Monday, September 24, 2012

Observations on Then and Now

Observations and Reflections 
on Then and Now
1962 vs 2012

This morning, as I stood idly at the counter of Starbucks waiting for the barista to make my de-caf, skinny cafe latte, or as one barista called my coffee choice, "a why bother," a girl dressed in a high school letter jacket and sitting in the cab of her truck waiting for her morning coffee at the drive-through window caught my eye.  Her make-up free face looked tired and a bit harried.  My first thoughts were, "She's a bit late for first period.  School has already started."  That was the teacher in me.  Then I thought how harried she looked.  It seemed to me that a girl of seventeen or eighteen just should not look as if she were the mother of three and in her 30's.  I don't remember looking that tired and overwhelmed in high school.
Coffee Shop Reflections

Suddenly, I found myself comparing my life as a teenager, a senior in high school, to what I found myself observing of a quick snapshot into this girl's life.

As a senior in high school, I did not stop by a coffee shop on my way to school to pick up coffee because:
  • I did not drink coffee.  I ate two pieces of toast and drank a glass of milk, both of which were prepared by my mother every morning of the world before I went to school.  I didn't like breakfast in those days, but my mother insisted I eat something, so I did eat what she fixed me.
  • I did not drive.  My father drove me to school every morning of my senior year at Leadville High School.  My first class, college prep English, started before 7:00 a.m.  Mornings were very cold at the two miles high altitude where we lived.  I would freeze just sitting in the car as my father drove me school.  
  • I did not drive because I did not have a driver's license.  My father didn't support the idea of me having a driver's license.  He insisted I learn to drive, but he saw no need for me to have a license to do so.  Once my driver's learning permit expired, and I knew how to drive, I never got a driver's license until I was 21.
  • I never would have had my own car, nor would I have had access to a car.  My father would never have even dreamed of getting me a car.  He wouldn't let me get a job during the school year either, so I wouldn't be able to earn the money to get a car.  In fact, the idea of having my own car never even entered my mind as a young woman.  Very few of my friends had a car.  A few guys had a car, very few, and my girl friend Mary had an old '50 Ford.  Other than that, it was just unheard of in my town for high school girls to have cars.
  • If I had a car, and if there had been a Starbucks or some other coffee shop to drive up to and buy a cup of coffee, and if I had drunk coffee at the time, I would not have had any money to buy a cup of coffee, and I would never have dreamed of all the coffee drink choices there are today.
Even today's visit to a coffee shop is a rare one for me.  I had some time on my hands after dropping my husband off for a medical test at a hospital near-by and thought I would settle in with my book and a cup of coffee while I waited for his call to pick him up.  After observing the girl in the truck,  I couldn't help questioning whether I would have liked to live today's teenage life, or if I preferred the life I lived as a teenager.  With my 50th high school reunion coming up this year, it only stands to reason that times have changed.  

I'm thankful I came of age at the time I did.  My life was much more sheltered than the lives of so many teens today.  Since I was under my parents' roof, I was also under their rules.  These rules protected me in many ways.  I didn't have the responsibility of driving.  I didn't have to have a job during the school year.  My father thought there was plenty of time for having job responsibilities later in life.  My mother made many of my clothes, or I made my own.  I had a difficult schedule at school, but I also had plenty of time to study.  I loved to read and spent hours doing so.  I didn't have anything handed to me.  Whatever clothes I wanted beyond the basics made by my mother or purchased just before school started, I bought with the money I made as a car hop at the local A&W across the road from our home in the summer.

I had a very active social life with much time spent at Teen Town dances, attending ball games, taking jeep tours with my friends in the mountains, hiking, biking and having a lot of fun just "dragging Main' with the lucky ones who did have cars.  I was not a cheerleader; I was too clumsy for that.  I was involved in drama and acted in high school plays with lead roles.  I was elected homecoming queen.  I guess I must have been popular.  

If there is one regret, it is that in those days, before Title IX, girls did not participate in sports at school.  There were no teams for girls at school.  I wish I could have had the chance to develop my skills at a sport.  

The early sixties was a different time from now.  We did our research projects by using note cards, and I typed my senior paper on an old upright typewriter.  We listened to records and danced to the Loco Motion, Wipe Out, and Our Day Will Come on recorded '45's.  We watched Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, and The Ed Sullivan Show on television.  

There were no coffee shops that I knew of in our town.  A memory stands out in my mind of walking to a bakery after school before play practice would begin.  We would buy the most delicious cream puffs and eat them as our after school treat.  On a Saturday, we would go to a restaurant with a group of us and order cokes and French fries and take up the booth for a very long time talking and laughing with each other.  We didn't text; we talked.  Our talks were sometimes long and quite philosophical.  We didn't facebook; we had lots of face to face time.  All I remember is that high school was a fun time in my life.   I had a chance to gain my own identity.

