By Harvey Tobkes

“Hey, Mr. Tobkes,” one of my neighbor’s grandsons asked the other day, “What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?”

Old couple

“We didn’t have fast food when I was growing up,” I informed him. “All the food was slow.”

“C’mon, seriously. Where did you eat?”

“It was a place called ‘at home,'” I explained. “my mom cooked every day and when my dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table, and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.”

By this time, the kid was laughing so hard I was afraid he was going to have a conniption, so I didn’t tell him the part about how I had to have permission to leave the table. But here are some other things I would have told him about my childhood if I figured his system could have handled it:

Some parents NEVER… owned their own house, wore Levi’s, set foot on a golf course, traveled out of the country or had a credit card. My parents never drove me to soccer practice. This was mostly because we never had heard of soccer. I had a Schwinn bicycle that weighed probably 50 pounds, and only had one speed, (slow). I used my bike to help me deliver my newspaoers.

I delivered The Bronx Home News, six days a week. It cost 7 cents a paper, of which I got to keep 2 cents. I had to get up at 5 AM every morning. On Saturday, I had to collect the 42 cents from my customers. My favorite customers were the ones who gave me 50 cents and told me to keep the change. My least favorite customers were the ones who seemed to never be home on collection day. I saved all my money and I was lucky to be able to buy a car when I was 17; it was a 1935 Ford Convertible (but the calendar year was 1945). There was a rumble seat in the back. I don’t know where the word “rumble” came from, but it had nothing to do with fighting, but sometimes it had everything to do wth romance. That little car cost me just $50, but oh! I nearly forgot, my partner kicked in another $50 bucks, so he used the car on Monday to Thursday and I had it Friday to Sunday.

I never had a telephone in my room. The only phone in the house was in the living room, and it wasn’t a touch tone or a pulse or a dial-up…there was an operator and you gave her the number you wanted…saying something like… Melrose 5- 0150 please.

I was 13 before I tasted my first pizza, it was called “pizza pie.” When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off, swung down, plastered itself against my chin and burned that, too. It’s still the best pizza I ever had.

Pizzas were not delivered to our home. But milk was.

We didn’t have a television in our house until I was 11, but one of our neighbors had one before that. It was, of course, black and white, but they bought a piece of colored plastic to cover the screen. Movie stars kissed with their mouths shut. At least, they did in the movies. Touching someone else’s tongue with yours was called French kissing and they didn’t do that in movies. I don’t know what they did in French movies. French movies were dirty and we weren’t allowed to see them.

If you grew up in a generation before there was fast food, you may want to share some of these memories with your children or grandchildren. Just don’t blame me if they bust a gut laughing.

Growing up isn’t what it used to be, is it?

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