Baseball. Bicycles. Paper routes. Snow forts. TV back in the day when there were only a few channels. Craig Daliessio writes lovingly of all these things in his charming memoir of growing up in the ’60s and ’70s in a close-knit neighborhood in Philadelphia, Remembering America: Looking Back at the Last Innocent Age.
Why the last innocent age? Because it was still a time when a family could, as Daliessio’s did, move into a small house in a middle-class neighborhood,stay there for 15 years, and keep the same neighbors for that entire time. Kids could stay out all day long and play out of sight of their parents and nobody worried because everyone looked out for everyone else. There were real communities and people helped each other out.
No one was afraid of strangers and they didn’t have to be, at least where Daliessio lived in those years. Obviously, it was not an innocent age for everyone everywhere, but this is one man’s memory and it is a delightful one. Even though the ’60s in particular were turbulent years for the country as a whole, being born in ’64 allowed him to be untouched by all that on a personal level.
To understand the faint strain of disillusionment mixed with Daliessio’s fond memories, his fear that permanent friendships are a thing of the past that his daughter will never experience, it helps to know a bit of his back story. In the beginning of the book he explains that he was homeless for five years prior to publishing this book. His Amazon biography explains further that after his very successful career in the mortgage business collapsed, he chose to stay in Nashville to be near his daughter and be the devoted father he had been even though he and her mother were divorced early in her life. He could not find work there so he got his Bachelor’s in Religion from Liberty College and started seminary studies, wrote three books and two blogs, all while living in his car.
This same mix of determination, optimism, and discouragement about the future seeps into the book, but it in no way diminishes the pure pleasure of Daliessio’s childhood memories. Whether he’s talking about Buster Brown shoes and corduroy pants and school, or the long days of playing ball and making tree forts in the summer or sledding in the winter, Daliessio and his friends do seem to have idyllic childhoods and teen years with very little strife or stress more serious than waiting for his dad to finish hogging the one bathroom in the mornings.
Some of these memories will ring true with anyone who was around and young in that time period, like those of TV shows like The Carol Burnett Show and listening to AM on transistor radio and forming close ties with best friends. Many will have you laughing and shaking you head, wondering how kids ever survived in those less restricted times which were really not that long ago.
Get this book. It is a quick read and you will enjoy sharing Daliessio’s childhood vicariously. It is sure to get you reminiscing about some of the enjoyable parts of your own.