MARTY RUSSELL: Good old days, just old, not good

By Marty Russell

Classes began this week and once again I found myself staring at a classroom full of 18- to 22-year-olds who might as well have grown up on another planet compared to my experiences growing up, considering most were born between 1989 and 1993.
It prompted a flashback to my own childhood, an experience most of us in our 50s can relate to. Like when we complained about having to ride the bus to school and our parents would attempt to shame us by recalling how they used to have to walk five miles to school barefoot in the snow while fighting off packs of hungry wolves.
It didn’t work, of course. The image of my mother walking barefoot through the snow while fending off a 200-pound, snarling wolf with a tin Shirley Temple lunchbox was enough to have me rolling on the floor.
But the release of the annual Beloit College freshman mindset list this week got me to thinking about what my generation had to endure and how much better young people have it today. According to the list, this year’s freshman class has always had access to the Internet meaning most have never had the experience of spending an afternoon in a library full of books.
According to the list, they’ve always known O.J. Simpson as the guy looking for the murderer of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman. To them there has never been Communism in Russia. They’ve never known a Sears catalog and we’ve always had good relations with Vietnam. And, to them, PC means personal computer, not political correctness.
So it got me to wondering what the equivalent of walking five miles in the snow to school would be to these kids. When they complain that email is too slow do I remind them of a time when sending a text message involved a postage stamp and days of waiting?
As I sat down at the TV with a beer I started wondering just what has changed dramatically in the past 50 years that would make my generation seem barbaric in comparison to today’s world?
Then it hit me.
Used to be, when I was young, we had to actually get off our cans to operate the TV. Although Zenith introduced the first TV remote in 1952, called Lazy Bones, it was tethered to the TV by a wire. Wireless remotes didn’t become standard until the 1960s.
And speaking of cans, you used to need a can opener to open a can of beer. Then came throw-away pull tabs (remember those chains we used to make with them) also in the ’60s replaced by the modern pop-top cans we know today in the ’70s.
Still, I don’t think I’ll mention any of that to my students. In fact, if you ever hear me say, “I can remember a time …” just go ahead and shoot me.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by email at marusse1@olemiss.edu