7 Things We Did Growing Up that Our Children Would Never Understand

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Remember those conversations you had with your grandparents, back when you were a child, where they told these fantastical tales about things my generation would never experience or see a need for. Like, walking 20 miles to school … in the snow … uphill … shoeless. Or running into gypsy bandits that lived in the woods near their houses or even sitting around the radio to listen to your favorite shows?

As crazy as all of that sounded (exaggeration aside), I’m pretty sure the things I grew up doing as a Gen Xer would sound equally ridiculous to my own children. Yes, I imagine these are the yarns I will spin as my kids grow up and they have kids of their own.

“Well, youngin’s, you think you’ve got it tough with your Facebook and your Google and your iParaphernalia? Why, in my day, we had to …”

1. Work a car with our own two hands. Sure, people in the old old days didn’t have automatic transitions, or steering for that matter, but do you know what my generation had to do? We had to pull up the locks with our fingers!!! And that’s not all, if you wanted a breeze or to let out an odor or some cigarette smoke (oh, everyone smoked in my day, even the kids), you had to turn a crank around and around and around to simply open the window a crack. And don’t get me started on positioning the seat!

Also, there was no guarantee you would make it out alive as seat belts were merely suggested and you were allowed to sleep along the ledge of the back windsheild or sit in the front middle seat, by the time you were talking. Not that you had a proper car seat leading up to that point anyway. No, the only thing between you and a windshield was your mom’s outstretched arm.Thanks mom.

2. Turn the channel. Oh kids … you think rolling down the window seems exhausting? Try lumbering over to the television. EVERY TIME you want to change the channel. I kid you not, the channels were located on the set … and there were only 13 of them! And only like four of them had anything worth watching!

And sometimes you had to walk to the TV across a shag carpet that shocked you as you shuffled! That’s right, an actual electric shock!

And you HAD to watch all the commercials!

And if the show you were watching didn’t get good reception, you may have to adjust the bunny ears or just stand there and hold them for the duration of the show, because the TV inevitably worked better when you were touching (or near) the antenna, to ensure you never got to sit back down.

And if you did eventually get cable and a remote, it probably had a wire connected to the TV that everyone tripped on as they entered the room. And it only had like 2 buttons (up and down) so you had to go through each channel to get to the one you wanted orrrrr, your remote had a turn dial that rotated, kind of like a rotary phone except it didn’t rotate back at you. What do you mean, what’s a rotary phone? Sheesh, forget it. Why don’t you just go watch the Disney XD on your iPhone or something?

3. Put a needle on the record. Sooooo, they used to have these big round disc-like things called records. Maybe you’ve seen one in a YouTube video where someone is DJ’ing. They were like super-sized CDs. I’m sorry, you don’t know what that is? Umm DVDs? Sure, we can say Blu-rays if it makes you happy. Anyhoo, you had an arm with a needle that had to be placed on the record to play a song, but you had to be super careful when you put it on because the slightest pressure could scratch the whole thing. You know, like the way you have to use your Sonicare toothbrush — gently and let it do all the work?

Now, if you were really adept at record playing, you could find the right groove for any song you wanted to hear. Oh, and you know how your speakers are the size of a Q-tip? Mine were the size of furniture. In fact, they took up most of my room. Actually, one speaker doubled as my bedside table and the other speaker doubled … as my bed.

4. Answer the phone.  We had to actually answer the phone because we had no idea who the heck was calling us, there were no special rings or caller IDs or screens that pop up on your TV or announce the caller. It was horrible. Imagine always having to pick up the phone and never knowing who would be lurking on the other line. Maybe it was someone for your mom or a video store reminding you that your movies were overdue. You were always hoping it was one of your BFFs or better yet, your crush, who could’ve looked up your number in the Yellow Pages (we’ll get to that).

Plus, when you did answer you were stuck within a 6ft radius of the phone’s location. No, it wasn’t because you got bad reception … the phone was stuck to the wall and you were stuck to the phone by a coiled cord that no matter how far you stretched it, you couldn’t seem to reach the place you wanted to be. I know, it’s the stuff of nightmares. Wait until I tell you about the advent of the answering machine and those tiny cassette tapes!

5. Handle a 35 mm camera. Listen up kiddos, we didn’t have the luxury of just picking up our phone and snapping a shot to then post to Instagram or Facebook when we wanted to capture a moment and share it with the world. No, it took time and thought … and precision. First, we had to load our cameras by pulling negative film from a roll and getting the teeth to take hold.

No, they weren’t real teeth, Einstein.  Of course that’s assuming we had the right speed of film.

No, the film didn’t actually move, sheesh.

Can I go on?

We were very specific about the pictures we would take because frankly, we had a finite amount, usually like 18 or 24.  Well, 36 if you were really rich. Plus, you had to simply cross your fingers that you looked good because you may not get to see your pic for a month … or ever!

Why?

Because they had to be developed by creepy people who worked in little free standing booths in parking lots and played Dungeons and Dragons. Of course sometimes they got exposed and basically you could then kiss your memories of your Disney vacation or your birthday goodbye.

6. Use a map. Maps were how we pretty much got anywhere far or got lost trying to get there. You see, we didn’t have those fancy shmancy GPS systems that log traffic, offer alternate routes, and have a lovely chipper voice command. No, we had massive papers that seemed to keep unfolding and unfolding and unfolding with tons of tiny lines on them, that remind me of the backs of my once sexy legs. We had to use our fingers to plot a course that would get us to our destination and you could lose your place in the blink of an eye, which is why the voice of the person giving directions wasn’t lovely or chipper at all. It was the snappy, yelly, frustrated voice of one of your parents, who would have no problem turning around and slapping you half way through the trip if you interrupted them, gave your opinion, or sang along with your Sony Walkman with too much fervor.

