Opinion

Ice cream is perpetual, but little else is

REMEMBER the Good Humor guy? Ice cream trucks may survive other changes in our society (Flickr/Robert S).

We now have one of those musical ice cream trucks trolling our street, just as they did when we had presidents with names like Kennedy and Nixon.  To reflect changing times and demographics, the truck played not only “Turkey In the Straw” but also “La Cucaracha.”

It put me in mind not just of how everything comes back in style if you wait long enough, but also of what’s lost forever and what may become just childhood memories to our children and grandchildren.

We baby boomers grew up with rotary telephones plugged into the wall, one TV (probably black-and-white) in the house and rigid gender roles – boys automatically enrolled in shop classes while the girls were in the “apron ghetto” of home economics.

Our recreations were much more informal. Little League was still in its infancy and AYSO was yet in the future. Most athletic endeavors took place in the street, with a manhole as home plate and the game ended not when the buzzer sounded in some sleek gymnasium but when the mother of the boy or girl who owned the ball called the kid to dinner.

I’m not here to tell you about the “good old days” and how much better they were. In a lot of ways, they weren’t. Nearly all adults smoked and I grew up in a home with a perpetual nicotine haze. Cars with seat belts were slow to hit the market and those life-saving devices were rarely used. Racial bias was often just below the surface (and sometimes above it) and the worst thing you could say to a guy (well, the second-worst) was “you throw like a girl.”

Today’s kids take cell phones, online shopping, air-conditioned schools and 24-hour chauffer service for granted. That’s all as much a part of the social landscape as sushi and Starbucks.

But what will they look back on when they have their periods of nostalgia in 10 or 20 or 50 years from now? I can imagine our grandkids (we have three now, ages 5, 4 and 1.5) sitting around a holographic fire in the Orange-Angeles Metroplex and reminiscing.

“Remember when you had to use a cell phone to make a call, instead of just tapping the transponder on the side of your head?” one might say.

“Oh, and when I was a kid I remember when we had to play old-style football in physical education classes, instead of laser soccer,” another might say.

“Physical education? What’s that? Is that anything like the wellness regimen we’re enrolled in with the yoga and healthy cooking modules?” asked the youngest one.

“I heard grandma talking once about how excited she was when she got her driver’s license. What the heck is that? Didn’t people have autodrive vehicles then and maglev mass transit?”

Of course, someday their time will come when they will look back fondly on when the average temperature wasn’t 90 degrees. If true, I guess ice cream trucks may still be in style even then.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts – started in 1969 – continues on alternate Wednesdays in The Tribune.

Categories: Opinion

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