What was it like when you were growing up?

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What was it like when you were growing up?

I get this question from my children. "Mum, what was it like when you were a kid?"

I grew up in Toronto in the 60s and 70s. TVs were black & white with rabbit ears (or, if you were lucky, a big antenna tower attached to the side of your house so you could get the Buffalo stations), telephones were firmly attached to a wall, had dials instead of keypads, and were so heavy that if you dropped the receiver on your foot you'd be seeing an orthopedic surgeon in short order. We had yet to hear of FM radio.

Our neighbourhood, by the standard of the day, was culturally and ethnically diverse. Our street boasted one Black family, refugees from Hungary, a couple of Italian immigrant families and a family, recently from Romania, whose youngest daughter was my friend. One day I was having lunch at their house, and had what I thought were roast beef sandwiches. It was horsemeat, I was casually informed. Oddly enough I wasn't grossed out, just kind of surprised and confused. Still, I think I preferred the goulash from the Hungarian refugee kitchen - no surprises there.

You'd hear a lot of different accents on our street. Our next door neighbours were from what was then referred to as British Guyana. They spoke in a way I imagined people from England did, but now that I think back on it, their accent had more of a Caribbean sound.

Almost every summer their aunts, uncles and cousins from Guyana would visit. There would be backyard parties filled with exotic food and musical laughter from people who descended from African slaves, British colonialists and indigenous people. They owned a sugar cane plantation, which I thought was the coolest thing ever.  The cousins would organize backyard games like Capture the Flag and British Bulldog, and all of us neighbourhood kids would join them in games of hide-and-seek that spanned several backyards. It was heaven. It was also where I learned that not all families were normal on the outside and hideously dysfunctional on the inside.

There was some economic diversity as well. Being renters who drove an old beater, we were pretty much at the bottom of the scale, along with a handful of other families. At the other end, there was the family across the street who owned several properties and were landlords to many of our friends. The dad was a nice guy, friendly and chatty. The mother was an unapologetic snob, inordinately proud of their Scottish heritage.


That was the 60s and early 70s for me. Well, a lot of the good stuff at least. So. What was it like when you were growing up?


Childhood in Newfoundland, 60s and 70s as well, was mostly lived outdoors playing all sorts of games that now appear to be extinct as far as outdoor activities go.  Two channels on black and white TV, one of them only watchable on good reception days.  The small community was monochromatic and unilingual, with the exception of 'black' Protestants (some of whom spoke in different tongues on occasion) as they were often referred to.  Mine was a mixed family (Mom and Dad) in that regard.  No strangers to poverty were we, but life wasn't all that bad because many people were of similar circumstances, and we only really took notice of this fact when it was highlighted to us by positions of authority, such as at the Catholic school where the kids from better off families were treated differently than kids from lesser economic situations.  We continue to be a close family, with a rare, widely in effect estrangement from a once close aunt, the result of her destructive alcoholism.


60s and 70s for me. Black and white TV until the 70s. Big tower attenna on the side of the house so we did get the Buffalo stations (and Commander Tom had my birthday displayed one year (at a fast clip with a thousand other kids). Street had portoguese and italian imigrants otherwise very whitebread WASP. Played hide and seek through the whole neighbourhood and did the usual 'play outside until the streetlights came on'


As well as severe winters every year with tons of snow and sledding. 

I live not far from where I grew up (a kilometer perhaps) and many of my friends at the time still have their parents living there (italian, portoguese and WASP). Everyone was solid working class mostly(construction workers, plant workers) and one worked at Maple Leaf Gardens and was my babysitter so most of the NHL greats at the time helped babysit me (they all knew this family and loved them and hung out at their house)


i forget

maybe i lived on another planet than my kids did


might as well have

i opened the door, and walked up into the mountains. it was hot and dry most of the time.

see what i mean?

for some years now, i look around me, and wonder if that all really happened.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

The 1950s were okay for me, although in the background was a family breakup. I think my parents tried to shield us kids from what was going on.