Oh, and there was no alert you when you went off-course. That’s what one toothed gas attendants in the middle of nowhere were for!

7. Look things up manually. See my adorable little imps, we didn’t have a massive database like the Internet at our fingertips. No, we read things that were made from trees. They called those things books and there was a whole section of them that were considered references. They included books like dictionaries, encyclopedias and thesauruses … thesauri? Damn it, I’ll have to Google the plural of thesaurus later, but you get the point.

We found these reference sections in places called libraries where a man named Dewey Decimal was king.

There we didn’t buy books, we simply shared them with other people and got their book cooties. We even got information for reports and school papers from those reference books I mentioned earlier and none of them started with Wiki. In fact, I once got an encyclopedia set for a birthday present (yeah, we didn’t get fun things back then like X-Boxes because knowledge was expensive).

Anyhoo, Nana (my mom) bought it in two installments – the first half and second half of the alphabet. But we couldn’t afford the second half, because like I said, encyclopedias were like a million dollars and do you know what happened? In sixth grade, I had to do a report on Switzerland and I failed because I only had A through M. And no one wanted to drive me to the library because it was so annoying to put the key in the door or manually open the locks.

Damn you Jane Lewis for getting Madagascar!

So, children: Don’t come crying to me when you forget to charge your iPad or a lightning storm affects the satellite TV because, now you see how tough my generation had it growing up.

Comments

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  1. 1

    Audrey says

    We also had to watch movies on video TAPES that could spontaneously be eaten by the VCR, and then have Mom drive us all the way back to to video store to select different ones.
    Awesome post. Those were the days :)

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  2. 5

    Shoshana Kronfeld says

    My son actually got (had) to use one of those TV’s with the turn dial for channel selection and volumn just last week when we were visiting my FIL. The part he really had trouble with was the volumn. Everytime a loud commercial came on and then the much quieter show, he had to get up and fix the volumn. He is constantly playing with volumn control at home. He could not believe that was how I grew up. ANd then I told him we did not even get a color TV until I was a teen. Blew his little mind :)

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  3. 6

    says

    Man, I thought the “This is 39″ post made me feel old. I had videos on Betamax for crying out loud!

    We also had to use pay phones to call people when we were out of the house.

    Thank you, it was fun and a little disturbing to go down this memory lane.

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  4. 9

    Priscilla says

    I grew up in the transitional period where technology was coming out so fast it was mind blowing.

    I didn’t have a great cellphone. I had that little digital phone with snake on it and I never took my cellphone out in class like kids do today.

    I did have DVDs but they were the new thing so most of our stuff was still on VHS.

    The video game systems went through so many phases during my childhood I couldn’t afford to have any of the expensive ones. I didn’t get an XBOX until I was an adult.

    So I tend to appreciate things a bit more because of the transitional period. It seems kids now a days just expect the technology. I think technology beyond a computer for doing homework is a luxury.

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  5. 10

    says

    Don’t forget that we used to have to warm up things in the oven instead of the microwave. I remember when we got our first microwave–don’t stand too close those waves are scary!

    I remember life BEFORE VCRs too! If you missed your show, you were out of luck!

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  6. 14

    says

    And when we rode our bikes, we just got on them and rode. if we fell, just hope you don’t hit your head on a rock and someone had to help you get home while dripping with blood.
    And by the way we could play games like baseball and stuff at the park without our parents having to pay for it. Just get some friends togehter, ball and bat and we were good to go. Sometimes we even made up our own games and rules. (It is called using your imagination.)

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  7. 16

    Chelley Martinka says

    We still do many of these things in our house. Although it is hard to work on modern cars, changing a tire and oil should be things everyone knows how to do! That and you NEVER get rid of our record player or receiver from the 70's!

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    • 19

      Alicia says

      These days we can’t get away with answers like that! My 6yodd told me to “just GOOGLE it mooom!” with inserted eye roll when her father and I were debating something. So I did, I was right lol.

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  8. 20

    says

    We didn't have running water in our house until I was 14. Had an "outhouse" for a bathroom, had to take a bath in a galvanized tub that we heated in the sun during the summer and on the stove in the winter, had a well with an old metal hand pump for a water source… no air conditioning of ANY kind and I could go on and on. LOL So kids… believe me… you have it made.

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  9. 22

    says

    Ha! I went to college with a popcorn popper! No stove for me! (Or microwave.) Of course, there was a bit of a problem with the time I spilled vegetable oil on my comforter where I set the bottle after putting some oil in my popcorn popper, but oh, well…

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  10. 24

    says

    Oh, the memories this brings back! The car one should have included having a bed set up in the back of a station wagon so that we could lay down and maybe sleep during long car rides, but other than that….PERFECT!

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  11. 25

    Steven Wang says

    The T volume was also at the same end of the alphabet as Switzerland, … I think you will find mechanics know a lot more about working on automobile transmissions, rather than transitions. I've a 5 year old who knows how to do most of these things, … how outdated we must be.

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  12. 26

    Liz says

    Yeah, because everyone who plays Dungeons and Dragons is creepy. Don’t be a bully. I hope my children never hear me classify people negatively because of the games that they enjoy.

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