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When I Was a Kid

by on May 15, 2013 7:00 AM

When I was a kid... it bothers me to even use that line for the opening of this column. How many times have we heard that from family members? It’s become a sitcom punchline and draws exaggerated, if appropriate, eye rolls from everyone within earshot.

But I’ve heard myself using it more and more, probably because I now have a child old enough to appreciate (read: ignore) my experiences. When I heard that phrase growing up, I thought it was impossible that I’d ever use it myself. Not because I wouldn’t have stories to tell, but because I imagined that things couldn’t get better than we had it in the late 1980s to early 90s.

When I was a kid, I didn’t believe that video game technology could possibly develop beyond the Nintendo 64, even though our characters couldn’t move backwards and we had to start at the beginning whenever we died. Cameras were small enough to fit in a purse or a baggy Z Cavaricci pocket. Never mind that the images were fuzzy or that we had to wait three days to get them developed. Cable television, I was sure, was at its limit with 40 channels.

So on behalf of my son and children everywhere, I offer my list of “When I was a kid-isms.”

Money

When I was a kid, fast-food restaurants didn’t take credit cards. The only way to get Chicken McNuggets was to plan for it in advance and have cash on-hand. And parking meters only took change. With the recent advent of credit card-accepting meters in downtown State College, our days of scrounging for change under car seats are now gone. I’m not saying this is a bad thing.

Shopping days

When I was a kid, we didn’t have stores like Target and Wegmans and we certainly didn’t have them in one convenient shopping center. Running errands with the family could take up most of a Saturday, during which time we didn’t have iPads to entertain us. We had to actually listen to our parent’s radio stations and talk to one another.

Calling Boys

When I was a kid, it was a thrill to call a boy and hang up when he answered. It was also safe. The pre-caller ID era meant that there was little chance of him figuring out who it was. Emails, cellphones, and Facebook all negate this harmless creeping of adolescence.

Movies

When I was a kid, we had two options for seeing a movie: go to the theater or rent one from Blockbuster or Hollywood Video, which were anchored on opposite ends of Atherton St. Now that they’re gone, we’re left with Red Boxes, movie channels, iTunes, and Netflix. It was nice to go into an actual store and browse.

Family Outings

When I was a kid, I got dragged around to art and craft shows and street festivals similar to our Art Festival. They were boring, as these thing often are for 11-year-olds. Not only do kids today have two amazing local Art Festivals to go to, each one has activities geared to a younger crowd and there’s easy transportation to each.

Homework

When I was a kid, the library had a card catalog that showed you where to find books using the Dewey Decimal System. Modern libraries like Schlow are amazing. You have the standard books and periodicals, but you also have computers loaded with helpful information and databases that answer your questions quickly.

Need to know when Sacagewea was born? Ask the computer and part of your report is finished without even leaving your seat. When my childhood library finally got a computer, it too could tell us where to find a book on Sacagewea. It didn’t matter, though, since all the books about Sacagewea had been checked out since the whole class was doing the report. The smart kids, or the not-so-smart-kids’ parents, swiped these books as soon as the assignment was made.

When I was in elementary school, we used an encyclopedia for research and prayed that it wasn’t too out-of-date. This might be okay on a topic like Sacagewea since not a lot has changed in her biography in the last few decades. On the other hand, if you had to use encyclopedias on a project about, say, Pluto, you’d be out of luck.

Some of the important, grown-up things, though, haven’t changed. Just like in the old days, we still can’t buy beer or wine without making a trip to the package store. But if Pennsylvania makes the jump to selling alcohol at Sheetz, remember that my generation helped lead the way. Raise a glass to us, if you will.



Holly Swanson is a State College-based freelance writer. She is on Twitter @statecollegemom and can be reached via email at [email protected]
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