Posts Tagged With: 70s

A Lament for Innocence: Growing up in the 70s

Last week I had an eyebrow archer-type conversation with a massage client. We were chatting about the impending March Break and she expressed disappointment in the change in kids over the span of her teaching career. “The children are just so anxious now. They don’t know how to play anymore.”

Today, I was combing through press trip opportunities on a site called Media Kitty. At Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, guests are invited to get “their wildhood back.” Reconnect with time spent in nature and the wilderness!

The resort is cashing in on our detached population and the sage ways of our terra firma-tuned in grandparents. They are the Last of the Mohicans, the ones who remember a life spent deeper in nature, void of technology. In June and September, Clayoquot Wilderness Resort’s Elder’s Package covers the cost of “the stay for up to two grandparents (when travelling with six or more adults), excluding the cost of the floatplane trip from Vancouver to the resort. Rates for other family members start at $4,750 CDN for a three night all-inclusive package, with children under 12 staying for $2,375 CDN when sharing a tent with an adult. Rates for four and seven night stays are also available.”

In a stream of synchronicity, my friend Denise sent a link to a book she’d just read about “Nature Deficiency Disorder”—Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

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Nature Deficiency Disorder? Wildhood? Anxious kindergarten kids? The only time I was anxious in kindergarten was when we lined up alphabetically to use the washrooms and I pissed my pants (well, skirt actually. I’m a “T”—and the rest of the alphabet was dilly-dallying).

The teacher I spoke with enlightened me further. Apparently her school is ramping up their emotional awareness curricula with “mindfulness sessions.” Each morning, via the PA system, students (and teachers) are led through a mindfulness exercise, encouraging them to focus on their intention, their breathing and how to be present.

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Holy Eckhart Tolle! I recall doing mindfulness sessions in grade 10 drama class with a spunky teacher ahead of her time. I thought for sure I was ready for the hippie commune after that exercise. It was truly “out there” and something I imagined occurring in the intense heat of a sweat lodge or on a solo journey to Kilimanjaro. In kindergarten we were innocently sucking back juice boxes, handfuls of Oreos and taste-testing the Elmer’s glue and poster paint. We were IN the moment, by default. I didn’t even know the term “mindfulness” until the day I laid on the floor of the drama classroom, a bit too icked out by the carpet to be totally centered and mindful.

Do kids need mindfulness session? Shouldn’t they just be pushed outside and away from their tablets and iPhones? I know there’s probably an app for tree-climbing and grass stains, but c’mon. We need to be told to rediscover our “wildhood” and introduce kids to earth basics like dirt, worms and trees? Wow.

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I was born in 1974. We lived in childhood postcard. I had to sit down almost daily to have sticky sap cut out of my hair from perching in the pines behind our house making crappily constructed tree houses (or, dodgy ladders to wobbly platforms at least). We had chronic gouges and scrapes from endless hide n’ go seek sessions at my cousin’s farm and hiding in the belly of the combines, under greasy farm trucks in the barns. At day’s end we were ripe with pig manure, swamp mud, full of burrs and scratched all to hell from racing through the corn field rows. Our faces would be stained with orange or purple Kool-aid. Nobody was allergic to peanuts. We survived on peanut butter alone.

We were immunized because we were supposed to be. We were subjected to nit checks by some public health nurse every so often. Once a month the “Swish Lady” would appear at school and we’d gargle fluoride and chew on tiny red tablets that would reveal our tartar. At age 10, that same nurse would return and have all the girls bend over to check for scoliosis.

Nobody had ADD. If anything, you were genuinely bored and twitchy from math or history class. More often, you were a dreamer—and excited about the prospect of getting back outside to the places where all the neat things were. Where you could catch pollywogs in makeshift nets. Dig for arrowheads in the tilled fields. Make loon calls with cupped hands and blades of grass held just-so.

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Nobody was overweight—and in the 70s, whole wheat bread hadn’t even been invented. We ate our share of pre-packaged sugary things, so that can’t be to blame. We LOVED neon Kraft Dinner and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes (to which we would add even more sugar). The 70s and 80s were all about white bread, Swiss Rolls, fish sticks, Fruit Roll-ups, Pop Tarts, Jell-o everything, Freezies and iceberg lettuce. We survived.

