5 Things Gen X-ers Did Growing Up That Our Children Just Wouldn’t Understand

5 things 80s kids did growing upI recently made a list of crazy things Gen X-ers used growing up that are completely antiquated now.

It reminded me of the conversations I would have with my older relatives when I was growing up. The ones where they would tell these fantastical tales about things my generation would never experience or understand. Like, walking 20 miles to school … in the snow … uphill … shoeless. Or running into gypsy bandits that lived in the woods near their house or even sitting around the radio to listen to their stories.

Those sagas seemed so ridiculous to me (exaggeration aside), and yet, I’m pretty confident that my tales of growing up as a Gen X-er would sound equally ridiculous to my own offspring. Yes, I imagine these are the yarns I will spin as my kids grow up and they have kids of their own.

“Well, youngin’s, you think you’ve got it tough with your Facebook and your Google and your iParaphernalia? Why, in my day, we had to …”

1) Work a car with our own two hands. Sure, my parents and grandparents had it tough. You know, with no automatic transitions, or automatic steering, but do you know what my generation had to do? We had to pull up the locks with our fingers!!! And that’s not all, if you wanted a breeze or to let out an odor or some cigarette smoke (oh, everyone smoked in my day, even the kids), you had to turn a crank around and around and around to simply open the window a crack. And don’t get me started on positioning the seat!

Also, there was no guarantee you would make it out alive when I grew up, as seat belts were merely suggested and you were allowed to sleep along the back ledge or sit in the front seat by the time you were talking. Not that you had a proper car seat leading up to that point anyway. No, the only thing between you and a windshield was your mom’s outstretched arm. Thanks mom.

2) Turn the channel. Oh kids … you think rolling down the window seems exhausting? Try lumbering over to the television. EVERY TIME you want to change the channel. I kid you not, the channels were located on the set … and there were only 13 of them! And only like four of them had anything worth watching!

And sometimes you had to walk to the TV across shag carpets that shocked you as you shuffled!

And you HAD to watch all the commercials!

And if the show you were watching didn’t get good reception, you had to adjust the bunny ears or just stand there and hold them for the duration of the show, because the TV inevitably worked better when you were touching (or near) the antenna, to ensure that you never got to sit back down.

And if you did eventually get cable and a remote it probably had a wire connected to the TV that everyone tripped on as they entered the room.And it only had like 2 buttons (up and down) so you had to go through every channel to get to the one you wanted orrrrr, your remote had a turn dial that rotated, kind of like a rotary phone except it didn’t rotate back at you. What do you mean what’s a rotary phone?Sheesh, forget it. Why don’t you just go watch the Disney Channel on your phone or something?

3)  Put a needle on the record. Sooooo, they used to have these big round things called records. Maybe you’ve seen one in a YouTube video where someone is DJ’ing. They were like super-sized CDs. I’m sorry, you don’t know what that is, um, DVDs. Sure, we can say Blu-rays if that makes you feel better. Anyhoo, you had an arm with a needle that had to be placed on the record to play a song, but you had to be so careful when you put it on because the slightest pressure could scratch the whole thing. You know, like the way you have to use your Sonicare — gently and let it do all the work?

Now, if you were really adept at record playing, you could find the right groove for any song you wanted to hear. Oh, and you know how your speakers are the size of a pin head? Mine were the size of furniture. In fact, they took up most of my room. Actually, one speaker doubled as my bedside table and the other speaker doubled … as my bed.

4)  Use a map. Maps were how we pretty much got anywhere far or got lost trying to get there. You see, we didn’t have those fancy shmancy GPS systems in our cars or phones that feature maps, log traffic, and offer alternate routes which are all conveyed by a lovely chipper voice. No, we had massive papers that seemed to keep unfolding and unfolding and unfolding with tons of tiny lines on them (that remind me of the backs of my once sexy legs). We had to use our fingers to plot a course that would get us there. There was a key but no one had any clue how soon a turn was coming. And you could lose your place in the blink of an eye, which is why the voice of the person giving directions wasn’t lovely or chipper at all. It was the snappy, yelly, frustrated voice of one of your parents, would have no problem turning around and slapping you half way through the trip if you interrupted them, gave your opinion, or sang along with your yellow Sony Walkman with too much fervor.

Oh, and there was no automated voice or pop-up to alert you when you’d gotten off-course. That’s what one toothed gas attendants in the middle of nowhere were for!

5)  Look things up manually. See, we didn’t have a massive database like the Internet at our fingertips. No, we read things that were made from trees. They called those things books and there was a whole section of them that were considered references. They included things like dictionaries, encyclopedias and thesauruses … thesarii? Damnit, I’ll have to Google the plural of thesaurus later, but you get the point.

