This noon (6/6/2012) I stopped at a place on the Seymour-Oxford town line called Uncle Willie’s BBQ, specializing in southern fried chicken. I tried one of their chicken breasts with some mashed potatoes and their famous sweet sauce. There are only a few tables as he is mainly a to-go establishment in a small strip-mall. I looked at some of the pictures and artifacts on the wall and he had a picture of a Texaco fire engine like the one I had when I was a kid with the original Texaco star logo and a advertisement that you could buy it for $3.98 with a purchase of gasoline, probably costing less than 26.9¢ per gallon at a station on a picture next to it of Route 66 in 1953.
I got mine from my grandfather as a gift and had it to pass on either to my sister or some other cousin’s child as it lasted a long time—I think I pulled off one of the headlights as a kid but the rest was in good shape. What went through my mind when I saw that ad was the huge generation gap of which I am now on the sunset side. Today’s child would not play with that fire engine toy—it has to be wired to something with high quality graphics on a screen with buttons to push to text or tweet a friend. The technology of the day makes kids grow up long before their time and quality childhoods just don’t exist anymore.
I remember my senior year in high school. I wanted my driver’s license and as soon as I got it, since my grandmother had purchased a 1980 Chevy Citation, I purchased her 1971 Ford Pinto (gas tank recall rectified before I drove it) for one dollar (she gifted it to me, the dollar was simply a symbolic gesture). One day after work heading up the Connecticut’s Route 8 North to get me home from Stratford Railroad Station to my home in Oxford, I heard on the radio about a study that says if you gave today’s teenager a choice between a car or internet access, most would rather have internet access. In my day a car at that age was a newly found freedom. My! The times, they are a changing!
As a conservative, I have always believed that grass roots values are an essential nutrient to succeed in a respectable and responsible manner in a free country. The innocence of wheeling around a Texaco fire engine versus eyes glued to a computer screen or smart phone texting or tweeting, open to corruption from the outside world. The pride in owning a car and taking care of it, maybe working a summer job to pay for the expenses associated with it versus technology that will ultimately be replaced by something else putting us in a throw-away society for life. Preferring long distance relationships on these devices over meeting with someone head to head in person and exchanging ideas, chewing the fat, and enhancing conversation skills. We lose our humanism and become closer to automatons one step at a time.
If we are going to reform our educational system and get into the world’s top ten, grass roots values among pupils, teachers, parents, and everyone involved are critical. The best educational system in the world can lead the horses to water, but can’t make them drink. We must allow children to be children and there is a time and place for more adult things through growth, maturation, and the coming of age. Like the song about says, Childhood…Once you cross its borders, you can never return again. There is a time for the fire engine and a time for the smart phone.