10 Things Your Grandfather Was Doing By The Time He Was Your Age

Every time Grandpa starts talking about the "good old days" you smile politely while thumbing through Twitter on your iPhone. After all, what was so great about political turmoil, four channels on the TV, and no internet? Check out all the things he was accomplishing at your age and you'll realize the times are only as good as the men that live in them.

I have been watching a lot of Mad Men lately.  When watching that show, it is obvious how different the culture was back then.  Women were barely allowed to work in the office unless they were a secretary or an operator.  Every executive had a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of liquor in his office that were enjoyed daily.  There are a lot of things that people were doing fifty years
ago that people no longer do now.  When our grandfathers were our age, let's say around 1955 – 1965, what were they doing?  What can we learn from their experiences?

1. Civil rights were at the forefront of political issues.

Your grandfather was dealing with the issue of civil rights, segregation and race relations.  No matter what race he was, this was an issue he was no doubt facing.  The structure of entire cities, such as Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles, were irreversibly changed because of racial riots that broke out two generations ago.

2. Your grandfather fixed his car by himself.

Nowadays, when a light comes on the dashboard, we will automatically take the car to the shop.  We never think that we can fix the car by ourselves.  With all of the electronics being used today, it's easy to just leave it to the dealership to fix.  Fifty years ago, however, it's likely that most problems could have been fixed with some grease and a wrench.

3. He hitchhiked or picked up a hitchhiker before he turned 30.

My friend's grandfather actually told us a story about hitchhiking across the United States after being discharged from the Army.  It was a different time back then, and even though you needed to be careful, bumming a ride was common.  Having a military uniform entitled you to the respect of many people in America. Something that could enable a military man to travel cross country using just a thumb. Think about trying to do that today!

4. He was in World War II, Korea, Vietnam or in danger of being drafted to Vietnam.

We are currently dealing with the war on terrorism, but your grandfather had to deal with the war against communism.  That was a war that included an involuntary military draft, choosing people to fight who wouldn't have chosen to fight.

5. He shaved his beard with a straight razor.

Four blades?  Five blades?  Try one single blade, shaped like a knife.

6. Your grandfather had a ‘guy' for everything.

Even now when you talk to him, he mentions that he ‘knows a guy' to help you with your problem.  He knew someone at the butcher shop, the owner of the local hardware store and the local golf course attendant who could get him a tee time at the last minute.  In an era of giant retail chains, we rarely have a ‘guy' for anything.  We just walk into Home Depot and ask one of the jokers wearing an orange vest which paint will work best for exterior trim.  Who knows if he is an expert in paint or not, he is not your ‘guy'.  Maybe we could benefit by spending a little more time and finding our own ‘guy' for critical purchases.

7. He took pride in being able to fix household items.

Broken furnace?  Squeaky door?  No problem, add it to the To-Do list and I will get to it on the weekend.  Men took pride in being able to repair everything in the house back then.  No need to call a repair man to help fix something, your grandfather would get to it as soon as he had a day off.  He was a plumber, a carpenter and expert electrician, all wrapped into one.

8. He was starting to provide a better future for his young family.

When your grandfather was your age, jobs were abundant and paid extremely well, as long as you committed to working hard. The American dream of owning a house with a white picket fence was born during this time.  At your age, he was busy working to provide a better life for his children, who were your father and mother.

9. He was genuinely patriotic.

In the 1950s and early 1960s patriotism wasn't just an idea talked about on Fox News, it was a common sentiment.  America was coming off of World War II and there was a large amount of national pride.  Rosie the Riveter had cemented the idea that everyone had pitched in and helped the United States win the war.  This helped to reinforce a patriotic attitude that your grandfather still holds today.

10. Most importantly, no one was better at facing adversity than your grandfather.

He has been through more trying times than we might ever see in our lifetime.  When he was young, the government was rationing every imaginable supply in order to help the war effort.  Rubber, gasoline and even food rations were levied by the US government in order to provide for the military in the Alantic and Pacific theaters.  This gave him a great work ethic and his inclination to not waste anything.  He had a different viewpoint on work and career than some entitled members of our generation.

There are a lot of things we can learn from the experiences of previous generations.  As the holiday season comes closer, I would urge you to realize the amount of knowledge that you can gain, not only from your grandfather, but from your entire family.  Times definitely change, but you might be surprised how much they stay the same.

Ben is new to Baltimore/DC area by way of a new job. He is an engineer who grew up in Cleveland and graduated from Ohio State. He is obsessed with music, football, dogs and meeting new people. You can read more of his writing at www.benjamintwilcox.com/.

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  • Olivia

    Except when he was my age, he was beating his wife and children.

  • Rick

    Oh, Olivia, let’s not get all hung up on such minor details;>)

  • Jeff

    One of the reasons that your grandfather (and many “men” today) could fix his car, take care of household and appliance repairs, and take care of his family is that he probably wasn’t “obsessed with music, football, dogs and meeting new people”. He had different priorities. Just a thought.

