When I was young

When I was a very young child in holy catholic Ireland, parents had dreams for their children. Some families had more children than the beads on their rosary. Mind you it was back in the days before television for distraction and the only central heating was between the sheets!

With each new child the parents found another opportunity to fulfil an unlived dream.

The sons they saw as a priest, a doctor, a lawyer and a policeman. If there was a farm, well that went to number one son – whether he wanted it or not. If he chose a wife she was expected to come in and play second fiddle in the kitchen. Is it any wonder the phrase ‘God between us and small farms!’ became so popular!

For the girls it was a nunnery, a nurse or a teacher. For those considered less academically inclined, Pittman’s shorthand and typing was the route to a permanent and pensionable job. The youngest daughter might be encouraged not to run the roads, but stay home to take care of the parents in their old age.

In secondary school, my class mates spend may hours dreaming about a certain Dr. James Kildare (Richard Chamberlain), a young intern at Blair General hospital, in a 1960s television series. Many of my pals were prepared to run under a bus if Dr Kildare was around to sort out their scrapes and sooth their fluttering hearts. We didn’t have a television back then, but I had plenty of babysitting opportunities that gave me the chance to catch up.

Alas, I was not impressed. Dear Dr Kildare was a wimp to me. I knew plenty about tall dark and handsome men. Our house was always full of them. With each one came half a dozen shirts that needed washing, starching and ironing, apart from the smelly socks and sweaty underwear. Romance how are you!!!

Singer Lena Zavaroni was born just over a year before I left school. A tiny girl with an enormous voice, at the age of 10, she appeared on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks and went on to win the show five times in a row. At 16, with a trail of appearances in variety, summer shows and pantomimes behind her, she was rushed to hospital in Glasgow with anorexia. An illness from which she was to suffer for the rest of her short life.

Lena and I had something in common. Our skeletal frames. I was that thin! A layer of fine pale almost white skin blotched with large dark freckles covered my bones. I was taller, although I had not reached my full height of 5 ft 7 inches.

Lena had a Big voice.

I had BIG hair.

I awoke each day looking like a dishevelled upside down floor mop. Tangles were my morning agony, I sang as the unruly tresses were unlocked and combed into control. My song was “Ouch! That hurt me, you are pulling too hard!” I was never going to reach number one in any chart with that, was I? Even I was not fond of the music!

When schooling was over, homework complete and the chores done, we were free to run down the garden and over the wall to play. On a good evening the group might reach twenty with some of the fathers, uncles & cousins and occasionally aunts, swelling the numbers further.

There was banter, teasing and the odd battle of wills or punch-up. These battles never lasted long…. Any older person present would step up to the plate and restore order. If someone was not happy to drop the argument and play on, then they were sent home for the remainder of the evening’s play.

Any parent or older member of the neighbourhood gang was able to correct us for bad behaviour, pick us up when we fell, carry us home if a fall needed further treatment, and we never had reason to question them. All our parents were grateful for the care given.

  • We had freedom.
  • We had fresh air.
  • We had the opportunity to use our imaginations.
  • We had plenty of exercise.
  • We had the freedom to grow, to learn to play, be part of a team and to interact with people of all ages, sexes and several religions.

Children of today, in many parts of the world have freedoms we never knew of or heard about. They have cell phones, computers, Xboxes, and many another electronic contraption with the only barriers being a poor internet connection or lack of battery power.

Then there is the invisible fence around them. Some of these gadgets and games are for use and playing with IN THE HOME.

Nowadays children must be accompanied everywhere they go. For some children that means being driven right to the school gate – and to hell with any other traffic needing to get in the space while ‘Jayden or Kaylee” are set down on their tender little feet with only a yard or two to walk to the school door. Pity the school was not more thoughtful with a ‘drive through’ method of entry!

What brought this on? Well I read a blog post in September and it almost made me cry.

K8 the GR8, is about Elly’s age, a young mother of three children, I know her, met her and her parents, and she has been an award willing blogger. K8 tells it how it is.
Freedom how are you.

I suggest you go read it.

Confession time. I wrote this post early one morning in September, while sitting up in bed in Buffyland. Suddenly realising that it fitted with an LBC topic, I went to check my list. Sure enough When I was young had been suggested by me, so I scheduled this in back then. It is allowed. The Loose Blogging Consortium have no rules other than we all blog about the same topic on the same day. It does not have to be written while the morning coffee is percolating. Now that my coffee is ready and poured, why not join me on my rounds to see what gems all the other active members have produced this week.