The 50s were my time of riding a bike for the first time and exploring the city, which I found just fantastic. The area of Ottawa where I grew up - the Glebe, and then Alta Vista - had so much to see. The National Capital Region - or whatever it was called back then - did just an absolutely super job of keeping the city clean and planted with flowers and trees everywhere. Riding my bike beside the Rdieau Canal and Dow's Lake and Carling Avenue up to the Experimental Farm were my favourite activities.

Then I met girls. Surprised


ETA: TV was black and white for me until the 1970s. Mostly truly awful stuff on the telly at the time - mostly from the US. I preferred the CBC French channel.


I grew up on the prairies and my childhood was, for the most part, spent outdoors. 

I recall the pump in my grandmother's kitchen and the hollyhocks along the side of the house, later there was a patch of lilies of the valley to fold myself into and roses and lilacs and caragana, then a house on the outskirts of town and a swamp and a tree fort and endless miles of dirt roads to ride my bike along. Winter activities began around that time and I loved skating, often out on the ice when it was bitterly cold and I loved that too, the clarity of the night sky, the stars, the sound of the blades on the ice.

Television arrived when I was seven and there was only one channel so it was never a big part of childhood although I did like Bonanza and The Monkeys. 

It wasn't until I was a teenager that I became aware that there was a "north end" to my community and that insults could be based on one's ethnicity, prior to that I had lived in a big white bubble.  Perhaps that is why the first thing I did as an independent person was move myself as far away from that bubble as I could.


ennir wrote:

 I did like Bonanza and The Monkeys. 

I had a huge crush on Davie Jones, until I found out that The Monkeys weren't a "real" band and they wouldn't be coming to my town.


I loved the monkeys. Didnt watch Bonanza much tho. Used to sneak downstairs to watch things like Combat (still an excellent program), Night Gallery and Doctor Who

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

ps: It's The Monkees.

Not that I ever cared. Laughing


Hey hey

NicycleBicycle NicycleBicycle's picture

I grew up in the 70s and 80s but in some ways it was more like the 1950s. Someone actually came to our house in the morning to deliver milk in glass bottles. Many of our neighbours had their telephone service in the form of a "party line." My father and I would often drive to A&W where a girl in bobby socks and rollerskates brought us french fries and cheesburgers. One year the house across the street was bought by a young married couple - both practicing psychiatrists. They were black. Almost immediately our next door neighbour drafted a petition and went around to every house but one to see if anything could be done.


Anyone remember Wimpy's? The Red Barn? Pre-McDonald's fast food.

P.S. Monkees Schmonkees.


Boom Boom wrote:

ps: It's The Monkees.

Not that I ever cared. Laughing

lol Thanks for the correction.

I watched the first episode of Bonanza recently, it was about the battle between those who would used the land for farming and those who would use it for mining, no mention naturally of whose land had been divided up to create this argument. 

I also remember the red, blue and yellow alerts, I remember being told that the last alert meant that we would have time to get home before what ever dreadful thing would happen was going to happen but mostly we would be under our desks for drills or off to the auditorium.  It  seems that each generation must be inculcated into fear.

NicycleBicycle NicycleBicycle's picture

Rebecca West wrote:

Anyone remember Wimpy's? The Red Barn? Pre-McDonald's fast food.

The Seven Dwarfs. 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Yeah, we had a Red Barn in Ottawa, also Royal Burger, A&W, and Dairy Queen, and a lot of Chinese food places, and Drive-In Movie places.  

I'm glad I moved to the country because I would have become a diabetic if I stayed in the city.


Ahh yes Wimpys and Red barn


How about the Book barn?


And my next door neighbours had a party line until Bell got rid of them (the 90s I think)


And A&W the old version I do remember on York Mills rd


York Mills. Hoggs Hollow. What was the name of that bar/pub on Yonge St., right in Hogg's Hollow?


Just Googled it. The Jolly Miller.


Oh my I used to go there on a saturday with the guys to drink and for me to watch my friends flail about chasing girls


Including one that picked up a transsexual for his first sexual experience


NicycleBicycle wrote:

Rebecca West wrote:

Anyone remember Wimpy's? The Red Barn? Pre-McDonald's fast food.

