07/06/2013 08:52 am ET Updated Sep 05, 2013

Then And Now


It seems to me that my contemporaries and I knew so much more when we were growing up than do my grandchildren and their friends. I mean general knowledge -- history, politics, the complicaations of life.

Of course we didn't have TV or Xbox or Ipads or Iphones or computers. We had radio but the average set wasn't on five hours a day. And you had to imagine. So we read. And we frequented libraries rather than Apple stores.

If you were Jewish, as I was and am, you were aware in the thirties of the growing threat of Hitler to your people. At home, anti-Semitism was something you lived with. The three private schools I went to all had Jewish quotas - Riverdale Country Day, Phillips Academy Andover, Yale College. In many hotels, Jews could not book a room.

Far worse if you were black. Out the train window going to Florida I saw separate restrooms for white and colored. We knew about the klu klux klan and lynchings. A little later, still in my teens in World War II, I learned that blacks served mainly as valets to white officers.

So I'm not claiming that ours was a better world. Far from it. Just that we knew more, that we were more aware. The games we played were mostly outside. Yes, we still have little leagues and soccer moms. Thank God we do!

Did we have more events? The crash of the Hindenburg, the kidnaping of the Lindbergh baby, the abdication of Edward VIII, the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the depression with its long bread lines and the closing of the banks.

My grandchildren have 9/11, bombs at the Boston Marathon, the election of the first black president.

We had World War II.

I've gone astray. The point is that we read more because we had fewer distractions and more to contemplate. My grandchildren -- through Google -- have the world at their fingertips. We had more of our world in our heads. At 12, we knew Ted Williams and we also knew Cordell Hull, Harry Hopkins and Winston Churchill. My grandchildren know A-Rod and Lebron James.

Different times. That's all.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

What Should Kids Be Learning These Days?