“Dad,” one of my kids asked the other day, “what was your favorite fast food
when you were growing up?”
“We didn’t have fast food when I was growing up,” I informed him. “All the
food was slow.”
“C’mon, seriously. Where did you eat?”
“It was a place called ‘at home,'” I explained. “Grandma cooked every day
and when Grandpa got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room
table, and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit
there until I did like it.”
By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to
suffer serious internal damage, so I didn’t tell him the part about how I
had to have permission to leave the table. But here are some other things I
would have told him about my childhood if I figured his system could have
My parents NEVER owned their own house, wore Levis, set foot on a golf
course, traveled out of the country or had a credit card. In their later
years they had something called a revolving charge card. The card was good
only at Sears Roebuck. Or maybe it was Sears AND Roebuck. Either way,
there is no Roebuck anymore. Maybe he died. My parents never drove me to
soccer practice. This was mostly because we never had heard of soccer. But
also because we didn’t have a car. We didn’t have a television in our house
until I was 26, but some neighbors had one before that. It was, of course,
black and white, but they bought a piece of colored plastic to cover the
screen. The top third was blue, like the sky, and the bottom third was
green, like grass. The middle third was red. It was perfect for programs
that had scenes of fire trucks riding across someone’s lawn on a sunny day.
I was 13 before I tasted my first pizza. It was a Luigi’s Pizza on the west
side of town and my friend, Ronnie, took me there to try what he said was
“pizza pie.” When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth and the
cheese slid off, swung down, plastered itself against my chin and burned
that, too. It’s still the best pizza I ever had. We didn’t have a car until
I was 15. Before that, the only car in our family was my grandfather’s
Plymouth. He called it a “machine.” I never had a telephone in my room.
The only phone in the house was in the living room and it was on a party
line. Before you could dial, you had to listen and make sure some people
you didn’t know weren’t already using the line. Pizzas were not delivered
to our home. But milk was. All newspapers were delivered by boys and all
boys delivered newspapers. I delivered the “Daily News” six days a week. It
cost 7 cents a paper, of which I got to keep 2 cents. On Saturday, I had
to collect the 42 cents from my customers. My favorite customers were the
ones who gave me 50 cents and told me to keep the change. My least favorite
customers were the ones who seemed to never be home on collection day.
Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the
movies. Touching someone else’s tongue with yours was called French kissing
and they didn’t do that in movies. I don’t know what they did in French
movies. French movies were dirty and we weren’t allowed to see them.
If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to
share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don’t
blame me if they bust a gut laughing.
Growing up ain’t what it used to be.