Ernie Sochin is best known as the vice mayor of the Town of Cutler Bay and as a columnist for the Cutler Bay News, but he is now also an author. His new book, When I Was Your Age…, explores things from the not-so-distant past that are virtually unknown to the modern generation.
Using his natural skill as a raconteur, Sochin vividly describes things that were everyday items or occurrences when he was growing up, complete with color photos to illustrate each topic.
The idea for the book came about in an unexpected way.
“I always get invited to speak to the different schools, and I realized that they live in such a different generation that they don’t even know or appreciate half the things that I had as a kid,” Sochin said.
“The last trip I took to Hawaii, I went to Pearl Harbor and naturally I was so excited about it I came back and I told these kids that I just got back from Pearl Harbor. They looked at each other and they thought I could have gone to the beach or something. I asked them ‘do you know about Pearl Harbor?’ and not one kid in the class knew it. And these were like sixth and seventh graders.”
He also discovered that most youngsters had never heard of a dial phone or a party line, or even knew what a typewriter was. There were other things as well.
“I was born in 1936, so my growing up years were during World War II,” Sochin said. “Every kid my age grew up that way. One of the things we used to do as kids was find old chewing gum or cigarette wrappers that had that silver foil on it, we’d take it home and soak it so that the paper could be removed, and if you made it into a big enough ball you could get into the movie for free. We saved old tin cans and pots and pans. It was part of the war effort.”
There were ration stamps, too, he said. If his mother wanted to buy milk or eggs there were little stamps that allowed her to buy so many and no more. For gasoline there was a little sticker in car windows that told you how many gallons a week you were allowed to buy.
“I thought, I’ve got to put all this stuff in writing so maybe some of the youngsters will appreciate it,” Sochin said. “I know the old timers will. One of the things in the book is about when we used to have coal delivered to our house. The guys would carry a big sack of it back and dump it through the cellar window into the coal bin and then my father and I would go out and shovel the coal.
Can you imagine explaining that to seventh or eighth graders in Miami? They’ve never even seen a coal furnace. The more of these things I thought about I realized that I could actually make a book out of all these things, and that’s just what I did.”
It took him about a year to put it together, but he said that was the easiest part. The editing was difficult, and he also had a number of pictures that he wanted to include in the book and he had to get permission to use each one. The book seems to be striking a chord.
“It’s working on both ends,” Sochin said. “The kids are fascinated by it and the old folks say, ‘Oh, yeah, I remember that.’ So far, I’m having really good response to it. I have a book signing at Books and Books in Coral Gables the 25th of September, and another one at Deering Bay shortly after that.