Today is good, but past wasnt so bad


First Posted: 7/25/2009

Last week I wrote about the 40th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, and about Walter Cronkites death.
This week I want to revisit the moon landing just a bit. At least that general time period and the succeeding years.
Last Monday, on the anniversary date, I tried to explain to my kids the significance of the manned missions in outer space at that time, and what a miraculous technological achievement the moon landing was. I tell them that there were only three television networks, plus a low-power public television station in some cities. Where I grew up all we had was NBC and CBS the nearest ABC affiliate was more than 60 miles, with a signal so weak it was mostly snow on the screen.
You know what? Those descriptions are lost on the kids. They, of the cell phone, Facebook, and Netflix generation, cant understand what a thrill it was to go to a cinema once in a great while to see a movie, or what it was to have to share a telephone party line with your neighbor. And putting a stamp on an envelope and dropping it in the mail? Might as well ask them to build their own lunar spacecraft its simply a foreign concept to them.
Dont get me wrong, I love many of the technological marvels of today. I do a little fiction writing on the side (very little, actually), and most all of my contacts and publications have come about because of the Internet.
And while movies on demand and non-stop entertainment has become the norm, my clan still enjoys the occasional family movie night courtesy of modern DVD technology that makes such events financially feasible.
Still, theres something about the simplicity of life 30 years ago the joy of sitting on your porch at night and hearing whippoorwills and owls rather than airplanes and highway traffic, the quiet enjoyment of simply sitting and doing nothing, with no MP3 players or cell phones, the excitement of seeing the Movie of the Week.
All of that is lost, by and large, on todays youth and young adults. I try to explain to my kids what life was like when I was a child, the significance of things such as the moon landing, but its beyond their ability to grasp. Like when I was a child and my parents would tell stories of growing up during the Great Depression with sometimes only one meal a day, or watching their older friends go off to fight in Europe or the Pacific, some never to return.
I was fascinated by the stories, and with an over-active imagination would sometimes pretend I was living back in those times, but in truth I could never truly comprehend what life was like for them during that time.
To my parents, by the time I was a kid life had changed so much. Television was commonplace, jobs were relatively plentiful, and even though there was a war going on in Vietnam during part of my childhood, there was no real threat hanging over us as the fear of Hitler hung over America in the 1940s.
And television showed us an incredible world that was just around the corner. Or so we thought.
Star Trek gave us the idea that interstellar travel was just a generation or two away, along with the promise of finding other intelligent life in the universe. A few years later Knight Rider made us think that talking cars were … well … maybe the stuff of science fiction, but also a possibility somewhere down the road. And the Jetsons made my generation salivate at the idea of growing up and owning flying cars.
None of thats happened, though, but wireless laptops, sitting in front of a computer and watching someone youre talking to half a world away, and routine medical procedures that would have been a miracle three decades ago have surpassed some of the promise my contemporaries imagined as children.
And Im not under the illusion that the good old days were all peachy. I was a kid before central air became common, and I recall a few summers where I thought I might just melt right into the floor. Theres great nostalgia in the concept of two or three simple television channels, but I recall being bored out of my skull some days because there truly was nothing of interest on the tube. Especially on weekends.
Still, I sometimes find myself wishing to be able to revisit those times, and take my kids along for the ride.
John Peters is the editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected] or 719-1931.

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