By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Life has changed big time in my soon-to-be 50 years
Placeholder Image
Darn if my AARP invitation didn't arrive the other day.

Gulp. The data base knows I turn 50 in August.

No matter how I recalculate the data, 50 is factual while seeming quite impossible. Yeah, I am that old; I remember when RFK was killed and the first moon landing. But as I revisit decades, there is the sharp distinction that things have changed - and vastly.

I'm a JFK baby, born in 1961 - 13 days after Barrack Obama. I came to Modesto from Milpitas in 1966 so not only have I witnessed the area change but its way of life also. One big barn-burning issue in my grade school was whether or not girls could wear pants to school. It was a huge cultural battle which the adults fought but I never saw it as a big deal. I was more interested in playing a cop on the playground, arresting classmates with my paper badge and reading them Miranda Rights just like I saw Jack Webb do on "Dragnet." That was about five years after I gave up my Batman cape.

My first school was Catherine Everett School in Modesto. It was an innocent age ... until a friend dared me to say a four-letter word on the back of a backstop and I experienced my first feelings of shame saying a dirty word I never heard. Now young kids know that word; they hear their parents say it.

(Innocense on that same campus was shattered two years ago when kids witnessed officers shooting to death a deranged woman who just split her skull with a Ginsu knife.)

It was such an innocent age we could sit in the car with relative safety as mom shopped in the grocery store. Not today you don't.

Obviously technology has tweaked life as we knew it. Kids today have never watched black and white TV, used rotary dial phones nor experienced the frustration of 8-track cassette tapes. I did. And if you'd have told me as a Boy Scout that when I was 50 I'd have a phone that would work virtually anywhere, as small as a 3x5 index card - that could take pictures and double as a flashlight, compass, map, movie player, calculator, game console and small radio to boot - my eyes would have popped open as my jaw dropped. Today my eyes widen when I drop my $200 technological wonder.

No internet in those days. In the days of Apollo, computers involved equipment that filled a room which meant we didn't "copy and paste" and cheat on homework. We had to dig for our facts. Research, of course, was limited to the library and our home set of Encyclopedia Britannica. I loved our set of blue and white leather bound books which my mother dutifully bought because she knew I'd use them. Boy, did I. I explored the world in those things as I caught whiffs of paper and ink co-mingled with leather. You can't smell a Kindle.

While pumping gas last week - remarking how fast gas prices were at $3.63 a gallon and rising - I smiled at the time I was six or seven, sitting in the car at a station at McHenry and W. Granger avenues (yes, there was a station there) as Dad pumped gas at 23-cents-per-gallon. Occasionally I'd stand by the nozzle to catch a whiff as I really enjoyed the aroma of the blend. Even the mild aroma of gas smelled better back then. Now you couldn't take a whiff of gas if you wanted because of those vapor recovery devices and you'd be accused of chemical abuse.

In some ways, life's changes have been good. I remember leaving the State Theater as a kid with clothes smelling like a cigarette filter. Thank God we don't have to choke on nicotine while dining anymore. And I can't tell you how many times my view of the big screen was destroyed when an adult sat in front of me since all seats were only on a slight incline. I marvel at today's movie houses where every seat is a good seat. Definitely one of the greatest advances of my life. (But we also didn't have to put up with being night blinded by a texting teenager.)

Many changes, while intended for our own good, robbed us of liberties. We did a lot of things back then that we didn't feel were so dangerous. We didn't ride our banana seat bicycles with helmets strapped to our skulls for we would have been mercilessly ridiculed as sissies if we had. That kind of stuff was reserved for daredevil Evil Knievel, one of my old heroes. (Looking back, what a nut).

Riding in the back of a pickup (as a teen and later) was fun. The angels should have whispered in my ear on my last ride in the back of the pickup - when I rode from Sutter Creek to Jamestown in about 1992 - for I would have shed a tear or two.

Perhaps it was a good thing that Splasher the Frog came along and told me - or shall I say my dad who took us there - that it wasn't a smart thing to swim in the canal that ran between Briggsmore Avenue between Carver and Prescott roads. That was fun and we never got hurt.

I question some other progressions. Urinals are being disconnected from water pipes as Sloan's water=free urinals boast a conservation of an average of 40,000 gallons of water a year. Something just seems really unsanitary about not flushing. And for what? You know all this business of water is a mere allocation since the world has the same amount of water in it today than when it was created.

The pace of our fast-food society is much faster today and patience is a forgotten virtue. We want - no, demand - to know everything right now. We used to have to wait days to see our photos from a lab; now digital images are available to see in milliseconds.

Really, do pregnant moms really need to know the sex of their fetus and have an 8x10 glossy of its face before it sees the light of day? Aren't they robbing themselves of one of the neatest surprises in life?

The internet may be a great tool but it has helped foster a narcissistic society. Just visit Facebook where people feel compelled to share with the world private details such as their ailments or too much information about stuff I'd rather not know about.

Honestly, with Facebook and an iPhone, who sends post cards to family and friends any more? Now we just take a photo with our camera phone, upload it to FaceBook in seconds so our friends can see where we are in the world.

Gosh where do the changes stop? I can't once recall anyone housesitting when I was a boy. I can't remember as many obese people walking around. I can't remember kids killing people like they do today and so many parents who could care less. I don't recall so many weird spellings for kids' first names and hyphenated last names.

Even parenting has changed. While parents have more information on safe child rearing practices, less kids are raised by both biological parents under one roof. Yeah, we're a more "tolerant" society but I hardly think we better off today with people having babies without being in a committed marriage.

I even muse at today's hyper paranoid parents who don't allow kids to play, or even get dirty. (Instead we let them spend hours and days on video games hunting people so they don't have to be outside playing in an unsafe world).

Kids are demanded to grow up too fast. Experts now convince us that a parent must drug their little boy because he is hyperactive like little boys have been for thousands of years. But yet we're so permissive that we let our little girls go to school squeezed into the shortest shorts and bulging out of the smallest tops available. Then wonder why they get pregnant at age 15.

I wish we could pick and chose some of the good things of yesterday and today and blend them. We'd have a recipe for some grand living.

I get that life changes. I really do. But I do have one immediate request. Please stop lowering the age at which we consider someone a senior citizen, especially since we're living longer.

Know what I mean? (Wink.)

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at