I grew up in the 60s in a world that was much different than what it is today. My mom stayed at home and my dad went to work. Later on in my late teens in the 70s, my mom went to work too.
Every day, mom prepared a nice home cooked dinner. Roast beef, stuffed peppers, meatloaf and veal cutlets were a few of my favorites. My dad would get home from work at 5:00 and dinner time was 5:30 every day, like clockwork.
At one point my mom got a little cynical, I think. Every so often she would make a liver cutlet and throw it onto the pile without telling anyone. And you could tell it was different because it was darker that the rest. It was like Russian roulette as we never knew on what plate that dark one would land.
On Sundays we had dinner at 3:00 and we always had macaroni, often lasagne. We didn’t call it pasta back then, it was macaroni. The smell of meatballs frying on Sunday mornings was our cue to head downstairs to the kitchen to grab one or two before they got tossed into the sauce. My mom had quite a challenge keeping us from eating all of them and we soon found out that the wooden spoon stirring the sauce could also be used as a disciplinary tool.
In the summer, we were allowed to roam the neighborhood unsupervised on our bicycles to play with our friends. There were no fears of getting kidnapped or worse, no fear of violence anywhere…We would play softball, whiffle ball and football all over the neighborhood all summer. We would play step ball on the front stoop, sell hotdogs in front of our house to the factory workers who worked across the street. We would build treehouses, draw strike zones with chalk on the sides of buildings to play stickball with a broomstick and a Spaulding ball.
We would play whiffle ball in my friend’s backyard. The backyard was very small and everyone was hitting the ball over the fence so one day we decided that everyone that normally bats lefty has to bat righty and everyone that bats righty has to bat lefty. This was our way of trying to keep the ball in the yard. It worked for a little while but eventually led to all of us becoming pretty good switch hitters.
There were no cell phones to distract us or consume our time. We played, rode our bicycles, got dirty and had fun with our friends and the only way we knew it was dinner time was when my dad would open the back door of the house and let out a very loud whistle. You did not want to hear that whistle twice…
When it came time for my dad to assemble the pool in the backyard, we knew summer had arrived. It was a very exciting time of the year and it seemed like summer lasted forever…
We would all watch TV together after dinner as a family and my dad would fall asleep in his chair. There were 7 channels and all you had to do was get up and change the channel without having to worry about sifting through hundreds of shows to watch or which remote to use or changing the batteries in it.
There were six people in my family and we had one phone. When we got an extension upstairs, it was like a technological breakthrough. If you were on the phone with someone, you would never ask “Where are you?” They were home just like you.
Visits to my favorite aunt and uncle in Massapequa were often and falling asleep in the back of the car on our way home is a very fond memory. We felt safe, protected and happy. And happy memories visiting with my other aunt and uncle in Matawan. We spent a lot of time there too, especially New Year’s Eve a few times. Since my birthday is New Year’s Day, it was quite a treat to get a sip of champagne when the clock struck midnight.
Memories of being relegated to the kid’s table and feeling slighted not to qualify for attendance at the adult’s table for dinners. While I may not have fully appreciated what was happening at the time, I look back now and can only feel joy for having been there with all of my family.
We had all sorts of pets from dogs and cats to chameleons and turtles. Our cat Cookie was a very popular lady in town, having had 4 litters of 5 kittens each and on one occasion I witnessed the birth on our back porch of 5 tiny little kittens. It was quite an experience.
We would throw plywood boards down on the floor in the basement to make a bowling alley and a drag racing course. We would go to the field a block away and pick wild berries and to the woods to pick mushrooms with my dad.
Technology was non-existent and life was very simple and very happy. We were good friends with all our neighbors and visited each other often.
We would go to drive-in movies where my parents would tell us not to sit up so straight so we could look younger and get in for free. Memories of double features with the popcorn boxes and hot dogs dancing across the big screen during intermission and the speaker box that you had to hang off your window that worked most of the time. Picking those big purple grapes off the trellis in the backyard and watching my grandma roll out dough to make noodles in the kitchen.
Later on in our second house I would spend countless hours sketching anything I saw, from my shoes to a chair to a stapler or a wine decanter. It was incredibly relaxing and, unbeknownst to me at the time, therapeutic experience.
More memories to come…