Things change, but not always for the better
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
I realize things have changed during the years, and sometimes I wonder if they have changed for the better.
After spending 30 years in public education, I have witnessed tremendous changes, especially in the lives of young people. I know these young people are sick of hearing for the "old timers" like me about how things used to be, and how tough we had it growing up.
Most of what they hear is an exaggeration, but some is true.
I do not envy young people of today, especially teenagers. Their lives are filled with pressures and anxieties we older people have a hard time imagining. Almost everything in their lives is scheduled for them. They are expected to live and act as adults, and the standards they must meet are far greater than we had to.
Teenagers live in a world of distrust of anyone, and a constant feeling of danger.
Yes, things have changed.
My brothers, sister and I grew up in a household where all the boys had to sleep in the same small bedroom (my only sister had the other). We all sat down for supper around a kitchen table and we said grace for every meal.
I wore hand-me-downs and was glad to get them. We all had chores around our small farm and were expected to do them without being reminded. If you lived in my mother's house, you attended church on Sunday mornings, and afterward ate the best meal ever served.
Freedom and safety were something we took for granted. My brother, Richard, and I would leave barefooted out the back screen door early on summer days and not return until dark. We just played in nearby woods, and up and down Flint Creek.
Mothers of today would have the rescue squad called within an hour if such a thing happened today.
We never locked our doors even though we lived way out in the country. We didn't fear strangers who happened to come to the door.
We loved our parents, we loved each other and, although we didn't know it at the time, life was good.
School was not the "guarded camp" it has seemed to become today. In the 50s and 60s when the lunch bell rang, we had a choice. We could either go to the school cafeteria or go home for lunch if you happened to live nearby. Some students walked downtown to the drug store or to Penn's Hamburgers.
Somehow they all seemed to make it back to school for the next class.
There was no monitoring of the hallways between classes by the faculty. If there was a fight, usually Coach Cain took the two boys (girls didn't fight) to the gym, gave them boxing gloves, and let them go at it for a while. They fought until the issue was resolved, or until they were completely exhausted and no longer had the will to fight. Then, they went back to class where they belonged, and the matter was forgotten.
The same was true in Coach Bryant's program at Alabama.
During practice, if two players got in a fight, the drill was simply moved over and continued as the two fought all they wanted. Many times I remember the players who were fighting would finally stagger up to where they were supposed to be, bloody and battered, and things went on as usual.
Parents and coaches place too much pressure on youngsters today to excel at a sport. They should be playing for the fun of it and to learn teamwork and sportsmanship.
Weapons at school were not an issue in my day. Every boy had a pocketknife in his jeans, but it wasn't a weapon, it was a tool.
I remember almost cutting my finger off in study hall one time because I was too lazy to get up and go to the pencil sharpener.
No one entertained the idea of killing anyone, especially another student, although I remember it would have been a pretty good idea when one of my teachers made us memorize all 64 counties and county seats in Alabama.
School was fun. I was not the brightest star in the sky when it came to academics, but I looked forward to school everyday. I think everyone my age did so.
With the best intentions in mind, we have made young people's lives so complicated and challenging, it has taken the joy out of their lives. I wish young people could experience the freedom and adventure we experienced during our adolescence.
Sure, we were a bit mischievous, but we didn't rely on alcohol or drugs for fun.
Somewhere between then and now, we have lost the innocence of youth, and it's a shame.
Young people of today have it a lot tougher than we did.