Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Muncie Boyhood-A Few "Back in My Day" Reflections

This post isn't quite as story oriented as some of my other posts, but really is just a random collection of memories from my childhood.  I thought I'd quickly share them.  It might add some background color to some of my other stories.  On with the show...

“Times have changed.”

“Back in my day…”
“When I was a kid…”

I heard that from time to time as a boy. When I did, it usually provoked a roll of the eyes and an under the breath “here we go again.” Every generation gets to hear it, and every generation gets to do it.

Now it’s my turn.

Here are some “back in my day” reflections from my Muncie Boyhood…


A. No satellite. No Cable. We had an antenna. It sat on top of a metal pole that was tucked into an outside corner of our house. Attached to it was a wire that connected to a 4” x 6” black box with a dial. To adjust the signal, we would move that dial back and forth, which theoretically moved the antenna around. It never seemed to make much difference to me.

B. We had 3 ½ channels. That was it. Channel 6-ABC, Channel 8-CBS, Channel 13-NBC, and sometimes we could get a good enough signal to pick up Channel 4. We always hoped for a good signal from Channel 4 on Saturday night so we could watch Sammy Terry and the old scary movies! There was also a local Muncie channel, but it was PBS and we rarely cared if we even got that one.

C. Cable came along in the mid-70’s. My parents resisted for a while. “Why would I pay for TV?” Eventually, they gave in and we suddenly had twenty channels. Wow! Then, HBO showed up. My nephew and I discovered that before the adults did. “This movie is rated R. HBO will show this feature only at night.” Need I explain further?


A. We had one phone. A black table-top model with a rotary dial.

B. For most of my childhood, we also had a party line. If you’ve never heard of that, a party line was one that you SHARED with some other random and unknown family. If they were on the phone, you couldn’t use yours. You could literally pick up the phone and listen to some strangers discussing whatever strangers discuss. If you had an emergency, you had to break into their conversation and ask them to hang up so you could make your call. Eventually, as party lines gave way to private lines, we no longer needed to deal with that, but we kept the party line anyway. It was cheaper. No one else was on there, but we still paid less than we would have with a private line.

Air Conditioning

A. Our air conditioning was an open window with a screen. August in Muncie can be hot and very humid. It was normal to have the curtains pulled back and a big box fan stuffed in the window to pull in the night air. It sounds terrible, but you just learned to adapt.

B. Dad never did invest in central air, but after I was grown and gone, mom did eventually nag him to the point that he allowed her to put a window unit in the dining room—one window unit to cool the whole house.

School Transportation

A. I can remember riding a school bus a few times in only one early year of my days in the Muncie Community Schools. It was short-lived, and I really didn’t like it.

B. For most of my days, I walked to school. Kids never walk to school these days. I think parents would be brought up on charges if they expected them to. I started walking to school probably in first grade, and I either walked to or from…or both…all the way into Southside High School. I walked in the sun. I walked in the dark. I walked in the rain. I walked in the snow. I walked in the heat and I walked in the cold. I never walked “five miles, barefoot, up hill both ways” but I did walk.

C. I remember one day in high school when there was a huge snow storm just beginning, the officials released the students early. I had walked to school as normal, but it was snowing like crazy, so I went to the office to call my dad. ME: “Dad, they’re letting us out early because of the snow. Will you come get me?” DAD: “Nope.” ME: “Dad, please. It’s terrible out there.” DAD: “Nope. It won’t hurt you to walk.”

So, I walked.


We had three ways to deal with trash.

a. A half-gallon paper milk carton was torn open and placed beside the sink. Mom would put all food scraps in that container. Weekly it would be put in the main garbage.

b. We had a paper sack that sat on the kitchen floor in front of the refrigerator and next to the trash can. We placed un-burnables in that bag; things like cans or other metal or plastic items. Once a week, the paper milk carton was closed up and added to one of the sacks. The sack would be put in the steel garbage cans out by the alley for the garbage truck to collect.

c. We had a plastic trash can that also was kept in the kitchen. We would put mostly paper in that receptacle, and from time to time, we would take it out to a barrel that my dad kept by the alley to burn. We burned trash as long as I lived there. Most of the neighbors did the same. I don’t think you could get by with that today.

Things we didn’t have…

A. No microwave ovens

B. No cellular phones—geesh, we didn’t even have cordless phones

C. No TV remote controls

D. No DVD players,…we didn’t even have VHS until I was in high school

E. No home computers—a handheld calculator was even rare when I was real little

F. No I-pods, no CD players…we had 8-track players, and before that it was plain old vinyl records.

G. No power nuthin’ in my dad’s car. No power steering. No power brakes. No power windows. I’m lucky he even got an AM radio put in his 1968 Chevy Nova.

You know, as I think about it, it’s a wonder my whole generation even survived. I mean, we even played OUTSIDE in the summer time.

More to come.

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