When I was a Child

By Toni Kief

WHEN I WAS A CHILD…
By Toni Kief
10/23/11

I am of the first generation raised on processed food and television.  ​​ ​​​​ I’m​​ from America’s​​ heartland and​​ a​​ Baby Boomer. ​​ Life was projected through a rose-colored lens, with no fear and all the artificial coloring you could ever​​ wish​​ to eat.

Everyone gathered in the evening staring at the television.​​ ​​ Father Knows Best, Leave​​ It to Beaver, Donna Reed, Lassie. ​​ Mothers wear shirtwaist dresses and pearls while keeping a perfect home. Parent slept in separate beds, bathrooms didn’t have toilets, and they served beautiful dinners that took no effort,​​ to cooperative children,​​ and long suffering husbands. ​​ Moms were supporting characters even if they were the star. The only marital dispute was when Lucy wanted to be in a show or Alice​​ Cramden​​ booked a ticket for the moon. ​​ 

Bonanza, Fury, The Rifleman and Andy Griffith​​ the​​ single parents represented on television. ​​ All​​ were fathers who had lost loving beautiful wives in some unknown​​ catastrophe. ​​ They were all strong honorable men who raised strong honorable sons. ​​ ​​ Only the neighbors were dishonest or​​ fools​​ and girls lived down the road.​​ If a woman was a single parent, she must have failed on some monumental level.

Gunsmoke, Maverick, Dragnet, Naked City. ​​ Crime was neat, clear​​ cut;​​ only guest stars were corrupt. ​​ Witnesses cooperated with the​​ straight-shooting​​ role model neatly tying it​​ up by the end of the hour. ​​ I grew up in a​​ neighborhood where we knew each other and​​ the children played outside until dark. ​​ The moms had coffee klatches and they all would correct a neighborhood child.​​ We were adults before we realized that​​ over the years​​ there were three 9-year-old boys that disappeared and were never seen again. ​​ As​​ a child,​​ I knew​​ my​​ father​​ went​​ out for​​ the search, and​​ we seldom knew the conclusion. ​​ The stories disappeared when it became old news. ​​ 

Rin Tin Tin, Hennessy, Combat, 12’O Clock High. ​​ All the heroes were strong, bright and honest. ​​ Our soldiers came home from WWII as heroes and never​​ needed​​ assistance, as we knew it. ​​ Real men keep their pain and damage hidden from view, only to explode in the night telling no one the stories. ​​ All working together to make war an honorable endeavor. ​​ Sergeant Bilko, Mr. Roberts, McHale’s Navy proving that military service, especially the Navy, is fun, preparing the children for​​ world​​ war light. ​​ M*A*S*H provided the first clue that war wasn’t neat and not all heroics. By then the boomers were older, we could handle it as comedy.

Milton Berle, Red Skelton, Ernie Kovacks, Sid​​ Caesar, Jackie Gleason. ​​ Snappy​​ banter sometimes​​ the closest​​ thing​​ portraying​​ real life as a funny 7-minute skit. ​​ They were on after bed time, but​​ I​​ did listen until​​ I​​ fell asleep. ​​ 

Lassie was a male, and Howdy Doody wasn’t a real child, what a shock to learn​​ that life isn’t neat and contained in 30 minute increments. ​​ ​​ Some true stories are horrific and brutal​​ containing no moral​​ and some are so amazing that they are unbelievable. ​​ ​​​​ The actors on​​ television​​ weren’t who they portrayed and had secrets seldom shared. ​​ When I was a child I was a Boomer raised by the “Greatest Generation” and​​ finally learned​​ that​​ even​​ the beautiful people don’t measure up to the yardstick of 50s and 60s television, none of us do.​​ 

P.S. My dad is still my hero, and my mom doesn’t own any pearls, but she deserves them. ​​ 


About The Author

Toni Kief, a child of the 60s, Midwestern by birth, Northwestern by choice, Toni challenges the boundaries for women of a certain age. After a long career as an insurance adjuster, she fell into writing through a challenge from a friend. She has released her first book, Old Baggage, with two others in the grinder. Toni never dated Mick Jagger, but marched for civil rights, shared bread with icons of politics and art. She is spending her retirement, gathering stories prime for embellishment. Writing has taught her inspiration without perspiration is just a good idea. www.tonikief.com.