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Our parents were responsible. They made sure we could print, read and say thank you before we started kindergarten. They made sure we were curious, interested and interesting. My dad ensured that we could swim, ride bikes, swing a bat and do a snow plow stop when we played hockey. They weren’t Dragon helicopter parents force-feeding us piano lessons, karate, dance, etc., etc. Despite my dad’s affection and accolades for baseball and hockey—we all chose soccer. We chose. My mom would be the first to recommend quitting if we weren’t enjoying something anymore. I still think quitting is great. It means you can start something better.

“Only boring people get bored” My mother tattooed that into our young minds.

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Fun was a trip to the library to get as many books as we could carry. I tore through choose-your-own-adventure novels at night (yes, under the covers, with a flashlight), inspired to choose-my-own-adventures the next day. We went to Port Dover for hot dogs, went skating at Lion’s Park, fished the Grand, stayed up past our bedtime to look for Haley’s Comet and built birdhouses at the local nature centre. Our Christmas and birthday gifts were things like telescopes, bird guides, blank journals, microscopes. Dax was always experimenting with how to make dill pickles glow in the dark. We’d grow sea salt crystals, build terrariums and attempt getting avocado pits to sprout.

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Sure, we watched TV, but only at night and barely on Saturday mornings (my brother, sister and I all chose sleep over cartoons). When my mom did a revamp of the living room and moved the console TV downstairs, we lost even more interest. However, back then, didn’t we all watch the exact same shows? Were there only six to choose from? Facts of Life, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Silver Spoons?

We had one rotary dial phone that was more of a nuisance than necessity. However, my pre-teen sister was quite obsessed with it and, after clogging the home phone line in excess, she was forced into purchasing her own phone line if she wanted to gab that much. But still, she was talking, not texting. She’s still a talker and not a texter. And, I’m still without a cell phone.

When Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers was all the rage, my brother sunk money he had earned from selling produce from his garden into a play station. Wisely, he charged my sister and I to play— 25 cents a game. My coveted item was a cassette player—so I could record the spring peepers in the pond. My version of a tablet was an Etch-a-Sketch. Did we feel hard done by? Out of the loop? Hardly. We had it all. We had a Rubik’s Cube, a dog, a cat, a pond and Hostess Ketchup chips for Friday night.

Back then, we EARNED our pleasures. And they were pleasures, not demands. Kiley worked the graveyard shift at Tim Horton’s to have that fancy phone line. We picked gravel out of the grass (from the snowplows) and pinecones from the forest floor (to avoid shin shrapnel from the lawnmower). We Turtle Waxed the car and scrubbed the white walls of my dad’s Cutlass Supreme with a toothbrush for maybe $5.

We weren’t anxious. Pizza night was a treat, not routine. Going to McDonald’s was a big deal. I had three pairs of rugger pants and a pair of Kangaroo shoes. I alternated my Dallas Cowboys sweatshirt and cowboy fringe shirt. We were want for nothing—we weren’t obsessed with name brands. Everyone wore Kangaroo shoes then.

Life was innocent and simple. Lawn darts and charcoal barbecues started with lighter fluid. We didn’t sanitize our hands. Xanadu, our dog, washed our faces.

We were mindful, without even knowing it. And perhaps that’s the best way to be.

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Categories: Polyblogs in a Jar | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Once Upon a Time in the 70s

If you are a semi-active Facebook prowler, you will have seen a viral status update this week that nostalgically reads:  “My curfew was lightning bugs. My parents didn’t call my cell, they yelled my name. I played outside with friends, not online. If I didn’t eat what mom cooked, then I didn’t eat. Sanitizer didn’t exist, but you COULD get your mouth washed out with soap. I rode a bike without a helmet. Getting dirty… was ok, and neighbors cared as much as your parents did. Re-post if you drank from a garden hose and survived…”

It has been reposted in several Facebook circles since, because, for those of us born in the 70s, we were internally shouting, “yes! Yes! That’s sooooo true!” We were part of an era that collectively experienced childhood in an identical manner. We all watched The Flintstones and The Jetsons. We graduated to The Cosby Show, Growing Pains, Diff’rent Strokes, Family Ties, Facts of Life and Silver Spoons (on the days when we could actually tune the channel in with the antenna). We had girly crushes on Ricky Schroeder and Kirk Cameron and listened to Culture Club and Michael Jackson’s Thriller LP’s until they were as scratched as the family couch from the collective family cat.

