Somehow We Survived

Congratulations to all of us who were born in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank beer or wine while they carried us.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, and didn’t get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then, after that trauma, our cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We lived in houses made of asbestos and still we have survived.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, or locks on doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seatbelts or air bags. We drank water from the garden hose, not from a bottle.

Carry out food was limited to restaurants advertising “home cooked meals.” There were no pizza shops, McDonald’s, KFC, or Subway.

Even though all the shops closed at 6pm and didn’t open on a Sunday, somehow we didn’t starve to death.

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

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Milky Ways for a nickel, and penny candy and bubble gum.

We ate white bread and real butter, drank cow’s milk and soft drinks with sugar, but we weren’t overweight because we were always outside doing chores or playing.

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, but we were OK. We would spend hours building go-karts out of old baby buggies and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.

We built treehouses and dens and played in riverbeds. We did not have PlayStations, Nintendo Wii and Xboxes, or video games, DVDs, or colour TV. We used our imaginations.

There were no cell phones, computers, internet or chatrooms. We had friends and we went outside and found them.

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. And we ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, too.

Only girls had pierced ears. You could buy Easter eggs and hot cross buns only at Easter time.

We were given air guns and sling shots for our tenth birthdays.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or just yelled for them.

Not everyone made the school basketball, football, or baseball teams. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that. Getting onto the team was based on merit, both in skill and in getting grades good enough to be allowed to participate.

Our teachers hit us with rulers, gym shoes and threw the blackboard eraser at us if they thought we weren’t paying attention or trying hard enough.

We can string sentences together, spell and have proper conversations now because of a solid three Rs education.

Our parents would tell us to ask a stranger to help us cross the road.

Mom didn’t have to go to work to help Dad make ends meet because we didn’t need to keep up with the Joneses.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law.

Parents didn’t invent stupid names for their kids like Kiora, Blade, Ridge and Vanilla. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

You might want to share this with others who grew up in an era before lawyers, political correctness, and the government regulated every part of our lives.


Choked by dust and memories,
I cough to clear my throat.
The sunlight through the pane
illumines swirling mote.
It undulates around me,
it’s difficult to breathe.
Just below the surface,
a primal urge does seethe.
The need to touch the past,
to escape from today,
to get back to a time
when things were all o.k.
Back to an innocence
that we all lost long ago,
to another time and place
when things moved so slow.
Here among the memories,
the dust, the smiles, and tears,
my mind can take a journey
not of miles, but of years.
To a time of promise,
to a time when I was young,
when I wished no one ill,
no curse escaped my tongue.
To a time of acceptance,
when I knew no foes,
when everything was poetry
and pastoral prose.
To a time of longing
for a future yet to be,
and before the knowledge
of things I had yet to see.
Oh to be taken back
to days now so long gone,
before an age of cynics
who hold back the dawn.
To soar above this place,
o’er remembrance and dust,
to live the life I want
and not the one I must.
But youthful visions shrink
and reality claims the day,
replacing black and white
with several shades of gray.
So what use then are memories,
and things that came before?
Are they just places
where we live in days of yore?
Or are they the best
of what our lives could be,
and if that’s the case,
why then can’t we see?
For memory’s imperfect vision
leads us to a spot
where today’s reality
meets a time long forgot.

Winky Dink and You

1950s Winky Dink and the 21st century version.

This morning I ran across a mention of a TV program from the ’50s that brought back some fond memories. The program probably innovated interactive entertainment, a TV program that even Bill Gates once saluted as a revolutionary use of the medium — a 1950s show called Winky-Dink And You.
The program was designed to be interactive (though I doubt that word was used in those days) and required kids to order a special kit through the mail. It included a piece of clear flexible plastic, which was called a ‘magic window’, along with some special crayons. The idea was that kids would use static electricity to stick the plastic over their TV screen, then use their crayons to help Winky-Dink out of a jam each episode by drawing whatever Winky needed (rope, ladder, bridge, etc.) on the TV screen, and to trace letters on the screen at the end of each show to read a secret message.
The Winky-Dink Kit was sold by mail for fifty cents, and I can assure you that I willingly parted with the money for one of my own, as did millions of other kids all across the country.
Winky-Dink and You originally ran at 10:00am Saturday mornings from October 10, 1953 until April 27, 1957 on the CBS network. Broadcast in black and white, the program featured the adventures of a star-headed cartoon lad named Winky-Dink and his dog Woofer – interspersed with the in-studio antics of a host and an audience of kids.
Joining host Jack Barry was Dayton Allen as Mr. Bungle, the assistant that never gets anything right. The voice of Winky-Dink was Mae Questel.
And this all came to my attention when I read that Winky Dink is back. You can purchase a Winky Dink kit, complete with the magic window, crayons, and nine DVD adventures. Two other DVD volumes are currently available, each one containing nine episodes as well. I’m sure these are not being marketed to today’s kids to whom interactive means Play Station or Wii games. These are for us old timers who want to relive the simpler days of our own childhoods.

Will I succumb to the allure of reliving this part of my childhood? I doubt it. You no longer can buy in for fifty cents. The kit is $24.95 and each additional DVD is $9.95. But I am glad to see that it’s available, for this indicates that there just might still be a longing for this simpler time and what it represents.

But I do wonder how much different the world would be if Winky Dink was still the state of the art interactive game. How much more of a sense of wonder would today’s kids have if they had to use imagination instead of electronic stimulation to feel a sense of participation? How different would the world be if that were the case? I can’t believe that it wouldn’t be better.