remember walking the railroad tracks on hot summer evenings with my Pop after supper. With fishing poles slung over our shoulders, and the Mississippi River as a backdrop, we appeared to be a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Role models in life are essential, and I couldn’t have handpicked one any better.
I remember one evening when I was about 6 years old, reliving one such scenario. I asked my Pop if he could whistle the theme song of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Looking back, I think we probably appeared exactly like the opening of that television program. My Pop obliged, and I tossed a rock just as Opie would have.
Black-and-white television was the only world I knew outside of hanging out with the neighborhood folks. I liked the silliness and the life-lessons shared on many of those old 1960s shows.
Life was far simpler then, and the television was a direct reflection of that. Suppertime was when we shared our day’s events, and seldom was there not a friend or two waiting at the back door for me to finish my meal. The television was never on during supper.
I remember when the evening news came on after supper. You could hear a pin drop. Pop was a veteran of two wars, and my parents were glued to the television as Walter Cronkite talked about faraway lands like Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I didn’t really understand as my friends and I were playing war, young soldiers were dying in Southeast Asia. The only soldiers I paid attention to were in John Wayne movies or on weekly television series. We were blessed not to have internet back then. I can imagine my future would have been very different with media at my fingertips.
It was a time of innocence for those too young to grasp what war was. I know my mom was worried as I grew. She saw the war escalate, and the troop commitment grew. Many of our local young men had already shipped out, and the draft continued to select many more. The war grew as I did. It was my mom’s biggest fear.
When I am home alone, or awake before the rest of my family, I try to find the TV Land channel on our television. It is like being transported back in time to my youth. I watch the same silly shows I did as a child. I appreciate them more today because I see the family values, the subtle life-lessons and brilliant writing. It was proof that comedy and vulgarity are not synonymous.
I enjoy tuning in television and viewing a world that is not about greed and selfishness. This was an era during which people actually cared about their friends and neighbors. Family was a sacred word then, and the elderly were revered for their infinite wisdom.
Terrorism was a word never searched for in a dictionary. Everyone had a book in school for which they were responsible. Encyclopedias were kept in a place called a library and not Google.
You called your friends from a wall phone, and met someplace to play or hang out. Phone calls were a privilege only after your homework or chores were finished. There were no headsets linked to a video console where you lounged the days and nights away eating junk food and downing enough energy drinks to kill a rhinoceros. You walked, ran, played and rode bikes. You played Little League or YMCA league sports, and not everyone won a trophy.
You were forced to entertain yourself. That allowed your creativity to blossom. That free-thinking allowed some of the most brilliant minds to develop in many different fields as those children grew up, sought education and pursued their careers. Some of the most profound advances in science, medicine and education came out of my generation.
Today we live in a microwave society. Questions are answered in seconds. Communication is non-stop and with us almost 24 hours a day. The telephone is now affixed to your every move. Everything today can be viewed in color, in 3-D, in infrared, in real time and even from space.
Maybe we all grew up in Mayberry, and we never realized it until now. In a high-tech world exploding with color, I reflect fondly on a world when life was black and white.