Memo to the Computer Generation— Your Parents Were B.C. (Before Computers)


To Those of Us  Born
1925 – 1970 :

At the end of this email is a quote of the month by Jay Leno. If you don’t read anything else, please
read what he said.

Very well stated, Mr. Leno.
1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who may have smoked and/or drank
while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes.

Then, after that trauma, we were
put to sleep on our tummies
in baby cribs covered
with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets,
and, when we rode our bikes,
we had baseball caps,
not helmets, on our heads.

As infants and children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes..

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter, and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And we weren’t overweight.

Because we were always outside playing…that’s why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day.
–And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building
our go-carts out of scraps
and then ride them down the hill,
only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem..

We did not have Play Stations, Nintendos and X-boxes. There were
no video games, no 150 channels on cable,
no video movies or DVDs,
no surround-sound or CDs,
no cell phones,
no personal computers,
no Internet and no chat rooms.

and we went outside and found  them!

We fell out of trees, got cut,
broke bones and teeth,
and there were no lawsuits
from those accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons, switches, ping-pong paddles, or just a bare hand, and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms, and mud pies
made from dirt, and
the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls, and
-although we were told it would happen- we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts
and not everyone made the team.
Those who didn’t had to learn
to deal with disappointment.

Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!   And if our parents were called by the principal cause we did something wrong at school, they almost always sided with the principal!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers,
problem solvers, and inventors ever.

The past 50 to 85 years have seen an explosion of innovation and new ideas..

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

If YOU are one of those born
between 1925-1970, CONGRATULATIONS!

The quote of the month
Jay Leno:

“With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?”

  • Tommy Farrell

    I have recently discovered your blog and really like what you post, but this one is terrible. It is a hodge-podge of serious and non-serious issues all designed to confuse the issue and present some false vision of the past. Now, I could just let it go as a bit of fluff and nonsense but your job is looking into the past on our behalf and I want to trust you that you are able to objectively sort the significance of different contemporaneous issues.

    Since 1935 the under 5 mortality rate for the US has fallen from almost 450 per 100,000 to less than 50 per 100,000 in the mid 1980s [source, although a more interesting blog post on the significant and persistent differences between ethnic groups in the US could be written.


    (Born 1978, non-US citizen)

  • Kim

    I love this post! I understand that previous comment about the mortality rate. There are some things we have improved for the younger generation, but others that we have failed miserably. I work in the pediatric setting and see so many kids on medications (mostly for “ADHD” and “depression/anxiety”), a huge percentage is now overweight or obese (I think the last numbers were close to 50%) and the new age of maturity for males is 25 years old, not 18 years old. Slightly earlier for girls. So, let’s have a little humor as we observe some of the failures, it really helps us to cope as we try and figure out how to solve these new problems. I appreciate a chance o laugh anytime!

  • Bob Lewis

    Love it, Ben!

    Born 1937. Sadly, far too many of today’s youth remains youths well into their 30s and look to the state to care for them. Wonder where they got that idea?

  • Jon Coutts

    Why would fear of natural disasters prompt us to bind God to a pledge of allegiance to the state?

  • Oscar

    I’m with YOU Ben! I was born in 1951 and experienced EVERYTHING that was mentioned above, except eating worms, and I am STILL here.

    I think Tommy, above, missed the point of the post. We have become a risk adverse society as government tries to regulate many activities and is insistent on naming every “problem” with an alphabetic tag (ADHD, ED, GIRD, HIV etc.) in order to make us feel as if everything is coming under medical or social control.

    For those of us of a certain age this all seems so self involved that we just have to laugh and poke fun at it. When the younger ones attain seniority they will, no doubt, do the same to their succeeding generation and sing the praises of a “simpler time”.

    It has always been so, it will always be so.

  • MF

    The highlighted quote by Leno is, not surprisingly, not actually by Leno (or Letterman):

  • Brian

    Childproof lids were introduced in my elementary school years (mid-late 70s). I remember having to help my mom open the medicine bottles (they were actually adult-proof lids).

  • William

    Loved it Ben–we better do everything humanly possible to please our God and Jesus Christ and not make them mad!

  • Ryan

    Looking at this, I see a romanticizing of by-gone days. If today’s video games were available in the mid-20th Century, the children of that time would have been enraptured in them the same way children today are. And if those same video games, or tv or any other technology that contributes to the poor health of our children, were unavailable today, children today would be “outside playing” all day. It’s not that children today are less innovative than those of a half-century ago. It’s that they have been raised in a society that is far more protective of them and with toys that are more likely to keep them on the couch. So let me ask this: which generation enacted the laws and gave influence to this over-protective society we live in today? Which generation invented the technology that keeps our children on their couches today? If we’re going to be critical of the society today, let’s remember who it is that has contributed most to its formation.

  • Thorn

    Tommy and Ryan make excellent points. Looking to the past with rose-colored glasses is fun, but doesn’t accomplish anything.

  • Carole

    I don’t think the piece looks at anything with rose-colored glasses.There were plenty of not so good things like polio & other diseases. But the piece is a fun reminder to those of us of a certain age of how it was.The other day when the thermometer hit 99, I was musing on growing up & how very wonderful it felt to go into a store or even a friend’s home [rare & usually window units in 1 or 2 rooms]where there was air conditioning & how we pretty much take it for granted these days!Nothing has ever felt as refreshing as that except maybe an ice cold bottle of RC cola & a moon pie! There are many, many things that have been invented, developed, put into practice etc since then that are truly valuable but all of us have to take responsibility for allowing the vast overuse, misuse & abuse of these things.And we have to quit expecting all our problems to be resolved instantly & by solutions like popping a pill or writing a law.

  • Tommy Farrell

    I posted this morning and have spent all day wondering whether I was a bit harsh.

    I didn’t mean to rant – I was short of time and those kinds of Fwd:Fwd:Fwd: emails really get my goat.

    I think that there is real value in critiquing the present and the past and pointing out excesses in both and to do so in a humorous fashion is fine but there are more than a few examples of practices in the above list that are genuinely serious.

    I suppose I’m trying to say that it is a triumph of style over substance. Unashamedly playing to a particular mythology of the past that is divisive rather than building understanding between generations.

    And maybe I’m just having a very-serious day and need to lighten up.

  • Eric Sawyer

    ‘Seen Enough’ ;) – CSN&Y –

  • Dieter

    This same generation is the one that raised the present one. So it is our children and grandchildren that we wonder about. How did we do it with all the experience and fun that we had growing up. I guess we did not want to pass it along

  • Bill

    Personally, I find the supposed Leno quote to be ridiculous and offensive. It seems to suggest that unless we invoke the name of God in our idolotrous civic prayer, as we pledge our allegiance not to him but rather to a FLAG, we risk natural disasters, presumably as divine punishment of some sort. The notion is creepy, profane and insulting to God, in my humble opinion.

  • Mark

    Good one, Ben. I sense a generational divide in the comments. :)

  • ben witherington

    This is simply something my mother sent me, meant to provoke conversation and it did. But if in fact it resulted in the defensiveness of the younger generation, then that’s not helpful, as they really need to see their own foibles as much as my generation does.