We ate peanut butter sandwiches four out of five school days. In fact, our mothers made them so lovingly that they even spread a half inch of butter in addition to the inch of peanut butter. The combined butters were as thick as wedding cake icing. No one was allergic to the family cat or peanut butter sandwiches back then.

We swam in the heavily chlorinated city pools with floating band-aids and diapers, and at the homes of lucky friends who we shared pool-ownership with vicariously. Sometimes, we didn’t even wait the prescribed half hour after eating “all beef” hot dogs to cannonball back in and not come out until our eyes were Peptol Bismol pink.

Yes, we drank from the hose and from the pond full of leeches and passed around cans of root beer from the root cellar and burped C-plus burps from our orange-stained faces. There was no concern over food dye #5 and #6. Actually, we fought over the antifreeze blue freezies because they made your tongue Smurf blue the quickest and longest (purple and orange scored second and third place). Paired with a nice bag of Hostess Ketchup potato chips, you could create your own pinwheel of stained lips and fingertips.

When someone barfed at school, it was innocent, not an epidemic. It wasn’t an “outbreak” of bird flu or SARS or H1N1 or some other strain of this or that superbug. We barfed because we ate as fast as we could so we could extend our recess time playing square ball or trying to conduct a seance in the dark of the gym change rooms (chanting “blue baby, blue baby, blue baby.” Or, if there was a mirror, “red rum, red rum, red rum.”) When there was a barfer, the janitor magically appeared with the bucket of cure-all sawdust. Clean-up in aisle four. We carried on with plugged noses and a chorus of “ewwwwwwwwwwww’s” and hauled ourselves back to our seats for further learning and did things with protractors that would never be used as a skill set in our adult lives, ever.

The greatest thrill was when copies came fresh off the ditto machine (aka, the world’s first photocopier). Even if our nerves were frayed with the thoughts of the dreaded fraction test or having to identify the oceans of the world test, those same nerves were calmed with a deep inhale of the ditto copy. It was like plunging into a pristine November lake. Senses were immediately heightened, each inhale was a deeper awakening into spinning kaleidoscopes and fiery lightning bolts behind closed eyelids. It was our collective first high. (*Editor’s note: Toolgirl Mag Ruffmann recently informed me this ditto delight was derived from methyl hydrate, or, wood alcohol. Didn’t they say it was important to hydrate? They turned us into wood alcoholics at an early age!)

Hydration wasn’t an issue in the 70s, was it? We could survive a day without carting around bottles of crystal spring water. In desperate times there was the communal water fountain that was 100% ripe with bacteria, chicken pox and cold sores– and definitely a spat out piece of pink Hubba Bubba clogging the drain. Every year someone lost a tooth thanks to the water fountain and associated “horseplay.” See? Water was dangerous. We didn’t drink water for pleasure or necessity because it was sugar-free, and by god, we loved our sugar in the 70s. This was witnessed in spectacular amounts in Kool-Aid (2 cups of sugar per litre of water?) and Fun Dip packs where one could suck on a sugar stick dipped in powdered sugar for just 25 cents. To appease the public health nurses, we chewed on red tablets once a year to indicate our tooth decay. The “Swish Lady” would visit with some poisonous flouride (aka “swish”) flavour, press ‘play’ on the cassette recorder and we would swirl and swish the watermelon or bubblegum flavoured flouride around and spit at the end of the swish song, gagging. Totally repulsed.

There was no hand sanitizer, or mouth sanitizer. I think the expression “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap” ended in the 50s or 60s. We were not sanitized or mouth-soaped, even if we said shit or F**k or other swear words gleaned from Arsenio Hall or free-speeched grandmothers who babysat us and forgot about the Whisper 2000 ears that had radars turned to high when it came to adult speak.

We weren’t an obese generation, despite a steady diet of potentially obese-conducive foods. We ate Captain Highliner fish sticks and McCain fries at least once a week. Milk was only 2% and yogurt hadn’t even been invented yet. Sliced bread was white, strawberry Pop Tarts were an acceptable breakfast item and our mother let us put extra sugar on our cereal. And not because it was Raisin Bran or something remotely healthy. We’re talking Honeycombs and Count Chocula and Booberry Crunch. Plus, we fought over the Kentucky Fried Chicken skin and fatty bits in the cans of pork n’ beans and Sunday roast.

