A chance conversation brought to mind the typical reminiscences that arise when a group of people within a certain age range come together. I have mentioned the binding factor of Springbok Radio before: mention that beloved radio station in the company of my age cohort and a host of fondly remembered favourite programmes will come to the fore!
Our everyday lives were quite different then. Of course time provides a certain lustre or patina to the memories of our childhood experiences. We tend to forget the tough times – or laugh at them now – and to gloss over the difficulties we might have faced, or even the loneliness we might have had to overcome.
My companion reminded me that if one lived in a small town or out in the countryside, “we spent most of the daylight hours outside.” I remember spending much of my early childhood playing outdoors sans supervision. We climbed trees, walked in the veld, played in the mud, made small fires, swam, played ball games and marbles, caught tiny frogs, tried to find ant lions, pushed each other on the swing until we had learned to propel ourselves, built outdoor shelters … I also played tennis regularly when I was a little older, played kennetjie, and even read outdoors.
We would come indoors for lunch and, in our family, were expected to be home by the time my father got home from work. During the evenings we played cards, listened to the radio, or read. We were happy.
Not all things were ‘good’ about those times. Before passing judgement though, we must bear in mind the common knowledge that was available. Expectant mothers, for example, continued to smoke and/or to consume alcohol; and, cots and certain toys were painted with lead-based paints. These are verboten now – and rightly so!
As children, we would drink water straight from the hosepipe if we were thirsty and, on the rare occasions we had them, shared sips of cold drinks with friends without a second thought. Vehicles were not yet fitted with seat belts and children rode bicycles without wearing helmets. Among my fondest memories is riding in the back of my father’s bakkie; the wind blowing through my hair; our faces getting covered with dust; and the fun we had making hollow whistling sounds by opening our mouths against the wind.
“Do you remember all the grazes, cut and bruises” My companion laughed comfortably. “We were barefoot for much of the time too!” I loved being sans shoes – and still do. My father was a champion at removing deeply embedded thorns. Stubbed toes were the norm then.
Dispensed medicines had no tamper-proof or child-proof lids on them. Whenever we complained of a headache, my mother would encourage us to drink water. If we really felt under the weather, we might be given an aspirin, I treated my own children in much the same way.
Yes, those were ‘the good old days’, but each generation will have their own version. I often think how much my father would have enjoyed using the Internet and how thrilled my mother would have been to access so much interesting reading material.
She and I wrote to each other and phoned each other every week from the time I went to boarding school until she died. I lived so far away that I couldn’t visit her nearly as often as I would have liked to. What a boon modern technology has been to us with our scattered families: there are so many forms of communication available to us now!
So, when you hear us ‘oldies’ reminiscing about ‘back then’, be aware of how grateful we are for what we can enjoy in the present.