  • Jimmy

    Olivia, saddled with an insolent bitch like you, one can understand why he was beating your ass. My grandfather was busting his ass in the CCC’s and bringing up a family in which he taught my father there is no time when a man is to hit a woman. Obviously, he never met someone like you. My grandfather and many more like him are the reason you have the right to vote, not to mention the right to open your stupid mouth and prove how ignorant you are. This country was built upon the type on manhood that it seems you despise. My advice to you is, grow up and study to understand what and who granted you the heaven on earth that you take for granted.

    If you need crib notes to know who to thank for your freedom to spew your spoiled, skewed mindset, let me offer a starting point; my grandfather, CCC’s 1921-1923, my father, US Air Force 1957-1961, my uncle US Air Force 1963-1967, my great uncle US Army 1942-1952 (DIA), my uncle US Air Force 1957- 1977, my service 1984- 1994, my son, 2009-continuing. I could go on, and on and on, and there is not one case of a man beating a woman, but I think the point that you are a spoiled asshole has been made. So in closing I’ll say, shut the fuck up, bitch!

    Good job Ben, I enjoyed your work here.

    • Jason Young

       obviously, he failed to teach how arguing on the internet is for losers.

      no man is perfect

  • Colin

    Lot of love in the room….

  • http://ifyoulikeitsomuchwhydontyougolivethere.com/ aggh!tea

    Things my Grandfather was doing when he was my age:
    1) Dying of emphysema … sorry, I digress – and note the responses to Oliva, but:
    I’ve got to take issue with point 8, namely “When your grandfather was your age, jobs were abundant and paid extremely well, as long as you committed to working hard.” Yep, so we still have abundant jobs, but well paid…. it’s more financially rewarding to stay on welfare then it is to take up a minimum paid job at the moment. Even if you want to be “committed to working hard” you’d have to work 12 hours a day 7 day’s of the week for the entire year to make up the difference (and slaves didn’t work that long).
    Second issue is point 7, “being able to fix household items”… well talk about a straw man.. my Dad taught me how to put up shelves, bleed a hot water system and do minor wiring – and still (no matter how many times I explain to him) can he install and keep up to date an antivirus system on his computer…. But when I moved into my new house I had to get my hot water system and wiring checked out by an accredited agent – it’s the system that is dumbing us down not our selves!
    .-= aggh!tea´s last blog ..Where Do Yellow Stains Come From? =-.

  • Russ

    In my grand father’s time there seemed to be a lot more people dying suddenly. Maybe it might have had something to do with the higher incidence of smoking.

    Others things from that era include high tariffs, expensive overseas air-travel, fixed exchange regimes & (some) rationing.


    Ben -Ohio State is that P J O’Rourke’s old school?

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  • http://www.insolentbitch.com InsolentBitch

    I loved this. Both of my grandfathers are gone, but this article reminded me of them. Thank you for that.

    Oh, and Olivia: What the fuck?

  • greg

    numbers 2,7, and 8 are BULLSHIT!

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Greg, what an insightfully useful comment. Thanks for taking the time to share.

  • Judson


    You are BULLSHIT! What we need around here are more MEN who aren’t afraid to get a little dirt under their finger nails, know they are entitled to nothing and have a gosh darn SPINE!

    I am 21, I can fix (upgrade and maintain) my own car and fix items around the house I am renting right now. Why? Because I have taken the time to learn from both my father and my grandfather.

    To call bullshit on a list like this shows a complete lack of understand and critical thinking. The times of our grandparents were much, much different and of course not all of the things listed are going to fit every person, but they fit my grandfather’s with utmost certainty.

    I love this piece and it brings back great memories! Thank you so much for writing it.

  • Frances

    I know this is old, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was raised by my dad and he taught me the majority of these things, having been taught by his depression era father who lived through the dust bowl in the American midwest in the 1930s. I also married a man who could do the same, because I can’t stand someone who isn’t self sufficient, man or woman.

    I know how to do at home repairs for everything except electrical stuff, and I know a good guy for that (Angie’s List and word of mouth do wonders). I can do basic car repairs, and I’ve changed my own oil since I was 17. My husband can do more in-depth repairs and recently fixed the transmission. We both consider ourselves to be highly patriotic and my husband is an Army vet. We’re both under 30.

    I definitely haven’t picked up a hitchhiker though. I don’t think I’ve seen one since I was a little girl, but my grand dad used to pick up guys all the time back in the day.

    Great piece! Thanks!

  • Mr. X.

    Ladies, this website is for guys. If you have something to say about the good articles (aimed towards male readers), how about showing a bit of respect please. Men are always told to respect women and the like, and I agree with that. We men deserve the same respect. If women like Olivia can’t handle this website, then go elsewhere to spew your ridiculous hate for males.