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“Hillcrest Generations: Median Adults”
by Tom Goodman
December 16, 2004

I got some great responses from my “homework assignment” last week!  I asked those in their 40s and 50s to tell me about things they recall from their formative years.  After reading your responses, all I have to say is:  Boy, you guys are old!  (And boy did your lists bring back some memories!)

Your responses helped me complete my three-part series in LeaderLines.  Two weeks ago I introduced you to some factors that influence how young adults see the world (represented by the following Bible Study departments: Singles 1, Adult 1 and Adult 2).  Last week we looked at some factors that influence how senior adults see the world (represented by our Adult 5 and 6 departments).  This week we’ll look at factors that influence how those in their 40s and 50s see the world (Singles 2, Adult 3 and Adult 4).

You told me that when those of us now in our 40s and 50s were growing up:

Economy:  You paid (or watched your parents pay) 25 cents a gallon for gasoline and it came with full service and a glass.  Someone wrote, “I remember when you could not put $5.00 of gas in your tank, even if your tank was empty.”  Self-service: what was that?  An attendant bustled around the car cleaning the windshield, checking the oil, and pumping the gas, all for free, every time.  When your Mom opened her box of laundry detergent, there would be free glasses, dishes or towels hidden inside the box.  (So, what was it about free glasses at gas stations, soap boxes, and burger joints anyway?)  At the gas pumps, there was an option between “leaded” and “unleaded,” which still shows up in the way we order coffee: I’ve never heard a 22-year-old ask me if I want my coffee leaded or unleaded (regular or decaf) because she’s never used those terms at the gas pumps.  Stores gave away “Green Stamps” or other trading stamps, which your Mom stuck in a book until she had enough to redeem for catalog items.  McDonald hamburgers were fifteen cents, but it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents.  A quarter was a decent amount for an allowance or for a tooth under the pillow.

Technology:  Most TVs were black and white.  We had to take Captain Kangaroo's word for it that Mr. Green Jeans' jeans were, in fact, green.  We thought it was pretty cool when we first saw the actual colors on that NBC peacock that unfolded its feathers at the start of a program that was “brought to you in living color.”  Channel changers?  Forget it: You had to actually get up and walk to the TV to change the channel—by turning a dial—and you had three channels to choose from.  Headphones were huge.  Eight-track tape players were cutting-edge, especially in the car, but you could tell a man who really cared about his music if he had a reel-to-reel player at home.  Even today, we still speak about listening to records when we mean CDs, and we know the difference between 33-1/3, 45, and 78.  At the office where your parents worked, machines consisted of a telephone, an adding machine, a mimeograph machine, and a typewriter (and it was nice to have an electric one).  “Fax” were something that detectives gathered.  Computers have gone from filling a room to fitting in your pocket—with more capabilities.  You were on the leading edge of geekdom if you had a Commodore 64.  Do you remember using computer floppies—and they were actually floppy?  Anyone remember IBM punch cards?  During the Christmas season my dad would bring home stacks of these things which my mom would fold into points, staple them into rings, and apply spray-paint to make Christmas wreaths.  (As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”)

Pop Culture: Yes, Everclear was right:  AM radio was king; because FM was so much static.  Movies were actually a dollar, and cinema workers earned a dollar an hour to work there.  Michael Jackson was famous for being the lead singer in a family band.  Remember bell-bottom pants and leisure suits?  Girls pinned up posters of Andy Gibb and guys pinned up pictures of Farrah in a swimsuit and feathered hair.  “Jaws” kept us out of the water the entire summer of 1975, and “Star Wars” was our “Lord of the Rings.”  We learned to drive in bugs, pintos, gremlins and pacers.  We know we’ve now reached midlife because someone said that a sign of midlife is when you don’t recognize the names of the bands on the radio.  Today we put on the “classic rock station” in the car when we’re driving our kids and their friends, and for a moment we’re actually puzzled when our kids say, “Do we have to listen to the old stuff?”

Home:  At home, we made ice in metal ice-cube trays with levers.  Milk came in bottles that were delivered to your house.  Orange-flavored chewable aspirin cured just about anything.  Nearly everyone's Mom was at home when the kids got home from school.  Your Mom wore nylons that came in two pieces.  Did living-room carpet at your house require a rake?  (Lime green shag, baby!)  Grandparents were allowed to give you spankings.  No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the car, in the ignition, and the doors were never locked.  The car headlight dimmer switch was on the floor.  You wanted your parents to have a CB radio, and you wanted a “handle.”  Seat-belts were not required by law and the primo road trip spot was in the back dash.  Someone wrote, “Today we're the group that's caught in-between: still raising our children and also caring for our aging parents.  Double stresses.”

School:  At school, they threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed—and they did.  All your male teachers wore neckties (so did preachers—but remember, that was in the olden days!).  Female teachers had their hair done every day and wore high heels.  Remember the screetch of chalk and how the smell of mimeographed paper made you dizzy?  Being sent to the principal's office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited the student at home.  Having a weapon in school meant being caught with a slingshot.  High school football stadiums looked like high school football stadiums, not college-level facilities with instant-replay scoreboards and cup-holders on every seat (your tax dollars at work).

Childhood Pastimes:  Anyone remember candy cigarettes, wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside, and soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles?  (Anyone remember the last time you heard the phrase “soda pop”?  Like I said, you guys are old!)  Do you know what “10, 2 and 4” mean and what drink they go with?  How about Pixie sticks (and the headaches from sucking down all that sugar)?  How about NECCO candy and five-cent packs of baseball cards (with that awful pink slab of bubble gum)?  Remember roller-skate keys, cork pop-guns, and erector sets?  Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots was a HIGH tech toy.  Did you ever put playing cards in your bicycle tire spokes to turn your bike into a motorcycle?  Saturday morning cartoons weren't 30-minute commercials for action figures.  We played "Cowboys & Indians" and "Army" and our parents encouraged us.  When we ran around the neighborhood, our parents never worried that our toy gun looked “too real.”  We were allowed to play outside all day if we wanted to and mothers didn't worry someone would get us.  When you played football with the neighborhood kids, your parents’ shrubbery line was probably the goal line, and when you played baseball, second base might have been reached by tagging a tree trunk.  Mistakes were corrected by simply exclaiming, "Do Over!"  As teens, Pong was our Christmas status toy.

My thanks to the following for contributing to this list:  Mike Wiederkehr, Mary Katherine Muna, Pam Dahl, Dale Linam, Melanie Clonts, Paul Smith, and Curtis Roberts.
Unlike a lot of start-up churches in Austin that target a single generation, Hillcrest has the joy and burden of serving four generations: Senior Adults, Median Adults, Young Adults, and the kids and teens that are coming up behind us.  A multi-generational church gives you the chance to learn from the insights and experiences of those who are younger and those who are older than you are.  At the same time, leaders in a multi-generational church face some unique challenges when trying to arrange activities, budgets, and worship services!

Be in prayer for Hillcrest as we work with all four generations!  And, as leaders, help people understand when we make a change in our programming or go a certain direction with our music.  We’re trying to meet a wide, wide range of needs!


P.S.  LeaderLines will not be published the next two Thursdays. Paul Waldo (our webmaster and newsmaster) and I will take a holiday break.  LeaderLines will return to your inbox January 6.

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