Then and now…
The case of the changing summers
A comparison of father’s, son’s vacations
By PETE KENNEDY
May 26, 2005
We all know times have changed. But a look at my son’s summer versus the
same period when I was a kid shows how much.
Here are a few examples of how James, 14, will spend the next few months,
compared with how I spent the summers when I was his age (and maybe a few
Son: Be at basketball at 7:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday.
Me: Get up when I wake up, or a neighbor comes over and rouses me out of
bed, or my mother starts vacuuming.
Son: Play in soccer and basketball leagues in the evenings.
Me: Play pickup baseball during the day. Maybe play more pickup baseball in
Son: Hope I take him somewhere for custard. And, when ice cream truck comes
by, chase it like a madman so little brother gets a treat and James gets a
little something – for the effort.
Me: Buy a push-up from one of those guys on the huge tricycle with a cooler.
Stick your sweaty arm in the cooler when he’s distracted. Feels weird.
Son: Go swimming at the home of friend, who has a pool.
Me: Go to Buchner, which even had diving boards.
Son: Argue that you don’t need sunscreen when playing in soccer tournaments
on the weekend.
Me: Wear a T-shirt the first few days of summer, then take it off and get
fried once or twice and be good for the rest of the vacation.
Son: Kick back with a little television during downtime. Cable offers dozens
Me: Forget about watching television during the day unless “The Guiding
Light” and its brethren are your bag (to use the lingo of the time). “Cable”
is something that holds up bridges, so the options are limited. In the
evening, the viewing choices are the Watergate recap, “Perry Mason” and “The
Son: Rent a movie.
Me: See viewing choices listed above. If it’s a weekend they might throw a
bad “Tarzan” movie on after “Perry Mason.” (In the interest of full
disclosure, I must point out we did have “Shock Theater,” which was nice.)
Son: Play soccer in the evenings.
Me: Soccer is what you want to do when your sister mouths off.
Son: Usually get a ride to a destination because none are all that close.
Me: Take the bike – a Schwinn Sting-Ray and later a Schwinn Varsity – most
places. Like cable television, the bike helmet has not been invented. If a
ride from an adult is required, climb in the back seat (don’t put on a seat
belt unless you’re driving far away), roll down the window and stick your
head out. Then hear the story of how a kid – I think it was in California –
was decapitated by doing exactly what you’re doing. Leave head out anyway.
Son: Vacation at family cabin once owned by great grandfather. Sneak on
posted land to fish, hoping landowners don’t see you. Pretend you can’t read
or didn’t see “No Trespassing” sign that you tripped over on the way in.
Me: Landowners spot you fishing and confront you with this question: “How
are they biting?”
Son: Take annual trip to Great America.
Me: The summer highlight is the roller coaster at Dandelion Park. Eventually
the rickety thing is going to kill someone, which adds an element of drama
to the ride.
Son: Pray your father doesn’t make you go to a baseball game.
Me: Buy baseball cards whenever you have a spare dime; force yourself to
chew horrible cardboard gum; believe that someday cards will be worth a
fortune; lose cards, which doesn’t matter because you’d never throw them out
anyway. Instead, you would have given them to your son, who is busy praying
you don’t make him go to a baseball game.
Son: Shoot hoops in the driveway while wearing iPod.
Me: Shoot hoops in the driveway while annoying the neighbors with radio set
to WQFM, one of the few stations that doesn’t play “Captain and Tennille.”
Son: Cool off in central air.
Me: Sweat all the time. When it’s really hot, sleep downstairs and watch
“Perry Mason” until you fall asleep. And vow you’ll never forgive Richard
Nixon because his screwup is taking over three network channels – 75 percent
of the viewing options. (No one counts Channel 10 as an option.) That leaves
you with one choice: Channel 18 – home of the human tranquilizer, “Perry
So who has it better? I guess that depends on your point of view. It seemed
like we had more freedom, but we also had more “Perry Mason” – if you know
what I mean.