Those Were the Days, My Friend

Where did the simpler times go?
The following was posted on a social media page dedicated to San Francisco History.

Times have changed. I don’t see kids playing outside anymore. When I was in grammar & junior high the kids on our block used to play outside after school.

We had many ways to entertain ourselves after school until our parents came home from work. Baseball was the choice, because there were more boys than girls. The manhole on the middle of the block was home base. Unfortunately baseball didn’t last long because we broke too many windows. The parents of the kid responsible always paid for or made the repairs.

One of the families’ grandmother always sat outside to watch over us. If anyone misbehaved grandma Dougherty yelled out his or her name and wiggled her index finger. Aside from baseball, we played volley ball and used the tall hedge in one of the neighbor’s front yard as the net. We were never able to see the opposing team because the hedge was taller than most of us. When skateboards came about, we had races down the hill. Two kids were assigned to monitor oncoming cars. We also played hide and seek.

By the time we reached 9th Grade we discovered the soap opera “Dark Shadows”. And at 4 o’clock we’d all go to the house with the largest console TV, and the most ice cream.”

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If you’re looking back in time you will love this book. See Amazon.

Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century—1951—in the middle of the United States—Des Moines, Iowa—in the middle of the largest generation in American history—the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons)—in his head—as “The Thunderbolt Kid.”

Using this persona as a springboard, Bill Bryson re-creates the life of his family and his native city in the 1950s in all its transcendent normality—a life at once completely familiar to us all and as far away and unreachable as another galaxy. It was, he reminds us, a happy time, when automobiles and televisions and appliances (not to mention nuclear weapons) grew larger and more numerous with each passing year, and DDT, cigarettes, and the fallout from atmospheric testing were considered harmless or even good for you. He brings us into the life of his loving but eccentric family, including affectionate portraits of his father, a gifted sportswriter for the local paper and dedicated practitioner of isometric exercises, and of his mother, whose job as the home furnishing editor for the same paper left her little time for practicing the domestic arts at home. The many readers of Bill Bryson’s earlier classic, A Walk in the Woods, will greet the reappearance in these pages of the immortal Stephen Katz, seen hijacking literally boxcar loads of beer. He is joined in the Bryson gallery of immortal characters by the demonically clever Willoughby brothers, who apply their scientific skills and can-do attitude to gleefully destructive ends.

Warm and laugh-out-loud funny, and full of his inimitable, pitch-perfect observations, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid is as wondrous a book as Bill Bryson has ever written. It will enchant anyone who has ever been young.

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