Thinking of all this, I laughed watching the news last night. Viewers sending young children back to school in less than a month were advised to ensure that their child’s packed lunches were “safe.” If the child was unable to refrigerate their lunch, it was suggested that ice packs be placed in the bag, or, the lunch menu reconsidered. Did we not routinely eat mayo-laden egg salad and tuna sandwiches? Sandwiches minus an ice pack that sat in the cloak room for four hours with soggy rain boots and dripping jackets made out of (seemingly) garbage bags vs. Gore-tex? How about the deli meats? We lived despite the luke warm baloney and salami!

Not that our parents were nutritionally neglectful, it was more like food was our friend, not our enemy in those days. And boy, did we love our friends Kraft Dinner and Joe Louis.

Speaking of cloak rooms and baloney, I remember a solar eclipse in the early 80s. We were so angry that we missed out on a recess for something so cosmically stupid. But then, we were told, if we made special protective eye wear (from pizza boxes I think), we were allowed to watch the eclipse. But not directly, not for too long at a time. Which we did. Duh.

And concerning eye wear, who wore glasses? Maybe one token person per classroom? And they were usually a serious case. We certainly never had sunglasses at age two like these sassy tots I see being pushed around in prams with SPF 180 on their porcelain skin. However, my dad insisted we would go blind if we didn’t sit six feet back from the television.

My cousin Dustin and I on our hot rods

No, we didn’t have sunglasses, SPF or helmets and we were allowed to play lawn darts (“just don’t throw them near the cars!”) and walk across the TOP of the monkey bar bridge. We popped wheelies helmetless and found the best hiding spots in the barn rafters, combine shafts and silos on my grandfather’s pig farm. We climbed trees until the tip-tops bent in half and we went sailing down the trunk, raw from bark burn on our inner thighs.

At my great-grandmothers, we sucked on gigantic peppermint candies that induced choking at least once a week. We sucked on jawbreakers as big as tennis balls until we had lockjaw or fell asleep with it stuck between our molars. We sucked on helium tanks to make our voices super high, like Minnie Mouse and laughed until we wet our pants and had a rash.

And about pants. We didn’t care what kind of pants we put on. Did we even have a choice? They definitely came from Woolco or Towers or Sears. I think I wore the same rugger pants for three years. I preferred the grey and navy ones over the burgundy, but, hell, really, they all looked fantastic with my cowboy shirt with the snap buttons and fringe. Better yet when I paired them with my yellow Donald Duck sweatshirt or Dallas Cowboys jersey. Until age 14 or so, we wore what was suggested for us. Running shoes with arch and pronation support? Ha. It was Kangaroos or Traxx or Bullits. And they worked just fine.

Childhood Wonderdog and BFF, Xanadu

And you know what? I was want for nothing. I had a dog, a library card, binoculars, a collection of animal skulls and arrowheads. There was a pond behind the house to poke around in, tadpoles and turtles to catch, trees to scale, forts to build, and, endless games of Hide n’ Go Seek to be played.

When the television was moved downstairs to the basement, our TV watching became obsolete (mostly due to fear of those unfinished 70s basements—cue up Psycho music here).

Life was simple, fulfilling, collective. Kids of the 2000’s will not be able to have such unity in their shared memories. There are too many choices. Kraft Dinner is made with cauliflower and wheat now, for crying out loud (“so your kids won’t even know they’re eating their vegetables”).

We spent our very formative years with my three-pack-a-day Export A smoking great grandmother. We ran to the field’s edge to wave to the pilot spraying pesticides on the tobacco crop. We all stood up to sing “O Canada” at school and at the movie theater. We all said the Lord’s Prayer and Amen. We washed oil paint off our hands with gasoline. We loved the high of building airplane models and snorting those Mr. Sketch fragrant markers that smelled like black licorice and green apple. We were happy playing Pac Man at the Nan King Chinese restaurant once in a while.

We were lucky. We had it all.

Categories: Polyblogs in a Jar | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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