By Mike Braswell
It was the early sixties in stifling hot Southern Georgia. All the little boys were running around outside with "skint" knees, crew cuts, and bare feet, while some girls were inside playing with their Easy Bake ovens and Barbie Dolls. Others were outside running around with "skint" knees and bare feet, the same as the boys. They all played outdoors more than they stayed inside.
There were baseball games, football games, hide-and-seek, Frisbee, and even Yard-Darts in every neighborhood. Neighbors knew each other, and the entire community raised the children together. You ate the noon meal (dinner) at whichever house the gang happened to be playing at. The evening meal (supper) was always eaten with your entire family, and on Sundays, after church, the preacher and his wife often ate dinner with your family.
In those days, every boy had a B.B. gun, and birds were always in danger of falling victim to a rare 'good shot.' Bicycles were everywhere. Children never stayed inside for long unless they were being punished. There were no video games or computers. Hence there were very few overweight kids. Virtually every dad had a job that he went to at least five days a week. Most moms stayed at home and helped raise their children.
There was always a swimming hole somewhere where people gathered to beat the heat. Often there was a rope dangling from a tree where the older kids would swing from the banks and drop into the water, sometimes accompanied by Tarzan yells and shouts. The water was always unbelievably cold and often spring-fed.
Kids were expected to play outside, and parents did not hover over their kids. The government didn't butt in and try to tell parents how to raise their kids. It was understood that kids would be doing dangerous things, and it was also understood that these things were necessary for a child to become a well-rounded adult. Every day was a lesson in survival, and there were no 'Nerds' back then.
While the world in those days was an excellent place for kids, the adult world was filled with turmoil and often encroached upon the children's world. Many of us had family 'over ther
e,' and some of us had family members who were to never come home. Others came home but were never really back with us. Each night, on the news, were reports of casualties in Vietnam, which we kids didn't have to hear on the television to understand.
Closer to home were the horrible assassinations of men with names like Kennedy and King. Men who spoke of peace and progress. These were very dark times for a nation that had seen its share of struggles. Many wondered if our great country would survive.
Yes, America was in the middle of a tragic and horrible time. It was evident that we were losing the war in Vietnam. There was incredible tension between the races. Students were being shot by our own government for merely protesting. America needed something to unite her and to make us proud to be Americans again. A relatively new and unknown agency, represented by four little letters, would come along to rescue us and restore our pride in America.
NASA, the space program, became the most essential thing in the lives of all Americans in those days. There were hundreds of new "space products in our homes and stores," like Tang and Space-Food-Sticks. We were never to look up at that pale yellow orb again after that first "small step for man" onto the moon's surface.
Every boy wanted to become an Astronaut, and I suspect so did every girl. Children's toys began to change too. We went from playing with little green army men and G.I. Joes to exploring new worlds with Astronaut Action Figures and many other space toys. Our vocabulary expanded rapidly, welcoming new words, such as 'lunar module,' 'orbiter,' and 'splashdown.' It is no exaggeration to say that NASA, which was created in 1958, saved America from total and complete self-destruction in the following decade, but soon this would all crumble.
Children became interested in television for the first time due to the moon landing. Kids began spending more time inside, sitting in front of that glowing screen. It wasn't long before the television executives began to notice their new audience. Previously it was mentioned that the word nerd did not exist. What we were experiencing was the procreation of a new being. The gestation period of this being would be decades-long. Those children lying on their stomachs, on the floor, with their heads propped in their hands, transfixed onto that phosphorous tube, represented the beginnings of a new life form. The nerd was lurking and slowly growing inside of those little heads. That glowing black and white light emanating from the ominous vacuum tube nourished that embryo.
Soon came shows geared for children, and it wasn't long before an entire day of programming was dedicated to people under four feet tall. Saturday became 'Super Saturday' and was filled with kid's shows and cartoons. Looney-Tunes, The Pink Panther, Scooby-Doo, The Monkees, Under Dog, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Casper The Friendly Ghost, and Popeye were just a few programs we watched on Saturday mornings.
We were on our way to becoming a sedimentary society. Obesity was patiently waiting within the cells of our bodies.' Who could have known, at that time, that the moon landing would result in a country full of fat, lazy people who'd rather sit in front of some type of device with a screen than actually get out and do something?
As the years progressed, the sight of children playing in their yards became rare. We didn't bother to get outside to meet our new neighbors. As a result of many mothers spending days glued to soap operas, the family dynamic began to break down, and family life was on a downhill slide. Many of these women grew fat and depressed about their expanding bodies. These women went to see doctors who prescribed tiny, new miracle pills to help them cope and to make them happy again.
Fathers either worked longer hours to avoid general unhappiness or found places to drown their sorrows after work. Now, some space-age teens began seeking their own happiness but not trusting doctors or society anymore; they turned to their own remedies. Drugs and alcohol became an issue in many homes. The preacher and his wife were no longer invited into our homes for Sunday meals. There were too many problems to deal with to worry about the church. Nobody wanted to talk about these new problems. Families began to keep secrets. The fabric of our nation was now almost completely worn through and moth
-eaten. Americans forgot what made us a great and noble society. Our freedoms began to break us down, and it has only worsened.
In summation, the war in Vietnam and civil unrest at home threatened our society, and a savior was needed. That savior, for many, became NASA, which for a time provided our country with pride and happiness. As a result of our nation following a false savior, society began to crumble, just as Greek culture did, with all of its false Gods and Idols. Today many seem to see technology as our new savior. It's time that we recognize the only real and true Savior, if this country is to continue to prosper. God bless America.....please