The Seven Dwarfs. 

What was The Seven Dwards? Like, a kids' theme restaurant? 

NicycleBicycle NicycleBicycle's picture

Rebecca West wrote:

The Seven Dwarfs. 

What was The Seven Dwards? Like, a kids' theme restaurant? 

It was a popular working class restaurant in south London, Ont. 


Just asked my London-born husband. He remembers eating there with his family as a child. Out on Wharncliffe on the way to Lambeth.

I've only been in London 10 years now, so never had the experience ... 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I remember the Seven Dwarves, although I never ate there. I remember:

Hot wheels, Star Wars figurines, He-Man, Pacman, The Voyage of the Dawntreader, Michael Jackson and Raffi on my Fisher Price record player, Frank Vetere's, Wacky Wednesday, shag carpets, central vaccuum, fake wood panelling, K-cars, Dodge campervan with a raised roof, Western Fair


Nobody does He-Man like Robot Chicken.

My parents had a particularly hideous burnt orange striped couch in the 70s. Tommy Paine and I have something similar - a hand me down from his parents. It's so painfully ugly I keep it covered at all times with various and sundry throw blankets, but it's the most comfortable spot in our living room. 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

The only drive-in restaurant in my city, like most places in Canada, was the A & W. It was a big deal when it first came to town.


We had a couple of A & W drive ins in my youth. Loved the frosty mugs of root beer.

Francesca Allan

60s and 70s for me -- Vancouver, England, then Victoria. I started school in London, England (Islington: Go Arsenal!) and had a full Cockney accent which didn't shake off for quite a while back in Canada.

My most vivid memory is freedom. Weekends, I remember leaving the house at 8 a.m. or so and running around with my pals until supper time.

Crazy about horses since I was an infant, I was especially enchanted with Carly's Riding Academy up across by the university. Oh, my four-legged friends! Felix, Wonder, Flea, Sam, Alum, Tweedy, and many more. I practically lived at Carly's.

We didn't have a TV until I was 8 or so. It was black and white, of course, and I loved the Waltons, Gilligan's Island, I Love Lucy, the Brady Bunch, and other examples of high culture.

And, oh yeah, I remember the A & W, drive-in too. My dad used to take my sister and me there (which really must have grossed him out because he's a lifelong vegetarian). I also remember "Candy Day" -- we kids were only allowed to eat sweets on Sundays and, boy, were those Sundays sweet. 

School, piano lessons, ballet lessons, riding lessons, swimming, skating, camping; it was a blur of activity. Lots of happy memories -- thanks for starting this thread.


Best forgotten.


Main thing I remember is being a kid.


Caissa wrote:

Loved the frosty mugs of root beer.


Soooo good. 

Anyone from the rural areas remember people coming by in vans and other vehicles to sell their wares. We used to have some regulars when I was a kid. I remember a man selling rugs but there were more that I can't really remember. Wonder when they stopped coming around.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

Born in July 1980 in Vancouver. Grew up in Burnaby in the 1980s and 1990s. My brother was born in December 1984.

Both sets of Granparents lived in the Burnaby-New Westminster area. Mom had three brothers and one sister; dad had one brother and one sister. Dad's brother and all of Mom's siblings had kids. Though some of my aunts and uncles lived in the Vancouver area for parts of time while I was growing up, none of my cousins ever lived here.

Our house was located south of Metrotown, on Burnaby's south slope. The house was built in 1965; my parents purchased it in 1980 just before I was born. My parents did various renovations over the years. Most notably, the kitchen and all three bathrooms were renovated between 1993 and 1996.

We played a lot in the neigbourhood when I was younger, though we wern't allowed to cross major streets. We played mainly with two brothers who were two years younger than myself and my brother respectively; plus other kids, both boys and girls, at various times. As we got older, we lost contact with most of these kids. Also our parents eventually eased the restrictions on crossing major streets as we got older.

In the very early years we could hear the trains running on the two BC Hydro railway, the one that became the route of the Expo skytrain, and the one down in the Big Bend area. The BC Hydro railway stopped running trains in 1985.

