What happened to the carefree days?

Barry Levine, copy editor and paginator

Barry Levine, copy editor and paginator


Special photo

This column is dedicated to Nina Cribbs, of Coleman, an 83-year-old who is severely visually impaired. Despite her handicap, the 4-foot-9-inch woman has perfect 20/20 vision when seeing only the good in people.

I admit it.

I really feel sorry for today’s kids because they never will be able to experience what it was like to grow up during the carefree 1950s.

There were no worries about illegal substances. … We thought we were hot stuff if we could grab a smoke in the bathroom between classes or go to a friend’s house across the street from the high school and sneak a beer. That’s ONE beer.

If we talked about pregnancy, it’s because a married sibling was expecting a child. No girl in our graduating class was “with child” before we received our diplomas. There were no special arrangements made for pregnant girls because there were none in the school.

None. Zip. Nada.

Bet the Dougherty County Board of Education wishes it could say that.

In the evenings, we would sit around our Philco radio listening to shows such as “Amos & Andy” with stars George “Kingfish” Stevens, Mama, Sapphire, Amos and Andy. Other favorite shows were “The Whistler,” “The Shadow” and “Inner Sanctum.”

During baseball season, we would listen to Mel Allen, the greatest announcer of them all, doing play-by-play of New York Yankee games assisted by Red Barber and Phil Rizzuto. There were only a smattering of televised contests at that time, mostly Dizzy Dean and PeeWee Reese doing the Saturday Game of the Week.

There was no cable or satellite TV, and we were lucky to have six VHF TV channels.

Now, you can see virtually every Major League game with DirecTV’s “Extra Inning” package.

Party lines enabled us to keep abreast of what was happening in the neighborhood. The party line was a telephone line that was linked to several households. We would sneakily listen to all conversations to learn everything that was happening and also things we shouldn’t have known.

Cellphones didn’t exist and we managed to drive without them. Neither did texting or twittering or instant messaging. We actually had to talk to people.

We enjoyed American Bandstand with iconic emcee Dick Clark, who played the top hits of the day while his teenage audience revealed the latest dance moves. Of course, they were easier to see than do. We all watched Clark’s Saturday Night American Bandstand Show, sponsored by Beechnut Spearmint Gum, to see which song would be No. 1 on this week’s Top 10.

And nobody who lived during that period will forget the gyrations of rock stars Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry and later Ronnie Spector of the Ronnettes. Meanwhile, Chubby Checker taught the world how to do “The Twist.”

We all tried to emulate the great Doo-Wop songs of the day like the Penguins’ “Earth Angel” in 1954, the Chords’ “Sh-Boom” in 1955, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers’ “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” the Five Satins’ “In the Still of the Night” and the Cleftones’ “Little Girl of Mine” in 1956, the Dell-Vikings’ “Come Go With Me” and the Bobbettes’ “Mr. Lee” in 1957, the Danleers’ “One Summer Night,” the Monotones’ “Book of Love,” Dion & the Belmonts’ “I Wonder Why” and the Silhouettes’ “Get A Job” in 1958, the Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes for You” in 1959 and the Marcels’ “Blue Moon” in 1961.

Mention Doo-Wop to today’s kids and you get very strange looks.

We also ushered in the folk era in 1957, a genre that is totally foreign to today’s kids.

It started in earnest when Harry Belafonte and the Tarriers each reached the Top 5 with “Banana Boat Song.”

The Kingston Trio followed in 1958, topping the charts with “Tom Dooley.” Other folk groups that had smash hits during that period were the Browns’ “Three Bells” in 1959, the Brothers Four’s “Greenfields” in 1960, the Highwaymen’s “Michael” and the Tokens’ “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in 1961, the New Christy Minstrels’ “Green, Green” and Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Puff (The Magic Dragon)” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and the Rooftop Singers’ “Walk Right In” in 1963, Serendipity Singers’ “ Don’t Let the Rain Come Down” in 1964, the Seekers’ “I’ll Never Find Another You” in 1965 and Glenn Yarbrough’s “Baby the Rain Must Fall” in 1965.

Don’t forget Bob Dylan, the innovator of folk-rock style, was just beginning to be “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Methinks, no, ME KNOWS, you’re getting older when you think everybody is whispering when they talk to you. … The stairs are getting steeper. … Bags of groceries are getting a lot heavier. … After taking a walk on the street where you live, you learn it has become a lot longer than it used to be. … Clothing manufacturers are much different today. Lucy tells me that dresses that used to be marked size 10 or 12 are now marked 18 and 20. … When you stood on the bathroom scale, the number seemed more like a telephone number than your weight. Don’t forget, the absolute best day to start a diet is tomorrow!

You’ve already collected your first Social Security check when your old classmates are so gray, bald and wrinkled that they don’t recognize you. … Your main squeeze knew she was over the hill when the only whistles she got were from her tea kettle in the morning. …

Barry Levine is a news copy editor at The Albany Herald and can be reached at barry.levine@albanyherald.com.