by: Garland Davis
While visiting a friend’s house recently, I was talking with his nine-year-old grandson about the boy’s possessions. He showed me an I-pad, (required by the school he attends), an Android Smartphone, an X-Box, but told me he also wants a PS4 (whatever that is). He also told me that he plays lots of different games. It took a minute before I realized he was talking about electronic games. He doesn’t play any sports. His parents feel that sports are too rough and have discouraged him from playing football or baseball, although they did let him play soccer for a while. Because they both work, they don’t have the time to take him to practice and games. They don’t let him go out alone or with other kids his age. He said that was fine with him, he would rather play with his X-Box or watch TV. He is pretty much relegated to the house and his electronics. After a time, he excused himself. He said he wanted to Skype a friend and watch a favorite program, Lab Rats, on the Disney Channel.
I believe today’s children are missing something in their life. There are three parks within three miles of my house. They are empty of children unless parents are with them. I got to thinking back to my childhood and comparing my yesterdays to their today’s. It seems as if the kids of today are surrounded by high technology gadgets that waste/consume their time. They play games about mad birds, candy drops, stealing cars, and Warcraft with their electronic toys. They meet and talk with friends in the ether. The only physical and personal interactions are at school. I think this must leave a hole in their psyche.
The only electronic device that I remember from my childhood was the transistor radio but their cost of eight dollars was a fortune and outside the reach of a North Carolina farm boy. The most sophisticated toy I had was a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun and it took years of begging before it showed up for my eleventh birthday.
During the fifties, a boy’s toys were ten cent yoyo’s, nickel bags of marbles, an old baseball missing its cover, and a bat with electrical tape holding it together where it had cracked. We were envious of the guys that had gloves. My uncle gave me an old glove that I repaired with electrical tape to make it quasi-usable. We would have loved a manicured park to use as a baseball diamond. Our playing field was the cow pasture (keep an eye out for the bull) and the bases were dried cow flops. We were Duke Snider, Gil Hodges or Pee Wee Reese through many summer afternoons. Yeah, that’s right. We were all Brooklyn Dodgers’ fans.
I was eight years old when I saw my first television program. I was nine when my Dad bought a used seventeen-inch TV from an uncle. We could get two channels regularly. Sometimes we could get a third channel from Charlotte. I guess the wind had to be blowing from the right direction to get it. Our TV watching was severely limited. Chores, homework, and bedtime took precedence. On rainy days, I remember watching the test pattern waiting for the National Anthem to start the day’s programming. There was always the Saturday Game of the Week with Dizzy Dean. It was extra special if they were showing the Brooklyn Dodgers.
My treasures were a fifty cent pocket knife, missing one side of its genuine plastic imitation bone handle. After hours of working with my Dad’s whetstone, that knife was as sharp as a razor.
An old inner tube, a pair of discarded leather shoes or boots, some fishing twine, and a pair of forks cut from a sapling were essentials in the repertoire of a formidable weapon in the hands of a pre-teen boy. The slingshot!
When in the woods, we were always on the alert for that most critical of components of the slingshot, the perfect sized branch that forked into a “V”. It was best to cut the fork and let it cure before constructing the slingshot. It was always good to have a backup weapon, in case the one you were using broke. Every boy I knew had at least two standby slingshots.
With these slingshots we were ferocious hunters, roaming the woods, wantonly slaughtering birds, squirrels, and other small animals. This is something that I now deeply regret and hope to be forgiven for someday.
I am not sure what modern day children are learning from their electronic world. In the woods and on the baseball diamond, my generation learned to shake it off when you were hit with the baseball. We learned to function as a member of a team. We learned leadership and how to function in a lead position, whether on a sports team or in the tobacco fields.
I believe, upon attaining adulthood we were better prepared for life than the coddled and sequestered children of the modern generation.
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.