Growing up as a boy, and a young man, back in the 1950’s and 60’s never seemed like a privilege at the time, but it does now, and I have significant compassion for the youth of today, in what they miss.
I grew up in ‘small town’ New Zealand, a long way from here, 14,000 km away. But I’m certain that the youth of Oman, at the time, would have grown up with similar experiences enriching their lives, though none of us knew it at the time. These were our lives!
The eldest son of a fisherman, and his school sweetheart, my earliest recollections were of learning to ‘make’ my bed, to make a cup of tea, and fighting with my brothers. We fought from daylight till dusk, we argued about everything we could, but strangely, only when Mum and Dad were around. If we were playing in the backyard we were okay, so there must be some sort of psychological explanation about ‘craving attention’ I guess? Two sisters coming later may have tamed our aggression, but I think we just started to grow and discover our own ways.
I loved school! I found I knew how to read, write and do ‘rithmatic, instinctively, I flew through school learning as much, reflecting on the natures and behaviours of others, as I did from the lessons.
I recall too, in the days of no mobile phones, knowing the phone numbers of half of the townsfolk. Most of us today barely know our own!
I recall, a bit ‘gobby,’ or had too much to say a couple of times, and that got me a couple of ‘bashings,’ from bigger boys. Dad reckoned I deserved them, but taught me how to protect myself, as I couldn’t really fight to save myself! School days too meant games, like ‘tag,’ ‘bullrush,’ ‘rounders’ and ‘rugby.’ They meant girls, and even talking to a girl was a big thing, walking her home bigger, and let’s not talk about the time-honored ‘bike-sheds.’ They were real!
Best of all, school meant after school, and our deal with Mum and Dad was that we had our ‘jobs’ or ‘chores’ to do at home every day after school, like
cutting and stacking firewood, mowing lawns, sweeping the yard, or cutting hedges, and then we could do what we liked until 6 o’clock, which was dinner time.
I’d join my ‘mates’ and we would usually do things like making massive swings out over the sea, looking for Paua (abalones) under the rocks, sailing, rowing, fishing and building ‘forts!’ We played ‘war games’ a lot, I think frustrated that we had missed out on fighting in WW2. We would cycle everywhere, play, run and climb all over Bluff Hill till we knew its every inch, and worked! All of us had ‘paper runs,’ delivery jobs, or something. I learned to open oysters, quickly. And community wise, I was in the ambulance cadets, went to
Bible class and church and mowed old people’s lawns.
Mum taught all of us kids to dance, clean, cook, sew and knit, and while I wasn’t impressed at the time, I’ve thanked her a million times since. Dad taught me to ride horses.
I was terrified at first, then less terrified, then loved it! I learned to drive in a 1938 Ford V8 Mercury that sat on blocks for 6 years. Then Dad and I bought it, my mates got it going (I was a mechanical dunce), and
I painted it Sky Blue, with house-paint, and a paintbrush… It was a ‘chick magnet!’
I could go on and on and on, but how many kids today have such experiences? I was nothing special, just like you, we all did these things, and this was our life, no TV, no computer and no regrets. It wasn’t a perfect life by any means, but it was generations, societies, times, when friends, life and time, were genuinely the most precious of gifts.