One of my daughters recently expressed her sorrow for my having to grow up in an age without all the electronic and social accouterments and devices deemed so necessary for life in today's world. "What did you do without microwaves, cell phones, apps, computers, the Internet, Netflix, Tumblr, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, McDonald's, Wendy's, Sushi Bars and Amazon?”
I had to remind her that although living in a cave while dinosaurs roamed free on Queens Boulevard over in Woodside, Queens, back in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, was sometimes difficult, it also had its perks. There was a smorgasbord of "fast food restaurants" in case we got hungry while away from home. The likes of which were: White Castle, Jack in the Box, A&W Root Beer, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald's.
As kids, we all gravitated to the local White Castle to take advantage of the cheap, albeit small, burgers (aka — murder burgers), which were only 12 cents apiece — until they raised the price to 14 cents in 1967. Back then, money wasn't easy to come by and New York's Returnable Container Act wasn't enacted until the early 1980s, so we couldn't scour the neighborhood for empty bottles in order to drum up some deposit money. A few of us with a yearning for a murder burger would hang around in front of the local Bohack grocery store and offer to carry packages home for shoppers in the hopes of scraping up some loose change in tips. We would also check out the coin return slots in the neighborhood phone booths for loose change, which oftentimes increased our coinage booty! My use of the term booty caused my daughter to giggle and I had to explain that back in those days term "booty" was taken from the vernacular of pirates, referring to treasure and not someone’s posterior!
Although television was big then back then, as far as entertainment was concerned, the rule was if we weren't in school and the sun was shining, we had to stay the hell out of the house, sight unseen until dinnertime later that evening. As it turned out that was no big thing as daytime TV was a bust for us kids at the time. No, not because it was black and white but because, with the sole exception of Saturday mornings, it consisted solely of smarmy soap operas and dopey game shows. Thus, if the sun was still up, we would head out and wander up to the local playground and gather round someone’s AM radio and tell each other tall tales and lies while listening to the great rock and roll performers of the day.
On the other hand, if the sun had set, the television then became the focal point of our attention with such shows as I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, Lassie and The Lone Ranger.
There was also a wide selection of amusement parks available to entertain us. Obviously, Rockaway's Playland and Coney Island were the closest, but we also had Freedomland up in the Bronx and Palisades Amusement Park across the George Washington Bridge over in New Jersey, but both of those parks required a transportation assist from our parents. Of course, Walt Disney opened Disneyland out in Anaheim, California in 1955, but none of our parents were about to take us cross country for that action, so a trip to Fantasyland remained just that and was relegated to the tall tales and lies at the playground.
Fast food, great rock and roll music, evening TV shows and amusement parks aside, there was also that great bastion of a time killer, always ready to entertain us for several hours for the price of admission — the local movie theater. Our parents had no problem ushering us out the door late Saturday morning with $1.25, enough money for admission to a mindless Saturday afternoon half-price matinee consisting of two feature films, several shorts and a newsreel, as well as a bag of popcorn, a roll of Neccos and a soda with the admonition, "Straight home when the matinee is over!" Obviously there were no cell phones back then, only public pay phones, which initially cost five cents for a local call (until skyrocketing to 10 cents). But that was no big deal as our parents did not expect to hear from us, except in the event of an emergency, which translated to "We don't want to see your face or hear your voice until dinnertime unless you are hospitalized or arrested".
Now, for the most part, the weekend matinee features were geared to the youth audience and we were quite content to fill our minds with such intellectual fare as Creature from the Black Lagoon, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein (and the Mummy...and Dracula...and the Wolf Man...and the Invisible Man!), Attack of the Crab Monsters, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, The Incredible Shrinking Man, House on Haunted Hill, The Blob and lest I forget (only because Jayne Mansfield was in it) The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw.
Nevertheless, we always got a big kick out of the fact that prior to leaving home our parents would always ask us the names of the movies being played at the matinee and then they would whip out their copy of Brooklyn Archdiocese Catholic Newspaper, The Tablet, to check the movie reviews by the "Legion of Decency" to make sure our planned fare was not included amongst the much dreaded "condemned" listings. We found that amusing because our parents were oblivious to the fact that all of us also used this very same paper to identify those films with the dreaded "C" (condemned) rating, to see if we could sneak into a local theater showing it.
I remember And God Created Woman with Brigitte Bardot (need I say more?) and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho were always on the top of our list! In retrospect, I think the Tablet's Legion of Decency movie ratings did more to drum up business for some of the "C" rated movies. Besides, that was always a great topic of conversation back then as we all we all wondered just whose job it was to go and see these pictures in order to rate them? Now there was a job we could all aspire to.
Looking back now, yeah it was tough growing up without an assist from the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, but we all managed to grow up anyway and had fun doing it!
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