When I Was a Kid ...


Nothing makes a person feel older than when they start telling those “when I was a kid” stories.

Example: When I was a kid I really did have to walk to school, through rain or snow. The winters really were colder back then. And, through some trick of physics, it really was uphill both ways.

Actually, the alley I used to take to school is only uphill part of the way. The rest of the way it’s downhill. So that memory, like most, was only half right.

Still, overall that “when I was a kid” story is true. When aiming to impress, the trick to this particular tale is to never mention that I only lived two blocks from school.

I found myself telling one of those stories after May’s spring cleanup week. That’s when you drag all the junk that’s too big to fit into trash bags to the curb, where the town has someone haul it away. It’s an effort to keep people from dumping their junk, which they probably should never have bought anyway, into a ditch somewhere.

When I was a kid people just tossed junk into ravines out in the country. A wonderful place to explore—when I was a kid. They didn’t have recycling, and pollution was someone else’s problem.

You’re in “when I was a kid” mode when actual kids roll their eyes, while people your age nod in agreement. Actually, when I was a kid people who are my present age seemed ancient, but now they don’t seem very old at all.

Sorry, when I was a kid I didn’t go off on tangents like that. Now, some time back my son-in-law gave us a tube TV—when I was a kid we just called it a TV. Officially they’re CRT sets, which just means they have huge backsides … insert your own booty joke here. It was the biggest TV I’d ever owned, with a 32 inch screen.

It weighed 75 pounds.

Later, we found a flat screen TV on clearance. It was an off-brand, but the price was right and it had an even bigger screen. It was awesome: not just the size, but the better picture.

It turned out I’d been wrongly blaming the networks: “When I was a kid, ‘Star Trek’ was bright and colorful! Now I can hardly see what those Winchester boys are doing on ‘Supernatural‘, it’s so murky!” When you’re hunting demons it’s usually at night, but never mind.

I dragged the big booty TV off to the back porch. It didn’t seem to mind, being old and tired.

Sometime after that I needed another computer monitor, for writing projects that required extra screen space. We bought a smaller flat screen TV, which could be hooked to the computer. When not being used for that it’s in the kitchen, so I can turn it on and complain about how, when I was a kid, they actually had weather on The Weather Channel instead of “reality” programming.

Which is untrue, because when I was a kid there was no Weather Channel.

Soon I realized we had a bunch of tube TVs we just didn’t need anymore. Surely someone would want them, so we set them out for sale, for $15.

No one wanted them.


No one wanted them.

$5. Nope. Finally I put a “free” sign on them, and put the word out on social media. Free TVs! Free! They work just fine! No one wanted them. Even Goodwill didn’t want them. Nobody wanted CRT TVs. Nobody. And I had four—four working CRT TVs.

Think about that. My wife and I grew up poor, and are still clawing our way through the lower middle class. But we had SIX working television sets. It killed me, to consider throwing away something that worked just fine. Well, more or less just fine—on “The Walking Dead” you had to squint to tell which ones were the zombies—but still.

As I dragged the old sets out to the curb (somehow, the biggest now weighed 95 pounds), I caught myself grumbling …

Well, you know what I grumbled, and it shows my age. When I was a kid we had one TV, a console set. You older people, explain console sets to the younger ones. It was black and white, and probably 19 inch. Once, it stopped working. You know what my brother did? He went outside and played. You know what I did? I read a book. Nobody panicked; nobody ran out to go into debt on a rent-to-own set.

By the time I moved out on my own I’d already become a consumer, and didn’t want to be without a TV. Luckily, I was given a free one, just like the ones I tried to give away. Well, not just like. It was a 13 inch black and white set. I always had two weights on top, all the way on the right end, carefully laid so that they dented the case in just a little.

Without the weights, the sound wouldn’t work.

Yeah, things have changed. I no longer have to hang a coat hanger from the curtains to pull in a scratchy, snowy channel. I don’t have to worry about the sound suddenly cutting out in the middle of “Buck Rogers”.

But I had a TV and, oddly, I think I appreciated it more. In other words, to quote still another phrase that makes me feel old:

I was darned glad to have it.

The original flat screen


  1. Aw, you shouldn't gripe. We didn't have TV when I was a kid and our walk to school was one mile and a quarter. Of course, now, in this town if you live two miles away from the school there is no bus service. See, the current generation can tell hard tales too. Lanny and I didn't have a TV when we first married. We couldn't afford one. We both read a lot.

    1. I think we were better off without all the TV's and technology, at least from a growing up standpoint. Not that I'm willing to go back!

  2. I still have one of those big TVs. I have no idea how old it is, but it still works fine.

  3. The old TVs last longer than the newer ones. We just hauled three of them off to the recycler, while an old 19" TV Collin got 18 years ago still works perfectly.

    1. It makes me crazy, recycling something that still works!

  4. Oh, my gosh. Judging by the age of the SUV, that must be one of the last drive-ins around.

    1. I took that photo, I think, two years ago. As far as I know it's the last drive-in around here, which is very sad--I did a lot of writing while waiting for the movies to start!

  5. Our local drug store had a tube tester, where Dad would check to see if fixing the TV would be a simple fix, or a one-way ticket to hell.

    1. Oh, I'd forgotten about those! There used to be a TV repair shop here in town.