This week in the news, some southern California beaches had been closed–the very ones I use to play on when I was a kid–because of “tar balls” that had washed ashore.
That triggered a stroll down memory lane and a few cul-de-sacs along the way.
You see, growing up in Torrance in the 1960s, our family found its way to the beach quite often. Most times it was mom, my sisters and me, laying on the sand, jumping into the ocean to cool down, putting a little more zinc oxide on the nose, then back to the water to ride an air mattress or paddle board. Eventually, as I got older, skim boards came into play. I even made my own in wood shop. Some of my friends took up surfing, but I just didn’t have a spare $50 or enough of an interest to pursue the sport.
Growing up on the sand, you learn not to run near other people’s towels, don’t mess around too much during lunch or you’ll get sand in your food, be sure to wash the sand off your feet up at the showers on the way to the car and, once home, hold your feet up for mom to inspect. If there were blobs of tar (and it happened more times than not), mom or dad would get a rag, pour on a little paint thinner and then wipe it off.
That was the norm. Tar balls on the beach? Aren’t all beaches like that?
It got me to thinking back to that time and just how much the world has changed since then. When I played outside with my friends, some days we’d have to take breaks because our lungs burned. Yeah, the smog was pretty bad back then. Again, I just assumed it was that way everywhere.
Nope, this was the Los Angeles area in the early 1960s. We had only one neighbor with a color TV and they were nice enough to invite us over one New Year’s Day to watch the Rose Parade–in color!
It wasn’t until I was older that I found out “The Wizard of Oz” wasn’t entirely done in black and white. We had stores like Thrifty, where you could go in and get an ice cream cone for a nickel. Want a triple scoop? Oh, that’ll cost you 15-cents. There were stores like Zody’s, Woolworth and White Front, now long gone.
The more I thought about that time, the more memories of the way things used to be came to mind. I guess that happens when you’ve carved out almost 60 years on this planet. There were “party lines”, where several families shared the same telephone exchange. You could pick up the phone to make a call, hear voices talking and then hang up until they were done.
I remember McDonald’s hamburgers going for 19-cents. Go to Der Wienerschnitzel and you could get 5 hot dogs, your choice of regular, mustard or chili, for a buck.
I was doubly-blessed when it came to baseball because I had baseball-fan parents, who never missed a game. Back then, only a few games were on TV, so most evenings were spent listening to Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett on the radio. During that decade, the Los Angeles Dodgers went to the World Series three times, winning twice. I grew up assuming that your team usually went to the World Series.
I asked for a recorder one Christmas and got a little reel-to-reel machine. I recall my mom going back and getting her high school degree when I was a kid (I still remember going to her graduation), because when growing up, her parents felt they needed her on the farm more than she needed to go to high school.
No, there weren’t wagon trains passing through town and Lindbergh had already made his trans-Atlantic flight. But the world was a much different place when I was growing up. As fast as technology and the pace of the world is moving, my kids are pretty much able to say similar things about when they grew up and that was just a couple of decades ago.
I’ve never been much of an oldies music fan. That being said, I loved the music I grew up with and those great memory-filled songs of my college years. However, that’s why I like to only listen to them occasionally. That way, when I hear them, it’s special and it stirs up a flood of memories which, like an old friend, is great to see again. I know way too many people in my age group who latched on to a time in their life and basically, their life froze. There are too many new things to do, to learn about, to discover.
The past is a fun place to visit, I just don’t want to live there.
This quick trip back brought to you by the makers of tar balls and the smell of paint thinner.
We now return you to the present.