The summer after I graduated from high school, just before I left for college in the fall of 1963, I visited my boyfriend's home to say good-bye.  I am now married to the one who snapped this photo of me in front of his parent's home.  High school provided me with a time when I made life time friendships.  It also was a time when I met my true love and partner for the second half of my life.  I remember how proud of me Jim was because I had earned a scholarship for college tuition and was going away for college.  Dressed in my new shirtwaist dress, I thought I was the picture of a college girl.  Now I think I look terribly young and if naiveté is written across my forehead.  When this photo was taken, I had wonderful dreams and goals.  I am happy I reached all of them.  I do wish I'd had higher goals and loftier dreams.  It was a different time then.  Women didn't really think of doing much except being a wife, teacher, or nurse.  For the times, I am happy with my choices and that I accomplished what I set out to do.  I wouldn't trade the time in which I came of age for anything.  I grateful I grew up when I did.


  1. Funny you should mention this. Just this morning I was meeting up with someone at a strip mall, to exchange some papers. I got there a bit early, saw a coffee shop and walked over. I saw half a dozen girls crowding the counter inside. Then I turned and saw a group of boys walking up to the entrance. Then I realized, this strip mall is right next to the high school.

    I guess with all the stresses and strains put on our kids these days, they have to get fully caffeinated before going to class.

    Anyway, enjoyed your reflections from the past. Check out my post "What Was It Like in 1958" based on the Stephen King novel, for some more differences.

  2. Oh, you look exactly the same! You know how you smile in this picture? You're smiling at the person who took the picture, a warm smile for sure.
    I started college in '59, and life was all business back then for me, with so many things to do, and little time or money to get anything else done.

    My grandchild (in high school) would be the girl you met in the coffee shop, indulging in her favorite beverage before school, driving her own car, rushing in and out of activities.

    Still, the concerns are the same: doing well in school, having good friends, finding enough time to do all the things that will cement her chances for a good life.

  3. You know I have been thinking a lot about how things have changed throughout time myself. I guess some things are better and some are not.

  4. I lived on a military base when I was in high school, so there were some rules we observed that you probably didn't. Still, I look at the high schoolers of today and I think they have way more freedom than I did. And I wonder how much of a good thing that is.

  5. I feel like my children were sheltered to the degree it was possible. The Internet hadn't taken off yet and I think the technology tsunami has really made parenting so much harder.

    I was a child in the 60's and have mostly carefree childhood memories of those days. So many kids today seem to be carrying the weight of the world.

  6. I am going to my 50th reunion this weekend. Looking forward to it so much!

    About a month ago I met a classmate for lunch. He and his wife were spending the summer here, but we only discovered our proximity in late July. While we ate, we talked about how fortunate we were to grow up where and when we did. I wouldn't want to be a teenager today. Nope.

    My experience was a bit different from yours, because I did have a job. But it wasn't like today's kids have; I worked a couple hours after school and a few hours on Saturday, just for pocket money. When kids have jobs today, it is waaaay more hours, and they are exhausted!

    Yes, we grew up in a much kinder, slower-paced world. We were very fortunate.

  7. Your memories are my memories, too, Sally. In just 50 years, the world has changed so much! I hope our grandchildren have as much satisfaction and sense of belonging as we did. Cute shirtwaist!

  8. Times have changed haven't they? Kids grow up too fast and are (I feel) given way too much before they are able to deal with the consequences. I love that picture. And believe it or not those sandals are very much in style the purse too!Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. I loved the time there~
    Blessings, Joanne

  9. OH yes! Absolutely. Our lives were much more sheltered. I didn't learn to drive until after I was married. It might not have been a good thing because I'm still afraid to drive. I didn't drink coffee in high school either. I thought of it as a grown up drink.

    You have had so much in your life... difficult, fabulous, tragic, happy, serene and you've given so much to the next generations. Indeed, you have much to be proud of.

  10. Except for the rich social life and homecoming queen part, we have a lot in common. I was one year ahead of you. I attended my 50th reunion this year, and went off to college in 1962.
    We were rather poor, didn't have much but a big, loving family. Life was much simpler then. Better? Perhaps. I look at parents today and am glad I raised my kids before cell phones and personal computers. With progress comes a whole new set of promises and problems.

  11. Oh, I so agree that life back then was much simpler and less complicated. I'm glad I grew up when I did, and I think I had that same exact shirtwaist! :-)

  12. A beautiful girl who is now a GORGEOUS lady!!!!!

  13. What a brilliant post there Sally! I think all of us "women of a certain age" could relate to it! Oh my, and shirtwaster dresses - that brings back memories! I totally agree with you, I certainly wouldn't want to be a teenager now. They have so many more pressures than we ever had. Life was so much more innocent back in those days, and we were the better for it I think. You covered virtually everything there about all the differences between the 1960[s and now, and it brought back a lot of memories. Really enjoyed it!

