This is being posted a day earlier, because I’ll be out of town tomorrow.
It amazes me sometimes to think about the things we take for granted in today’s world. We talk, text or email people around the world from a little device we carry in our pockets. We scroll through hundreds of channels looking for a show to watch on television. Or to DVR so we can watch it later.
But it wasn’t always so. . . .
It was around 1950 when I first heard about it. That would have made me seven years old, although I guess I could have been six or eight. The exact year and my precise age at the time are not of crucial importance. The point is that I was young and easily impressed—and it was the post-WWII era, an era of great change.
The world of that time period seems so innocent and unsophisticated when I look back at it from today’s perspective. People left the doors of their houses unlocked when they ran errands, and nobody broke in. Mothers let children ride their bicycles or play out of sight as long as they were back by meal time.
There were undoubtedly pedophiles living in that time, but they certainly weren’t prevalent in our part of the country. There were certainly thieves breaking into homes back then, but not in our neighborhood. The world was a safe, sane place to live back in those days.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t so great for black families, riding in the back of the buses and sending their kids to inferior schools. They didn’t have such great times then, but a seven year-old kid doesn’t know that much about what goes on in the larger world. My world was idyllic, and I was very happy in it.
James Holmes, who lived in the same block, and I played together all the time. Sometimes we’d venture over to the next street to play with Jerry Brock, or he’d come over to play with us.
My elementary school was two blocks away, and I started walking there unaccompanied when I was five, so being out of Mother’s sight was no big thing. We would often ride our bicycles several blocks away with no problem.
One day I heard that a grocery store had opened up a few blocks away that had a door that opened itself. I couldn’t believe it.
Remember, this was a different world. We always bought groceries in a small neighborhood store whose doors were no different from the doors of houses. With no air conditioning, the doors usually remained open during business hours, with screen doors to keep flies and mosquitoes out. Well, most of them.
Now they were telling me this store had doors that opened and closed by themselves. I had to see that for myself.
I don’t remember if James or Jerry or both of them came along, but we rode our bicycles about six or eight blocks to Chicotski’s. It looked a lot more modern than Harry Snyder’s store, where we usually shopped, and as we watch someone walked up to enter the store, and, sure enough, the door opened itself.
Someone had told me the door had an electric eye, but that was beyond my child’s understanding. I had to go see it. We got off our bikes and walked over to look at the door.
Actually, there were two doors. The one on the right had a couple of metal rails jutting a yard or two out from the building. The other one had similar rails extending into the building. As we watched, someone headed toward the door on our left, and it opened of its own accord to let the customer out.
We stood there agog—minds blown by this wizardry. As we inspected the apparatus, we noticed a small light built into one of the rails shining a beam at the other rail. I put my hand down and waved it through the beam, and the door swung open.
We all three began going in one door and out the other, having a great time seeing this wonder of wonders perform. Finally someone from the store came over and asked us to leave.
It’s difficult for kids who have grown up with computers and Ipods and all the other gadgetry we take for granted nowadays to comprehend what a huge thing a self-opening door was, but to kids who were born in the middle of WWII, it was mind-blowing.
Ø Think of your early childhood—what things would blow your children’s or grandchildren’s minds compared to their lives today?
Ø How did some of these things from childhood mold your development?
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