A lot of things have changed in my lifetime. I was surprised recently to learn that Volkswagen has stopped manufacturing Beetles. My first two cars were VW Beetles; the first one was black.

I purchased it while a student at the University of Maine. One day on campus while driving my Beetle I pulled up to a stop sign behind a large construction vehicle. But instead of going forward, that vehicle started going backward. I barely got out of the car before it crushed the entire front end of my Beetle. My second vehicle was a yellow Beetle, which I owned for quite a few years and really enjoyed.

When I first started writing this newspaper column, I typed it on a manual typewriter and drove it to Augusta, where they retyped it. Quite a change today, as I write it on my computer and email it to the paper.

As a teenager I remember calling some of my friends in Manchester and first getting an operator and telling her who I wanted to speak with in order to be connected with my friends. We still have a landline, but a lot of my friends have only mobile phones.

When I was 16, I worked in the woolen mill mixing chemicals and driving a front-end loader. No teenagers today are allowed to do that.

Growing up in Winthrop, we never had to leave town to shop. Everything we needed was right there in Winthrop. Today it’s very hard to own your own small shop and compete with places like Walmart.

When I started hunting at a young age with my dad, there was no posted land and lots more hunters than there are today. I think most every family in Winthrop had deer meat in their freezer. Since then, coyotes have invaded Maine, and they certainly get their share of deer today.

I remember at a very young age going out into the woods behind our house and shooting porcupines. You would have to cut off their legs and deliver them to the town office in order to collect a 25-cent bounty for each porcupine. That sure doesn’t happen today!

For my first two years in college I hitchhiked from Orono to Winthrop quite often. Today you don’t see kids hitchhiking. I guess it’s just too dangerous.

I was able to pay for college using money I earned every summer. I also worked while I was in college. It astonishes me today to read that some college graduates owe $300,000 or more that they borrowed to attend college.

In high school I played several sports, played in the band, and sung in the choir. Today kids usually specialize in one sport. When my high school basketball team would go down to the locker room at halftime, I would walk over and play with the band. Kids can’t do that today.

To reach the Stanley Road Little League field when I was a kid, my entire team would jump in the back of a pickup truck and be driven five miles to the field. Today it’s illegal to even have a loose dog in the back of your truck.

A lot of boys took knives to grade school and we played knife games at recess. Today they can’t even bring plastic knives to school. In high school I would take my shotgun and leave it in the back of the room so I could hunt in the orchard behind school after school. Today that’s a felony.

We rode our bikes all over several towns, but today I rarely see a kid on a bike. And our daily newspaper was very important. It makes me sad today that so few people get a daily newspaper.

When I started hanging out at the Legislature, legislators spent time together and became friends so even if they disagreed, they could work together. Today that is certainly not the case.

And the money spent on political campaigns today is astonishing. In 1974 when I managed Dave Emery’s successful campaign for Congress, we spent $36,000. In last year’s Second Congressional District race more than $25 million dollars was spent, most of it by out-of-state groups that don’t need to disclose their donors.

I feel especially bad for kids today who are growing up in such a different world. And I recognize that I have been blessed with a wonderful life.

Well, I’ve run out of space. I guess I could write a series about the good old days and how things have changed. Maybe I will!


George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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