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Just how good were the fabulous ‘60s and ‘70s compared to today?

By John Toth

The Bulletin

I grew up in the 1960s and ‘70s and belong to several nostalgic Facebook groups that aggrandize those decades.

I can associate with the photos and music they post. I’ve lived through it. I remember the old Coke machines, the toys from those decades, the clothes we used to wear and the music we listened to. It’s nice to relive some of the moments that shaped my life as a child and teen.

The ‘60s and ‘70s were great decades to grow up in. Boomers are very lucky to have experienced them. We were thinking out of the box and broke the social rules. There was no World War, like during our parents’ generation, although the Vietnam war was going on. But that gave us a reason to express and act out our opinions.

“Wasn’t it great back then? Don’t you wish we’d still be like that?” That’s the theme that runs through the postings in the groups.

It was great in many ways, and it wasn’t. A lot of tasks were harder and took longer.

One site ran a photo of a wall phone with a dial pad and stated: “When we were not tied to our cell phones”.

Of all the things I liked during the ‘60s and ‘70s, one of them was not the phone. It was too bulky, too expensive and too restrictive. Standing in a hallway to use the phone, or waiting for a call that never came, were not my favorite activities. Feeding change into a dirty payphone was not, either.

I choose the smartphone in this case, hands down. I can reject calls, watch videos on it, check my email, see what time it is and drive with its GPS. The old wall-mounted phones, beepers and answering machines are no match to the cell phone.

What about the music? Yes, we had great music back then. I soaked it all up. A lot of it is still around. The octogenarian Rolling Stones are planning another big tour this year.

“Do you remember calling to find out the time?”

Yes, I did it a few times. But I’d rather look at my cell phone or smart watch now.

“I remember when stores were closed on Sunday.”

I understood why they did it. Not everybody got Sundays off, but more people did than today. It was a nice break, and delaying a purchase from Sunday to Monday was not such a big deal.

“I’m so old I remember when cashiers counted your change back to you.”

I’d rather have a computer flash the change on the screen. That way, I’m not relying on the cashier’s mathematical abilities.

“Growing up, did you go to the bowling alley, skating rink or drive-in?”

Yes to the bowling alley and drive-in. I never learned how to skate. It was on my list of things to do growing up, right after learning how to ride a bicycle and swimming, but I never got to it. Now, it’s too late. I don’t feel like risking breaking a hip.

“1960s ladies: No tattoos, nose rings or green hair.”

Also fewer rights, no bank accounts unless approved by her husband and limited career opportunities. And what’s wrong with a person deciding for themselves how they should look? Green hair is kind of strange, though, from the boomer perspective.

“First time on a plane, where did you go?”

Flying was expensive, but when we flew, we got dressed up like we were going to church. The first flight I ever took was a transatlantic flight from Austria to the USA in a four-propeller plane filled with immigrants.

It seemed like everybody smoked but me. We went through storms, and the plane was bouncing around over the Atlantic Ocean. I saw one of the pilots come through the aisle on his way to the bathroom. The back of his shirt was drenched in sweat. Not a good sign. But we made it.

“When I was a kid, this was Google (insert a photo of the Encyclopedia Britannica).”

Research was cumbersome and boring. I prefer today’s methods. Once I walked across the college campus in the 1970s to make copies for a research project, only to find that the copy machine was broken.

Photo of a woman writing on a manual typewriter: “Her word processor and printer are an integral unit.”

My manual typewriter (which I still have in one of the closets) is just a typewriter. It was cumbersome to work on and to correct mistakes, and there was no spell checker. Life was tough before computers took over all these tasks, but, for the most part, it was also a lot of fun and rewarding.

It was great to be a kid and teen in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it’s also great to be right here, right now. Millennials have had the best of not both, but all worlds. And I’m glad that I have been part of it. What’s next - thinking computers? Oh yes, we already have those. 


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