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38 thoughts on “When I was young

  1. As they used to say on Blue Peter – here’s one I prepared earlier. (Maybe they still do say it?)

    Hear hear to most of what you say. In defence of devices, they have their upsides. My own bunch at home use them to organise school events, help each other with missing kit (lending/borrowing) and to keep in touch with more distant friends.

    Off to follow K8’s link.

  2. “Mind you it was back in the days before television for distraction and the only central heating was between the sheets!” ~ so THAT’s why families were so large?! 😛

    Our childhood was much the same when it came to free time. We had time for unstructured play with friends and we had to learn to make the rules as we went along. We got out and kept active and rarely sat watching the “boob tube.”

    • Nancy, It was my father who told me the reason for large families! I think I was sixteen going on seventeen when my father gave in to buying a television with a rabbit ears aerial, that gave us access to only one channel.

  3. In my hometown trains were verty important and back then they also were a hobo highway of sorts. My friends and I used to sneak down to the hobo camp by the river (the Arkansas) and hang out with the hobos. What a great time that was. Never met a friendlier group of people. Of course these das that would never happen. Kids are so over-protected they barely know what it’s like to get put and run around – quite literally. Of course the monsters these days are much more prevalent than back then – stil – I choose not to wish for the old days – just enjoy the memories they brought to the table. A lot of what you said jheld true for Pueblo in the 50s.

    • Shackman, I do realise that we cannot go back to the way things were, but at times I think we have gone too far in the other direction. Young children still need an hour to play with an empty box!

  4. Loved your personal story. I always thought Dr Kildare was a wimp too. We lived in coastal fishing villages in my second through tenth year, in homes with an oil stove and intermittent electricity in the winter. Sometimes the bedsheets were so cold it felt like ice water. I slept with my younger sister though we’d argue about who had to get in first.

  5. I have absolutely no doubt that the quality of life for the normal first-world child is far worse than it was a generation ago and two generations ago.

  6. Times have indeed changed. I did not grow up in your generation, but mine was much more similar to yours than that of today. In my opinion, although the work was harder back then, life was much more simple and people valued it a great deal more than they do now. I can’t imagine not having heat though. I get cold in 70 degree weather.

    • Housework was harder, we did not have the appliances of convenience that are available today. Food was all slow cooked from scratch, laundry was a three stage chore before the use of easy care fabrics, but family and friends all shared time together and we all talked to each other face to face.

  7. Clever ending. So you were 5”7″…I used to be 5′ 73/4,” but no more.

    Sometimes the past is viewed with rose-tinted glasses. The good old days also included Polio, Pertussis (whooping cough), Tetanus, Pellegra, Small Pox and other assorted ailments..at least in the South where I grew up. Shortages of one kind or another were also a problem, as were nails in bare feet, spider bites, bike accidents….it is a wonder any of us reached adulthood intact.

    Dr. Kildare was a hero to many, but not me. I liked the other doctor series, although I can’t remember his name. Dianne

    • TB was prevalent. Four of the five of us at that time were home nursed through scarlet fever only to discover that number five who had been isolated was actually the carrier. He managed to get over it while on his feet.

      The other Dr series – was it General Hospital?

  8. It is sad that we live in totally different times with vastly different values and fears. I have to restrain myself from being friendly with children lest I be charged with pedophilia! Normal human interactions have all but disappeared and gadgets have become close companions for instant gratification exercises. And commerce revolves around the modern young. Just walk into any mall and you will find this to be true.

  9. Well, you and I gave something in common. I was painfully thin. Some people accused me of being anorexic, but I wasn’t. That’s just how I turned out. I’m happy to have a little weight on me now.

    • Delores, there is one benefit to having a little added weight: It acts as insulation in the cold weather. I could do with some of it right now.

  10. Sometimes I get an attack of the “where are they nows” and I google the net looking for info on the celebrities I used to read about in my youth in Ireland. I never hear about some of them out here in India. I looked up Lena Zavaroni and was shocked to read about her tragic end. She was the same age as I was and I remember I used to be so amazed watching her on tv along with the girls in my class. We were all stuck in school and there she was living the high life. But what a tragic end to her life. The poor, poor thing.

  11. You know GM, we grew up in different countries but you were telling my life. Catholic and all. And I surely remember Dr. Kildare; he was a big heart throb in these parts.

    One big difference, my hair is so fine my mom use to use those frizzy home perms. Ugh!!

    Will put my post up today. You know how it is, life happens.
    blessings ~ maxi

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