Back in the 1960s, kids did some really goofy stuff

Posted 4/7/19

Nostalgia is a cool word which means a sentimental longing of affection for the past.As I look into the future, I seem to visit the past more often.That certain smell, a certain song on the radio can …

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Back in the 1960s, kids did some really goofy stuff


Nostalgia is a cool word which means a sentimental longing of affection for the past.

As I look into the future, I seem to visit the past more often.

That certain smell, a certain song on the radio can immediately send me at warp speed to yesteryear.

In the late 1950s, Doris Day sang a song titled “Sentimental Journey.”

Gonna take a sentimental journey

Gonna set my heart at ease

Gonna make a sentimental journey

To renew old memories

It tends to do the heart good to visit the past, but return to the present, counting the blessing one has as he traces his journey.

Growing up in the 1960s was a fun time. Kids did a lot of goofy stuff.

We played outside ... in the neighbors' yard, and we even played in the street. 

We camped out in the woods, stayed out till dark, rode our bicycles (bikes as we called them) with no hands and even suffered scraped knees.

We had no cellphones to contact our friends. If we wanted to get a message to them, we simply walked or rode our bikes to their house.

There was a day, in a galaxy far, far away, that cigarette companies could actually advertise their product. 

Large billboards on highways, and magazines with colorful ads, showed people enjoying a smoke.

Most considered smoking glamorous, as all the Hollywood stars lit up while acting on the silver screen.

My favorite, and it seemed to be the favorite of most teenagers, was the Marlboro Man. 

Sitting atop his beautiful steed, staring out at the prairie as he puffed away.

A lot of the cigarette manufacturers would put coupons on the packs of cigarettes for prizes.

After collecting so many, you got to choose from an array of gifts from a catalog.

Winston was one of those brands. I collected coupons from anyone I knew that smoked so I could get a transistor radio.

Oh, the transistor radio? That's the handheld luxury item that allowed me to listen to music anywhere I went.

I can see that little radio today in my mind as if looking at a picture.

It was about the size of a pack of cigarettes with a grey leather cover and a strap, so you could put it on your bike or hang it off the bed post.

Getting an item like that radio as a kid was equal to inheriting a large sum of money from a rich relative.

Our home was in a neighborhood with maybe 20 houses and lots of kids.

The homes were not so close that you could hear the neighbors whispering in the night, as some communities are today. But we didn’t have a lot of space between them, either.

My older brother was about 10 or 11, and he decided one afternoon after school to ride his bike down to see a girl who was in his class.

The trip was a little over a mile away, on a busy road, but he made the quest without permission.

It never pays to do wrong because usually the plan fails and the consequences are great.

As he was pedaling away, he found himself lying on the road in front of a car. He must have turned wrong and in front of the man as he was innocently driving home from work. 

This resulted in an ambulance ride to the hospital and several weeks in a leg cast.

I think the thought of the car hitting him caused sleepless nights, so he would find anything that would keep him awake.

He would have me stay up to talk to him, count to a hundred several times or simply stay awake with him.

Back in those days, in the summertime, we either kept the windows open or had a window fan.

The neighbor next door would have his TV on and my brother would stay up and watch through the window, until Mom would come in and shut down the network.

This guy liked anything that was hard to do. He once built a rocket from an ink pen, using gun powder from a firecracker to launch it. 

The cricket he placed inside as the astronaut wasn’t too happy, but he survived the trip.

We thought at one time he might be a noted surgeon. He and the kid up the street caught a lizard, opening him up and gently probing his insides to learn the anatomy of a reptilian.

Once done they neatly sewed him up, and set him in the flower bed to recover. 

The next summer they found a lizard, caught him and behold, the patient lizard had lived.

Of course, malpractice insurance was not as big back then as today.

This same brother bought a ham radio kit, put it together himself and late at night pick up a station in New York called Beatnik Hall. 

Beatniks were digging the scene back in the early 1960s.

They sported their sweatshirts, scruffy hair and goatees, while pounding on the bongos saying things like "Cool man, I dig it," and reading poetry while getting into a soulful mood.

Yep, goofy should have been the catch phrase for us as kids, but I think my generation has turned out some pretty good adults.


  (About the writer:  Gary Matheny is retired after a long career in the pharmaceutical industry.  Now a Cleveland resident, he is the author of two books, "If The Shoe Fits" and "The Bullet." He also writes a popular blog, "Life Happens." Email him at and follow him at his website,


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