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'Good Old Days' Were Different, Not Better

I grew up in Greenwich at a time when you'd go with your mom to take your dad to the train station (because the "clunker" -- 1963 Corvair that dad used as a station car -- was in the shop for the ten millionth time). The parking lot was covered in cinders, not blacktop, and the spaces were denoted by the placement of real, old railroad ties.

Your mom was in curlers and her red, fuzzy bathrobe, the morning uniform of the day. Dad went off to the city for what passed as a workaholic schedule back then but which would be almost a part-time job now, and you and mom drove back home to begin your day.

Marcus Dairy delivered the milk to the little galvanized milk box outside the back door and mom would let you carry in the glass bottle with the cardboard stopper in the top -- you dropped it one time and the hardest thing about that was keeping the golden retriever from trying to lick it up along with all the shards of glass.

Soon, it would be time for Manny from the dry cleaner's to make his delivery and be invited in for a cup of tea. Manny was a skinny old guy with a little pencil mustache and slicked back hair who was very nice. I assume that mom was not the only mom providing Manny with tea and I don't know how he got all his deliveries done -- yet he never had to ask to use the bathroom with all that tea. But those were life's little mysteries.

If the TV was on the fritz, the TV repairman, a demi-god, would come in with his box that said "RCA" on the side and filled with replacement tubes and weird and wonderful tools that made Walter Cronkite's face stop being green. I watched, fascinated.

After lunch, it was off to get cash the only way possible – visit the bank and cash a check. We'd fill up the car with gas at 28 cents a gallon, 38 for hi-test – full service, windshield washed, oil checked, tires filled and you were absolutely not allowed to pump it yourself. Then we'd hit the A&P for the week's groceries and be home in time to watch my older sister practice her baton twirling. This was followed by a couple of hours of 45 rpm records on her little record player -- there was no stereo and the hi-fi set was a strictly a parents-only proposition.

Now, I don't delve into all this mush in the interests of nostalgia -- things were not invariably rosier and nicer and more wonderful when I was a kid. I remember being with mom at Nielsen's Florist in Darien when word came down that President Kennedy had been shot and was incensed that there were no cartoons on TV for a week (gimme a break – I was five). I also remember a couple of years later hearing my dad explain why the riots we were seeing on TV would not come to Greenwich.

My point is, how can we even convey how different everyday life was? Not better, not worse, just different. I submit that 2011 has less in common with 1966 than 1966 had in common with 1921 – a 1966 kid and a 1921 kid could play hide and seek or Red Rover or Army together whereas I don't think a 2011 kid would have any idea what you were talking about. Oh, and moms don't wear curlers when they drive to the train station anymore because mom is probably on the train to the City too. And everyone carries a color TV everywhere they go and Manny does not deliver your dry cleaning anymore. Or stop for some tea.

Kurt Ringquist is the author of numerous scraps of doggerel, superfluous information and questionable prose. His work has appeared in Kansas Quarterly as well as at the bottom of birdcages in and around Fairfield County. He is the former publisher of the LW Flyer, a satirical newspaper with as many as seven readers, all coincidentally named "Ringquist." Comments and questions may be directed to Kurt at ringquistkurt@yahoo.com.

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