbor’s kids if your grandkids won’t pay attention to you. Someone needs to hear this stuff.
But don’t be surprised if they break out laughing and simply don’t believe the memories you share.
Growing up isn’t what it used to be.