We didn't go to the local school because me and my brother were in French Immersion, so we never walked to school. Went to Marlborough Elementary which was an 8-10 minute drive from our house, then to Moscrop junior high for grades 8-10, and then Burnaby Central for grades 11-12.

I got rides to Moscrop and Central, and took the bus home. Both schools were down in Burnaby's central valley, and driving time to both was 10-15 minutes. bus ride home was between 45 minutes and an hour and 20 minutes.

Our neighbourhood was all families of European background, with two exceptions. When I was two, an Indigenous girl my age, and her divorced non-indigenous mothe moved into the neigbourhood for two years. Then when I was 11, as south asian family bought the house across the street from us. They had two daughters, one who was ten, and one who was eight.

Ethnic diversity in our class at school was three chinese kids and one south asian kid, the rest being various European ethnicities. Numbers in the class dwindled from 30 in grade 1 to 15 in grade 7.

Ethnic diversity was higher in high school, as it had been in the English stream in elementary school. There was a significant increase in ESL chinese students over the course of high school, owing to the influx of immigrants from Hong Kong in advance of the 1997 handover to China.

Almost all of my parents friends were of British or other North European background. The one exception was the couple who became my god-parents. She was British, but he was from Trinidad; they became the god-parents because they played an unitentional role in how my parents met, and because my parents liked the idea of us having a black god-father.

Our family has a one room cabin on waterfront property on the Sunshine Coast. We spent a good ammount of time there over the years. For several summers we went on two week camping trips in Western Canada. There was one summer camp I went to for several years where the ethinc makeup was almost all European and a lot of the kids were from higher income areas like West Vancouver.

Mom stopped working after I was born to become a stay at home mom, though she would often comment that this was unusual in her generation. She had me and my brother in various individual sports and music programs and lessons while we were growing up, so we were kept fairly busy much of the time.

My parents also took us on a lot of outings. We went to Stanley Park on many occasions, as well as many other parks in Greater Vancouver. We had seasons passes to the Vancouver Aquqarium and Science World for many years. Went to a number of Broadway musicals while growing up, plus other classical music concerts.

We got a tv when I was four. Initially our parents restricted us to watching CBC, Knowledge Network, and PBS. At age eight we were allowed to watch weekend morning cartoons, and then at age 10 we were allowed to watch other tv. Listened to a lot of CBC radio in the car and at the cabin. When we got a portable radio cassette player I started listening to Canucks hockey games and rock radio.

Watched movies at friends houses, and at home. Went to the summer kids feature at the Gibsons movie theatre on the Sunshine Coast for several years. Started going to the movie theatres in Burnaby at age 12. Movies included Disney and other kids movies, Batman movies, Star Trek Movies, monster movies, Jurassic Park, Star Wars Trilogy, ect.

The music I listened to as a young kid was my Dad's folk music records, plus kids records that Mom bought for me. Got introduced to a lot of pop and rap music during my pre-teen years, but did not buy. Listened to tapes of 70s and 80s broadway musicals my Mom bought. In high school I listened to grunge, post-grunge, and punk, plus the Beatles. Was big on bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Green Day. A sizable chunk of the kids in high school listened exclusively to gangsta rap. Started buying cds in high school.

Clothes as a young kid were mostly corduroy pants, polo shirts, and sweatshirts. Then came the fluorescent craze, during which I wore fluorescent t-shirts and a fluorescent jacket, as well as black and grey sweatshirts and sweatpants. During my teenage years I wore wide leg levis jeans, plaid shirts, and black t-shirts. Clothes shopping was initially at Sears, and then after the Metrotown development, also Woodwards, Eatons, and other stores in the mall.

Food was a lot of meat and potatoes, chicken and rice, macaroni, spaghetti, mexican, hamburgers and hot dogs. Frequented restaurants included White Spot and McDonalds. There was a chinese takeout place in south Burnaby that we ordered from several times in the early years before they closed. For several years we went once a year for chinese food in Chinatown.