Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Different Time

When I read my fellow Stiletto gang's posts I am often reminded of the big generational gap between us. The majority are near the age of my children and at least one is closer to the age of my grandchildren.

I grew up in a different time period. Though I didn't grow up in a small town--Los Angeles is where I lived the first eighteen years of my life--things were certainly different than they are now. Oh, the same dangers were out there--murderers, thieves, child molesters--but I don't think our parents thought about those people.

When we went off to play, we really didn't have to say exactly where that would be. The only rule in my house was I had to be home by 5 because that was supper time. And yes, we always ate dinner together--my dad, mom, and sister and ever so often a guest or two. When it was just our family we ate at a small table at the end of the kitchen. For more classy dinners, we ate in our dining room--but that wasn't often.

I wandered all over the neighborhood--especially during the summer--to find someone to play with. I did not call my mom and tell her where I was nor did she expect it. Sometimes I rode my bike and found a nice front yard with a big weeping willow tree and settled myself in to read or write or draw. Why the homeowner didn't come out and ask me what I was doing, I have no idea.

When my cousin and I were ten years old we begged to go downtown by ourselves. To do this we had to ride the bus and transfer to a streetcar. If I remember correctly, this didn't cost much more than a dime, even with the transfer. Yes, our moms let us. However, the first time we learned later that, they followed us on the very next bus and street car. We'd been given orders that we could only shop on one block on Broadway, between 5th and 6th Streets. That was okay, there was the Broadway Dept. Store on one corner and somewhere in between a great five-and-dime. For $1.00 we could buy all sorts of treasures. We followed the rule, and after that traveled downtown without the shadows.

When I was 10 I babysat in other people's homes. My first job was with five little ones. (3 family's offsprings together.) I heated bottles, rocked babies--but I never once thought to change a diaper. Once I took care of a girl the same age as me who was developmentally disabled. I had to wrestler her to get her into her p.j.s and into bed. I was paid 50 cents for three hours of very hard work. I never went back.

My friends and I would hike in the hills behind my house. (At that time it was an undeveloped area--no houses and hobos had encampments in gullies.) There was a water reservoir at the very top of the hill. Today that area is now the Glendale Freeway. When I was in high school, I'd cut through the hills to take a shorter way to school rather than riding the bus and streetcar which seemed to take forever. It still was a long walk and I sometimes did it by myself.

As a young teen, my friends and I rode the bus, the streetcar and another streetcar to get to the beach during the summer. Sometimes we accepted rides home with boys we met at the beach. (Not sure if our parents were aware we did this.)

My girlfriends and I often took the bus and streetcar to go to downtown L.A. to the movies and special programs put on by the department stores--in fact we got to see Frank Sinatra before he was so famous at the May Co.

Frankly, our mothers had to work so hard I don't think they had time to worry about us. My mom did have one of the first automatic washing machines but she still had to hang clothes up outside to dry and iron everything. I remember she even had a mangle to iron all the sheets and pillowcases. She even ironed my dad's shirts on it.

Anything we baked (yes, my sis and I did a lot of baking) had to be made from scratch. There was no such thing as mixes. No microwaves, no prepared food.

I even remember the first Ralph's grocery store--at first it was in a big tent. What I don't remember is where we shopped for food before that.

We went to Sunday School and church and to youth group on Sunday night. Sometimes I walked home from there by myself--and it was at least two miles. Sometimes we spent the rest of Sunday at my grandparents in South Pasadena or we'd travel over the hill to visit my Aunt and Uncle and my four boy cousins.

Mother loved sales, so we went to sales downtown and to smaller stores nearby. It wasn't a good experience, the women acted horrible snatching things from one another. I don't like sales to this day.

When I was a teen we spent our summer vacations at Bass Lake. My dad let me drive our outboard motor boat wherever I wanted, long before I ever knew how to drive a car. We made friends fast and always had a group to hang out with and we went all over that lake.

I could go on, but I think that's enough to make my point. I definitely grew up in a different time.



  1. Marilyn, I love the stories of your childhoood. I had some of the freedoms of playing outside with the neighborhood kids, and what I find interesting is that on summer nights, the age range for games like "Stoplight" or Hide and Seek would be from preschoolers to teens. Once we put on a show and the littlest girl sang "I'm a little teapot" with a teen in the front row, mimicking the actions for her.

    But when I think about my own kids, I was much more worried about where they were, with whom, and when they'd be back. Don't know if I was simply a bigger worrier than my mother?

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Marilyn, your next book should be a memoir, or a mystery set in old LA. Your stories are fascinating! Maggie

  3. Marilyn, I agree with Maggie: you should set a mystery in the LA you grew up in. That would be cool! I grew up in the 'burbs in a variety of cities (since my dad worked for IBM), and we had a lot of freedom, too. It was great not being controlled by technology! We used our imagination and played games with the neighborhood kids (flashlight tag, Red Rover, kickball). Although I can understand why moms today want to keep closer tabs on their kids. The world didn't seem such a scary place back in the 1970s and 1980s (at least not to me!).

  4. When I remember what it was like growing up (I'm in your generation) and I see how little of that easy freedom my grandkids have, I find it incredibly sad.

  5. I agree, kids don't have much freedom to explore like we did. Probably one of the reasons I've been brave and ready to try new things all my life.