LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: Well, when I was your age

Published 2:20 pm Monday, July 11, 2022

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Every generation has its customs, designed as markers to identify it as separate from the earlier age. It’s rare that those conventions jump to the future.

My father used to jazz up his cars by taping orange reflector strips on the rear bumpers, adding rain shutters on the top edge of the roll-down windows and installing metal wires near the right-side wheels that would stick out to let him know when he was close to the curb when parallel parking.

Larry Penkava

Mama was working at Isley’s Ice Cream Parlor when Daddy started courting her. Her boss told her that her boyfriend drove a $50 car with $100 worth of junk on it.

I never knew if his jalopy had a raccoon tail blowing in the wind, but he certainly was in tune with the fads of the day. Some of his habits continued into adulthood, but, arguably, with more practical applications (refer to the above).

When I was old enough to drive, my contemporaries favored fender skirts, lowered rear-ends and loud mufflers. Personally, I was a minimalist, driving Opels and Ramblers, which didn’t really lend themselves to the fashions of the day.

I’ll have to admit, though, that some of our fads of the ‘50s were offset by the rages of the ‘60s. For instance, my Elvis-style ducktail eventually gave way to the Beatles’ mophead look. White socks and rolled-up jean cuffs were replaced for a while by no socks and bellbottoms.

For a short time, we guys even wore those knee-length pants we called calypsos. I don’t recall if Harry Belafonte had a hand in starting that short-lived fad.

Women’s fashions underwent major changes from the early 1900s to the ‘60s. Skirts rose from ankle-length in the early years to the knees during the Roaring 20s. Then, by the time I was in college, the miniskirt became fashionable. That’s about the time us guys began noticing the fashions of the female of the species.

When I was young we knew when we saw a man with tattoos that he had been in the navy. They were reminders of his magical times in those faraway ports which welcomed American sailors with wine, women and tattoo parlors.

Today, tattoos are faddish with the younger generation and even with some of a certain age. My theory is that, once young women began showing more skins, they felt the need to decorate the epidermis.

Some are, somewhat shyly, happy just to get a butterfly on the ankle. Others, namely male athletes, go all out, with arms and legs completely covered.

Then there’s the metal. It started out with rings in the ears, progressed to lone nostril studs, before becoming decorations as nose-rings, tongue-ties, belly buttons and other locations unknown but to the metal artist.

Fads are now so alien from one generation to the next that you could credibly say that baby boomers and millennials are separated by a virtual gulf. For instance, a tattoo artist would starve in a retirement community.

On the other hand, you won’t catch a young guy wearing long black socks with shorts. But he’ll wear the shorts year-round. And most days he goes out in a T-shirt without regard to the weather, something a boomer checks every morning, religiously.

People of a certain age would never consider going to the Mega-Maxi-Mart in pajamas. But for the younger set, it’s considered practical to jump out of bed and go directly to buy breakfast.
Shopping sets the boomers apart from the millennials. People my age go somewhere to shop — to look, to feel and to try out. Millennials, on the other hand, are tech-savvy and prefer to order online.

“But I want to see what I’m buying,” says the boomer.

“It’s easier to sit with my phone and order,” says the millennial.

Music differs greatly from one generation to another. Big band led to rock ‘n roll, which has led to hip-hop and rap. But it’s ironic that younger listeners often enjoy the music of their elders.

Many boomers listen to the big band music of their parents while millennials often like what we now call oldies from the ‘60s.

This is all to say that generations change but we all can like what’s good quality.

Just don’t expect me to get a nose-ring.

Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact him at 336-302-2189 or