Too Bad we weren’t GREEN in the Fifties!  Yes we ruined it for You…?

Dr. Jim Gschwind

The Despondent Correspondent



Not going anywhere….took me 15 minutes to prepare, tied the garbage cans to the telephone pole tied the deck umbrella down and collected small deck table items into a box and put it in storage. Got so much done today, but had to grocery shop, and tired of these people that “panic shop”, two gas stations out of gas. Been through four without evacuation on land and three at sea on Naval Ships, so it is almost automatic with me.  I  try and convince people the NOAA and National Weather Service HAVE to sound alarmist as they need to get that attention for “funding” and that NOBODY (even this know it all) knows where a hurricane will go until it’s well into the Gulf.   Time for “distraction” and a part from the usual “norm”.  Just wanted to prove I have more interests than just political.

Being Green in the 50s?
Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to me, that I should bring my own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

I apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.


I’ve had many come-back comments regarding this piece and I remember I had to remember my first phone number (Redwood 57393) in DC for lst Grade (all the phones were one color…black, just like model T’s) and in El Paso remember getting off school bus and staring at a little screen with an indian test pattern with 10 strange kids I didn’t know waiting for Howdy Doody.  I just came across my  original post card of the original Mousketeer gang including Annette and Jimmy Dodd (close to my Goldwater bumper stickers and buttons).   I remember smoking early because we could hit a machine just inside an establishment and throw a quarter in and get our pack and two packs of matches and run like the dickens as they yelled at us.  I remember school buses didn’t stop at every corner and riding a bike to school sometimes meant walking it up a steep hill despite the playing cards in the spokes that made it cooler.  I remember my first 45 rpm records (vinyl?); Young Love, Ricky Nelson; Cathy’s Clown, Everly Brothers (the girls at camp broke that record I played it so much); Cupid by Sam Cooke as well as the first transistor radio I owned (4 transister Toshiba) and my only Dick Clark summer concert in my little strip mall around DC in the country in 59.  I remember my coonskin cap from Davy Crockett, the Robin Hood series cardboard snap together “fort” I almost spent a whole night in.  I remember my Gene Autry plastic guitar and blanket; the saddle tripod kids TV seat; summer camp that was fun and taught you something; chemistry sets to blow the house up; rock fights which required a drug store employee to patch you up; my Roy Rogers Nellie Belle action vehicle and greenie stick-um caps for playing cowboys and Indians (so politically incorrect today); being a bully until the other kids outgrew me and my parents not even knowing today that it was usually about something someone said about my family;  being an Altar Boy and sneaking a hit of Christian Brothers Altar Wine; being a paper boy and being afraid of the huge rottweiller that would chase me on my bike (I don’t think I ever had the nerve to “collect” from them either); learning to fly; learning to sail; learning the Foxtrot and the Twist and my first date where a parent had to drive you .  This generation will never know the thrill of hearing the “shadow” on radio and masterpiece theater, The Lone Ranger and Captain Kangaroo nor the thrill of constant piano lessons.  They won’t be thrilled with the idea that your family could only afford either a baloney sandwich or a plain grape jelly sandwich in your lunchbag in elementary school making “untradeable”.


This current generation has no idea how we entertained ourselves (or got into trouble) before the eternal babysitter (the TV and digital games).   Kids I’m not that much of an old “foggie”, I can still beat all the Super Mario levels.  That has made me the Grandpa that I have become and my daughter says I’m good at picking toys for the kids….of course I am, because I’m thrilled at all the neat toys they have now when we used to be content with a cardboard box slidding down a grassy slope, or catching fireflies at night.  I buy toys for my seven grandkids with the idea that I’ll play with them and sometimes it causes them frustration waiting for “their turn”.


All that has become a fuzzy haze as I get older but a lot sticks out in my mind and I smile.  Boy was I spoiled for the oldest in a rather poor family but we always found a way.


We didn’t know we were “green”, but because we were not high on the income ladder we “conserved” and made best out of what we had.


Too bad were weren’t “green”.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Us “selfish” old people don’t really need a lesson in conservation from a smart-ass young person…

We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off!