  14. Although I was 10 years behind you. I , too, am grateful to have grown up in a time that permitted me to know myself a bit longer before I met the world.

  15. I graduated in '63 so we're peers. I got my license at age 16 but driving was always with an adult for the first two years and only the family car. I identify with you about the family rules that bounded my experiences. Shirt waist dresses were my favorites- your is cute. You look so similar to now!

  16. It's almost impossible to compare teens now a days, to our lives before. Such a different world, and scary at was simpler then. But I recall, being told I could aspire to being a secretary, if I applied myself. Can you believe anyone being told just that today?

    I saw your comment over on Carolynn's blog, about moving after living somewhere for 17 years.

    I wanted to tell you that yes, it can be done. We moved after 17 years in our little condo.

    Carolynn and I knew each other on the coast, we are blogging buddies. She moved up here to the Okanagan just a few months before us.

    And then suddenly we sold our condo, and had to move in less then 2 weeks. But we are here where we want to be now. It's a bit of a adjustment, from a condo to a house, and a completely different climate. But it can be done.

    Best of luck with your move.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  17. Dear Sally, you have expressed so well, my own feelings about my life as compared to those of my great nieces today. I graduated from high school in 1954 and so your life and mine were in many ways similar. I feel, as you do, a great fondness and gratitude for those years. Thank you for remembering all this so vividly. You stoked my own memories. Peace.

  18. Lots of similarities in our backgrounds. I graduated in 1961 in a small town, never drove the family car, didn't drink coffee, and escaped the kinds of pressures that so many youngsters experience today. I wasn't in the most popular crowd, but our class was really big and I had lots of like-minded friends. Like you, we felt sophisticated in our shirtwaist dresses. :-)

  19. How beautiful you are in the photo...and I MISS shirtwaist dresses. I remember them so well.
    Love thos sandals...!! Gorgeous photo!)
    You have wisdom, Sally...and that comes from so many facets and phases of your life. I am happy that (like you)as a teenager I was under my parents' roof and their rules. I wouldn't change that for anything. I remember doing research using the note cards, typing the paper using the typewriter (and the eraser with the funny fan on the end when I made a typo!)..and I remember the card catalogs with the lovely wooden drawers in the library. (They don't have those anymore.) You and I could travel a million miles down memory lane...and what a marvelous journey it would be.
    Love your blog! U am thinking of you with a smile,

  20. 50 years! My first thought was wow, Sally's a lot older than me. Then I did the math on my fingers. My 50th will be in just a few years.

    I swear I h ad those same white sandals. I was thinking the other day about having to wear dresses to school everyday. We couldn't even wear pants to school, let alone shorts or tank tops. Yep, times have changed.

  21. I to have notice a big change in how things are done when i was younger we came home from school did our homework then went out to play now a days the kids come home and turn on electronics
    Come Say HI

  22. Lovely post, one I can certainly relate to. I loved high school, with the simple fun and all night gab fests. I marvel that we made it safely through, without all the safety requirements there are today. We didn't wear seat belts; I regularly crammed 7 girls into a VW bug to cruise town; we had no cell phones.

    While I had very old fashioned blue collar parents, my dad needed me to drive, as I was the oldest of six kids, with a step mom who didn't drive (and couldn't seem to learn!) So, the trade off was I got the bug on one of the weekend nights.

    Fond memories of all the football and basketball games, as we always went and sat in a huge group and cheered frantically.

    When we went to football games when our girls were in high school, hardly anyone cheered. I felt sorry for the cheerleaders.

    Oh, the time's they are a-changing. Sometimes it seems we must keep up, or be left out. I finally, regretfully, (and still hate it) learned to text in order to communicate with the girls. (I still will call instead when possible!)

    Can't wait to meet you, Sally!

  23. As always, a thoughtful and provocative post that gives one food for thought. Like you, I'm glad I was "then" and not "now." Apart from getting my drivers license, our experiences were much the same. And I loved them. I just loved high school. It wasn't that I was way-popular but I had amazing friends and wonderful times.

    I love that photo. I think you look just lovely!

  24. I graduated in 59 and though of a different gender the attitudes feel very familiar. Those were the days my friends....

  25. This post was a wonderful, insightful job of contrasting then and now.

  26. Jumped to your blog after reading Nana's account of your trip away. This post appealed to me as I was thinking similar things recently. Something reminded me of an old boyfriend I had during college. For some reason I started thinging about the difference having a mobile phone might have made to that relationship. It was a very random train of thought that made me realise how much things have changed for teens in the last 20 years.
    Nice post


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