It was the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s. We were kids, and the way we communicated with each other was by talking or by writing a letter. Letters were pretty much reserved for birthday and Christmas thank you notes. 99% of our entertainment was from playing – playing outside with our siblings and our neighborhood friends – and in our case, because my grandmother lived near the ocean, we spent a lot of time playing at the beach. we lived next door to the Kennedys in San Jose, hence they were known to travel with us to the beach.
There were no electronic games or phones or tablets. We would do things like pitch a tent on the front lawn and create an adventure while others in the group were sitting at a “lemonade stand” – pretty much a table and chairs gathered from various houses for the event. My dad’s old robin eggshell blue ’38 Chevy parked out in the street in front of our house on Newhall Street (He called it his Jaguar – pronounced with his Southern Gentleman accent as jag – you – aah). We would play outside until we HAD to go inside because the sun had set or it was dinner time.
Bobby lived across the street and was older and used to sit at his bedroom window and shoot BBs at me while I was helping to unload the car after a trip to the grocery store. After that happened a number of times, it was rectified by my father talking to his father. Today it would be a huge todo with lawyers and police involved.
In the early 60’s we would get up on a Saturday morning, have breakfast, and then head out on our bicycles. Just bicycles – no head gear – no knee and elbow pads – and just one gear on the bikes. Sometimes we had a destination planned, but many times we would just tell our parents we were going and they would tell us to be home for dinner. There were easily 1,000,000 fewer people in the Santa Clara Valley back then. Numerous times we would pack a picnic lunch and ride our bikes to Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga. I Googled the distance (something we couldn’t do back then) and it is about 13 miles each way. The directions say to use Hwy 17, but Hwy 17 hadn’t been built yet – we rode on surface streets. The hardest part was getting there because it was all uphill. But it was worth it because of the beauty of the grounds. The way home was delightful and much faster.
I was looking at a CBS News report that said that “Kids and teens age 8 to 18 spend an average of more than 7 hours a day looking at screens.” If they go to school 6 hours a day and sleep 8 hours a day, that only leaves them 3 hours, at the most to go outside and discover the world in which they live.
I’m glad I grew up when I did and was able to learn how to play and interact with ALL the kids on the block. My first electronic device was a transistor radio that was tuned to KLIV and KYA – both Rock stations. I didn’t get a calculator until after I was married in 1972 (because they hadn’t been invented yet) and didn’t own a cell phone until I was 46 years old (1996). It was a Motorola flip phone that Rita got for me when I was in the hospital recovering from surgery for the Stage-4 colon cancer. She wanted me to be able to get in touch with her anytime.
I think our first computer in 1983 was an Apple 2e. If I remember correctly it had about 64k total memory and huge FLOPPY discs. Thirteen years later when I was in the hospital we thought the technology had reached as high as it could. Not the case by any means, but no matter how high technology gets, it will never be able to duplicate six kids on the beach or a bevy of kids playing on the front lawn. I’m not in the least against creating new technology – I just feel that a child being outside and playing with their brothers and sisters and friends is as creative as it gets.