Tales from the O-NO Ranch: The ’50s
by “Mad” Jack Hanks
For those of you who are in my generation and were a kid or mere children in the ’50s, let ole Mad Jack take you on a little trip down memory lane. For those of you who are of a different generation, me thinks you might have wished you grew up in the ’50s. Of course, if you had, you’d be an old guy like me, but heck, who knows, it might have been worth it to you.
Where I grew up, we had one drug store, one cafe, one little grocery store and only two small gas stations.
When you pulled in to get gas, someone came out, filled your tank, checked your oil and cleaned your windows. They may have even swept out your floorboards. At the drug store, the owner was an older guy who did not dispense drugs other than a laxative, aspirin, hand cream, or maybe some type of snake oil (cure all). You knew everybody in the drug store and they knew you. A chocolate soda and ice cream were the favorite for us kids and coffee was always required by the adults. There were no magazines on display that had brown wrappers on them.
The grocery store was much the same. You picked out what you wanted and many times the vegetables were fresh from someone’s garden. There were no processed foods and most everything was fresh. The only time you had to stand in line is when the grocer was visiting with someone about nothing, but you enjoyed their conversation just the same. On Friday and Saturday nights, teenagers hung out at the cafe with the adults because we had no Dairy Queen, Burger King or any drive-in of any royalty.
If you had a television, you were considered to be in the upper class of our little society. We finally got a television when I was 14 and had only one channel that was on for three hours each night.
There were other things to do besides television. Sometimes dad and mom would load up my brother and I and we would drive around the pastures and my brother and I would shoot rabbits from the headlights of the car. We had a severe infection of rabbit fever and many had screw worms and they seemed to number in the thousands. We considered our mercy killings to be of benefit to the dying rabbit overpopulation.
Sometimes we would drive out to the sand hills, build a little fire and just visit and cook hotdogs and gaze up into the marvelous heavens. My mom would usually sing her rendition of the stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. As a little boy, I would look up in the night sky and wonder where my star would lead me and my imagination would propel me far into the future where I would live an adventuresome life as an adult, and I have.
I would ride my horse deep into the brush and pretend that hostiles or bandits were after me. I would ride like a wild man lookin’ back over my shoulder on occasion to see if they were gaining ground. I fished at the windmill ponds, killed rattlers with a stick and on occasion would catch a horned toad to bring home with me.
I think now about all I would have missed if I had had all the computer games and high tech gadgets that kids today have. I had fun as a kid growing up. I didn’t have to fear that a teacher, pastor or family friend was going to molest me. I didn’t even know what the word molest meant.
As a teenager, I carried a .22-caliber rifle in my car as most boys did and even took it to school where us guys would get together and go hunting after school. Sometimes, ole Woody Sullivan (the sheriff) would stop us and ask if we had had any luck.
The only grass we knew of was on the football field and it wasn’t smoked. Crack was a split in the sidewalk at school and our teachers were referred to as Mr. and Mrs. and the principal kept the proverbial paddle leaning up against his desk at all times. And yes, I tasted its sting more than once and knew I had it coming.
I have a 2-year-old granddaughter that picks out the video she wants to watch and then puts it in the VCR, programs it, watches it and thinks nothing of what she has just done. I sit there amazed. To her credit, she loves to come to Grandpa’s and go down to the corral and see if I will swing her up on one of our horses. I hope in the years to come that she remembers her relationship with those ponies more than she does the VCR or the computer. I think that she shall, don’t you?
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion, and please, please, let your kids be kids while they are still kids!