Lunch break

Three Kankakee girls take a lunch break while detasseling a seed corn field near Aroma Park in July 1950, with no cell phone entertainment in sight. Life was much different back then, columnist Dennis Marek recalls.

This past week, we had a space race between two ultra-rich men. They had the money and the desire to build their own spacecraft and leave NASA sitting on their haunches since they went to the moon. It does make one wonder what technology will do to the younger generations as we continue to age. What my generation has seen would boggle the minds of any other generation in the history of our world. When one stops to remember what has come to being in our short lives, it only makes one contemplate what might be ahead.

I spent the last weekend with an old grade school friend. We have stayed in touch all these years even though we have moved in different circles and areas of our country and the world. As we sat and talked (not to the complete boredom of our spouses, we hope) we had to laugh at our early days in Clifton and what we know now.

Both having been born in 1943, we grew up with no television. We were forbidden to go to the movies or a swimming pool in the summer for fear of contracting polio. We had no idea that there was a nuclear bomb being created. We had no radar to guide our airplanes let alone a GPS to help our parents find laces. A trip to grandfather’s house in Montague, Mich., was a seven-hour drive from Clifton with no interstates, no McDonald’s, and only dad or mom’s memory and maps to guide us.

We never heard of FM radio, tape decks, or laptops with multiple games to amuse us on those long drives. But then again no one wore seat belts, and we could play with our toys all over the back seat or, if lucky, in the far back of a station wagon.

There were no computers to search for things or word processors to help us with our spelling. Hardware referred to a store and software wasn’t even a word. Who uses “times tables” anymore? What was air conditioning? You mean someday it would exist even in a car?

Think of the workforce with no electric typewriters or Xerox copying machines. If you needed a copy, you used carbon paper. There weren’t even ballpoint pens in 1943.

There were no dishwashers, clothes dryers, electric blankets, or even plastic items. No one had contact lenses. We paid with cash as there were no credit or debit cards. Fast food probably meant mom was in a hurry and outer space was most likely the Skylight Drive-in out east of town.

Thinking about society, people got married and had babies after. There were more of those babies because no one had the “pill” yet. She was “in the family way” as no one said “pregnant.” Having a meaningful relationship probably meant that you got along with your cousins. Time-sharing was meaningful togetherness, not a place to live part of the year. There were no house-husbands, gay rights, computer dating, or dual careers. What the heck were daycare centers, group therapy sessions, or even nursing homes?

Rabbits were an animal, not a Volkswagen. We had 5 and 10 cent stores because you could really buy something for a nickel or dime. A fancy car would have a “continental kit” for its spare tire. There was a foot feed meaning the accelerator, and an emergency brake, not a parking brake. We left it in gear for that. We had running boards to ride up the lane on with dad. OK, we did some “dangerous things” like riding in the back of pickup trucks to our Little League games, but we all arrived alive.

Then think of all the words that aren’t really used anymore. We went to the picture show. Grandpa couldn’t play catch because he had lumbago. You made coffee in a percolator. Women wore this device called a brassiere, now a simpler spelling, bra. A chip was a piece of wood.

Now think of the words that would have gone straight over our heads. Computer, internet, condominium, Facetime, or an SUV.

Then think of words we all knew, or at least we thought we knew what they meant. Grass got mowed, and you drank Coke. We didn’t use the word much, but pot was something mom cooked in or if you really were going downhill, you were going to pot. AIDS were people who helped out in school, and rock music is what Grandma hummed as she held you and put you to sleep.

Then again, newspapers weren’t online, nor did they have columnists. Photographs were taken with a Leica or Kodak and were almost always in black and white. Now we have phones with that capability unless you are too busy with its other capabilities such as texting and emailing, games and searches.

Are we better off with new words, new contraptions, and new approaches to life, luxury, travel, and even health? I would say we are, but some of the devices and practices do subtract from fully living life and being totally human. Could we survive without television, iPhones, and GPS? I suppose so, but we would have to work harder on many daily events. Who wants to hang up the wash or not nuke the leftovers in a microwave?

Dennis Marek can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or through his personal email at dmarek@ambltd.com.