Kevin Greene, a developer, tells the Untold Stories Project that technology makes things faster for us.
“The kids today are stuck in this era, and a lot of the parents are, also… The kids don’t get out and do the activities that we did…”
Kenneth (Kenny) Ladner was born December 19, 1947 in Bay St. Louis, MS. He’s lived in Mississippi for most of his life, except a seven year time in Texas. He grew up on a farm, with what today might seem very little. Everything that they had to eat was from off that farm – vegetables, meat, even syrup. While it may seem to an outsider that he didn’t have a childhood due to the need of tending the gardens and livestock, he notes that it was a good childhood. They accepted their duties, and certainly made games from it, including pecan nut wars (hurling the nuts at each other).
Kenny loved to fish, but not with a pole and line like many kids learn today. When he was little, his grandfather made him a cast net, and that is how Ken learned to fish. It was his favorite thing to do. As he looks at today’s youth, he sees them so taken with technology that they are missing the physical and outdoor activities that Ken and his peers experienced. This to the degree that he worked alongside a Native American of the Coushatta tribe aged about 28 in Texas. They hunted and fished together, and one day Ken asked him about a tree he didn’t recognize, and the young man didn’t know. Here is the full story:
Kenny now works as a site manager for Habitat for Humanity in the Mississippi Gulf Area. Following Hurricane Katrina, many young volunteers visited the Gulf from all over the United States (and world) in order to show support and aid the recovery. Working with so many young people, Kenny began noticing a change in work ethic between the generations. To Kenny, when you’re handed a task, you get it done, then return for more until your work day is done. He’s not seeing that as regularly with the youth he’s in contact with:
Kenny worries about the general population and their ability to care for their own homes, or to get tasks done with their own hands. Many of the tasks he takes care of at Habitat are easily accomplished without hiring a specialist. Things like painting a wall, using a screw driver to correct a loose nob, or caulk a crack between the window and wall are all very simple items that don’t need to hired out for $100 / hour. But many people do hire such simple tasks out because they’ve become so removed from using their hands.
Taking it a step further, Kenny sees many young people that don’t know how to plant a seed, let alone grow something. One can grow enough food to feed an entire home in a few square feet, but they don’t realize it. Kenny has helped vegetable gardens in his community, and is happy to do it.
“My youngest daughter would rather text me than had pick up the phone and talk to me for five minutes.” Kenny can feel a gap in communication, both in his family and in the public due to technology. But he also recognizes that technology bolsters our abilities greatly. He used the example of the CB Radio, that the network of civilians and police men are able to catch a criminal on the loose much faster than just police would have.
I always give my interviewees the chance to say final words on any subject of their choosing. Kenny chose to speak to drugs and prejudice. He worries that alcohol and drugs will be responsible for bringing America to its knees, just in the same way it did to the Native Americans. With regards to prejudice, he says it best:
I still remember hearing an NPR story last year that stated new generations won’t know what a telephone pole is. It boggled my mind. I guess I was still living in some kind of retro bliss with my record player, type writer, and antique books. The more I learn, the more nervous I become. Today I’ll attempt to make light of the future by placing a bet – I bet your children haven’t heard these sounds. Try playing some for them, and see if you can find the generational dividing line.
1. Type Writer Keys
Type writers were ubiquitous by the 1960’s. They were in every office, and were the number one method for written communication. Even calling cards (that’s another thing kids won’t know about) were typed out, first. After experiencing a friend’s kid trying to use my type writer, I can confidently state they are way different than a keyboard to use.
2. Dial Tone
But seriously, when was the last time YOU heard a dial tone? Have you picked up a pay phone, recently? Have you even SEEN a pay phone, recently? Are they even still in use in prisons? I used to use them at school when I was a teen, but only see them as novelties anymore. Most young homes don’t have land lines, and that’s the most likely way one would hear this sound. What do your kids think when they hear it?
3. Dial Up Modem
Do you remember how LONG it would take to get online? And all those weird noises that were supposed to be the computers talking to each other? If the machines take over, they’ll talk like that, apparently. There was no flip of the switch, no opening your laptop and being already connected, and the internet was slow. If you tell your kids this is the sound of computers talking, how do they react?
4. Record Static
I’ll bet your kids don’t know much about record players. Especially that the really fancy ones had a changer so you wouldn’t have to get up and change the record yourself after one side played. But if you didn’t have one, the player would deliver the static of the needle against the paper center until you got up. Do you even remember this sound?
5. Film Projector
This sound (and thing) is so old, it was next to impossible to find a quality image and sound reel to go with it! I think I’ve seen a reel film video once. Have you? I’m very sure your kids haven’t, either. But the sound of the film going round and round is classic to the point of still being used in some movie clips, today. Do they recognize it?
Do you think it matters that these sounds are going away? Should our kids have at least some contact with these things, or some context for understanding them?
“She said, ‘I don’t know if that’s legal or not,’ [about the wringer washer]… I don’t know if she’d ever seen one.”
Adrienne is the grandmother of my friend, and that is how we got connected. During her interview, she showed great concern for our diminishing communities. Is it because of technology?
“Now, why would I want to put my life on Facebook so it could go viral?”
Ray Green lives in the suburbs of Detroit, and is a serial entrepreneur (like me!). He used a lot of technology in his offices, but still fears it. Hear Ray discuss growing up in the Bronx during the Great Depression and his fear of Facebook.