Back in our day…! Short stories to remind your kids how lucky they are.

by Karin Lederer

My sister is back with another romp down memory lane – specifically, how BAD we had it when we were young. Next time your teenagers bitch and moan about their boring lives, send them this. Or Snapchat it to them or whatever they're on this week…


Back in our day, we didn't have colour televisions. Oh no. That was only for Americans. We had to watch all our TV shows in black and white. In my family, we didn't get a colour one until we visited a friend's family one evening to watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on their brand new colour TV. We were blown away! Wow, what colours are these?!!

The next week, dad went out and bought a colour one for us. It measured approximately 30 x 30 cms, and we had to move the couch closer so we could all see it, but it was still amazing. The old black and white unit went into the never-used lounge room and if we kids wanted to watch something, we were banished to that room.

When we were kids, televisions didn't have remotes. Parents used their children as remotes, shamelessly demanding that they get off their bums and adjust the volume or change the station. It didn't matter how comfortable you were, or how many snacks or drinks you'd arranged about you – if dad said the TV needed turning up, you turned it up! “Up a bit more, a bit more, a bit more….that's too loud!! Turn it down. Turn it down!!”

When I was eleven, someone gave me a transistor radio so that I could listen to music. I would hide it under my pillow at night, volume down to almost zero, hoping to catch the Bay City Rollers so I could feel tingly and cry onto my pillow. Other than that, the only way to listen to music was to go down to the never-used lounge room and use the record player/tape deck/radio all-in-one unit.

I kept a blank tape in the deck at all times and when I heard a song I wanted to tape, I'd run from one end of the house to the other, taking the three steps on the split level in one leap, and slam down the record and play buttons. Over time, this resulted in my having a whole tape full of half-songs, DJ's random ramblings and fragments of old car advertisements. I still have that tape. I showed it to my daughter the other day. She didn't know what it was.

Chinese food was exotic and Maxell was iconic.

Before CDs there were cassette tapes | Midlife Tribe

When Pete and I were kids, the only takeaway was fish and chips. We loved fish and chips. We still do. But exotic places like McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut were not around our area back then. When KFC opened a branch in Mordialloc, Dad drove us up there and bought a bucket of chicken. A bucket of chicken! My God, we thought we were just It-and-a-Bit that day. We had to wait until Mornington had a population of about 30,000 before Maccas opened and then we really thought we were hanging with the Cool Crowd.

When Chinese restaurants arrived in our neck of the woods, they were only for special occasions like birthdays. Dad would say we could order anything we want, so we'd order prawns and then mum would order steak in black beans sauce and glare at our prawns.

CD's didn't exist in our childhood; not even in our teenage years. To experience maximum quality, we had to lash out and buy an audiophile version of an LP (long playing record, or ‘vinyl'). Then we'd buy an expensive cassette tape (Maxell UDXLII), record the audiophile LP and then carefully store it away and only play the tape. We played the tape in our cars, which were second-hand and falling to bits, but contained a fortune in stereo equipment. Priorities, peoples.

When we were teenagers, we were expected to get an education and then go out to work, usually by the age of 16 or 17. When I was in Year 10, my parents sat me down and said, “Now, what do you want to do with your life?” I brightly replied, “I want to be a writer!!”.

They said “Well, we can't afford to send you to uni, so how about you do the secretarial course in Year 11 and then you can get a job? You can always write in your spare time”. So I did. I started work two months shy of my 17th birthday.

I also paid board, got my own health insurance and saved for my own car. So there.

Back then, women were not encouraged to wear long pants in the legal profession. It was skirts and dresses all the way, which meant stockings, petticoats, slips and court shoes. I'm so glad that now I'm old and decrepit and I can wear long tops, long pants and comfortable shoes.

Phones had cords and cars gave you third-degree burns.

Rotary Phone | Midlife Tribe.jpg

We didn't have mobile phones when I was young. Our phones were attached to a curly cord that was stuck on the wall and you had to literally dial the numbers in a circular motion. Entering a radio competition by ringing a number was frought with anxiety and broken fingernails. If our boyfriend/girlfriend rang, we'd have to try and hide and speak in whispers because EVERYBODY WAS LISTENING.

Back in primary school, we didn't have any digital devices or even computers to play with at recess or lunchtime. We made cubby houses in the long grass, climbed cypress trees, swapped swapcards, played elastics, climbed over logs, swung on the monkey bars (making blisters behind our knees), and we played hand-slap games (“A sailer went to sea, sea, sea….”). We made up games in the shelter sheds and dropped stones on people in the toilets. We knew how to play back then.

And finally, the cars of the past were primitive, like so much. Our seat belts didn't retract; you had to clip them in and then adjust them until they were the right length. And heaven help you if you touched the metal clip after coming back from a hot day at the beach! Our windows were winding ones, not electric, and if you dared to open the back windows to get some fresh air, Dad would yell at you because the reverberating sound made his ears feel weird. There was no air conditioning and the vinyl seats stuck to your bare legs in summer, leaving third degree burns. True story.

These are my boring stories. Sit yourself down and make a list of your own. That way you'll always be prepared for that special moment when you have the children trapped – like your next birthday. Enjoy!

Karin Lederer

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Showing 2 comments
  • Val

    Oh my goodness 🙂
    Peter, I think your sister and I are soulmates on many, many levels. I always love reading her posts here! The line about the Bay City Rollers brought back a lot of memories. I seldom comment but so many of your posts (and hers) strike such a chord.
    Thank you! From the other side of the world 🙂

    • Peter Fritz

      Thanks, Val. Yeah, I love my sister’s stories. Every time she visits, we end up pissing ourselves laughing the whole day! Incidentally, I’m not going to be writing here for the foreseeable future as I’m focussing all my available time (which ain’t much) on my new project, Catch me over there if the mood grabs you. 🙂

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