We found these reference sections in places called libraries where a man named Dewey Decimal was king. There we didn’t buy books, we simply shared them with other people and got their book cooties. We even got information for reports and school papers from these books. In fact, I once got an encyclopedia set for a birthday present (yeah, we didn’t get fun things back then because knowledge was expensive).

Anyhoo, Nana (my mom) bought it in two installments — the first half and second half of the alphabet. But we couldn’t afford the second half, because like I said, encyclopedias were like a million dollars and do you know what happened? In sixth grade, I had to do a report on Switzerland and I failed because I only had A through M. And no one wanted to drive me to the library because it was so annoying to manually open the locks.

Damn you Jane Lewis for getting Madagascar!

So, don’t come crying to me when you forget to charge your iPad or a lightning storm affects the satellite TV because, now you see how tough we had it growing up.

You can follow the Gen X nostalgia, throwbacks, and general insanity ON FACEBOOK.  And of course, share these with your Elderly Gen X Friends


32 thoughts on “5 Things Gen X-ers Did Growing Up That Our Children Just Wouldn’t Understand

  1. sparkling74

    Love this but you forgot to mention that if you scratched a record, you had to put a penny on the needle arm to make sure that it wouldn’t skip!

    Who didn’t use a speaker as furniture! In fact, I think a speaker held up one end of a table for a long time in my house!

    Thankfully, our area never had any tv reception so we never had bunny ears. My parents coughed up $$ for cable from the get go!

    Do you realize kids today are growing up in houses without landlines and might never know the sound of a real phone ringing? My niece was mystified when my parents’ phone rang because her family doesn’t have a land line and their phones are always on mute! It’s sad, isn’t it?

    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      I think I continued to use a speaker as furniture even after the speaker stopped working. Now that’s super sad… My kids know the sound of a real phone it’s the retro ring on my cell and it makes them laugh. Whatever!

  2. Auntie Em

    Here’s one for ya – the busy signal! There were no answering machines, voice mailboxes or call-waiting. You freaking just had to keep calling until someone answered. Also, no caller i.d. You took a gamble when you answered. It could be one of your pimple-faced friends wanting to give you the low-down on who gave who a hickey or it could be grandma wanting to give you an update on grandpa’s sciatica.

    1. Jenny from the blog Post author

      Omg. I remember they came out with a star 69 sequence number that would continue to call a busy line for you for like, an hour until it was free and then it would ring you when it rang through on the other end. I thought it was tech genius!!!

      1. James from the South

        That was *66. *69 was to call back the last person that called you.

        I remember renting a VCR so we could rent a VHS because VCRs were too expensive to buy. And when cable finally came out, we were amazed at getting 27 channels.

  3. Aussa Lorens

    Haha I feel like the world is already passing me by in this aspect– I’m about to take the boyfriend for NYC. It’ll be my fifth time or so but I haven’t been in a few years, and his first trip. He’s all “I downloaded this app for the underground” and plotting everything out from blogs and guides online. Whatever happened to the good old days of just wandering around subway stations with fear for your life, getting on the wrong train, accidentally ending up express, and having to pay outrageous taxi costs to get home? Geeze. So much lost.

  4. cherie

    I remember walking to the drugstore to get a chocolate coke and a coddie. I know what was a coddie, for that matter why did a drugstore sell food at what we called a fountain….am I going back too far?

  5. Kelly Fox

    So true! I was trying to explain rotary phones to the kids the other day (telling the story of how I won a radio show call-in contest). They were so completely confused by the entire concept even with my crappy drawing. And then my daughter Erin noted that she has never heard a contest on Sirius radio. (Face palm)

  6. Ribena Tina @ ribenamusings

    and if you wanted to call someone you had to use a public phone or wait until you got home and used that telephone and it had a cord! and if you were lucky enough to have an extension in the house you had to be careful because your parents could pick up the other extension and listen to what you were saying…..

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  8. Randy

    What about a dictionary? We still have one where I work and when people have asked me how to spell things, that’s what I used to look it up for them.

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  11. Nikki

    My daughter sends me text messages when she wants to know what a word means. When I pointed out she is in a school that has a library AND she has a phone with internet, she tells me “mom, you’re better than Google”.

  12. Vicki W.

    Love it!! This brought back “great” memories. My mother still has the 2 Volume dictionary that we had to use. It was easier to go TO the dictionaries than to get them and bring them back. “Go look it up” was clearly some kind of physical/pychological punishment! I plan on keeping them in my house one day just to scare the children.

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  22. Elisa

    As a teacher, I used to have and the technology of the Flintstones, I actually teach a lesson on the evolution of vinyl to CD to MP3. And this was to preschoolers! Big giant circle to smaller circle kids!

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