Childhood Family

Back in my day…

I remember the first time that I really saw how much smart phones were changing the world.

My wife and I had gotten iPhones in probably 2009 or so. My wife and I were heading back from a trip to Atlanta and we pulled off the interstate to get something to eat.

We saw an Arby’s, and my wife and I both said, “Let’s get that.” We pulled into the drive-through line. The backseat chorus chimed in. “What do they have!?!?!?!?” My wife whipped out her phone, hit a few keystrokes, and in no time had the Arby’s kids menu pulled up. She rattled off the kids menu choices, and by the time we were at the speaker to order, we had everyone’s selection. This … this changes how we live, my wife and I said. Immediacy. This is the future, and the future is awesome!

That said, I cannot let the technological advances of our day overshadow my parental obligation to harp to my kids about how their life is infinitely easier than our incredibly difficult childhoods.

I, of course, tell my children all the time what it was like in my day.

I use foreign phrases to them such as “card catalog” and “land line” and “1984 was one of the greatest years alive because Red Dawn — the only Red Dawn I recognize — came out.”

But I do have to remember to keep a few of the other ones in the reserve bin for when I need a good “Back in my day…” comment. Among those I have stockpiled:

Back in my day…

  • We only had to dial five numbers to make a phone call, which, oh, by the way, was on a rotary phone. My wife is from Atlanta, so she was all fancy and dialed all seven numbers in her day. City folk.
  • If you need an immediate answer now, it’s easy enough. Our Google? The set of encyclopedias sitting on the shelf, or our parents. Let’s say we had a paper due the next day on, say, Venezuela. We could grab the World Book (U-V edition), and look up what we wanted. Or we could ask our parents, and possibly then include in our term paper a fun made-up fact our dad thought was funny, such as stating that Venezuela got its name because they were big fans of Fernando Valenzuela, but didn’t want to be too obvious.
  • Our TV shows weren’t on demand, and the concept of “binge watching” was nonexistent. My daughter watched the entire run of “Friends” over an especially unproductive weekend. I told her it took her mother and me a full decade to watch “Friends,” and we did it because we liked it that way. Harumph.
  • We had to read maps. Made out of paper. And that could rarely be folded back into their original form. My father-in-law is a real estate appraiser, and my wife brags that she learned early on not only how to read maps, but how to fold them back like a champ. Kids today…
  • The phrase “Be Kind, Rewind” means something to us. Sure, you get your Redbox DVD or your iTunes download. But we used to have to do some heavy lifting in our day, and that required waiting patiently while your VHS copy of “Weekend at Bernie’s” wound all the way back to start, lest you get fined by your movie overlords at Blockbuster.
  • You kids today have your privacy on a phone call, because you have a cell phone and you can go anywhere to make your calls. Back when we had those wall-mounted phones, we had to get our privacy the old fashioned way — with a 20-foot cord that you added to the phone so you could go far away from everyone else to make your call. This was exceptionally challenging if you were one one of my three older sisters and, during that call with your friend, your little brother repeatedly opened and closed the sliding glass door on the cord, hoping he could introduce a little chaos into your life because, well, little brothers are awful. (Source: I am a little brother, and also the parent of a little brother.)

So the world has gotten better than when we were kids. But kids today need to remember that their parents endured some mighty struggles. And I am sure they, too, will one day be able to tell their kids about the hardships they endured, with non-Wifi hotspots and such. I wish them well, and hope they can convey to their kids the struggle they endured. In particular that terrible time when Redbox was out of their movie.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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