The people who do not know my old friend Professor Van Von Venn would consider him a stranger. Coincidentally, the people who do know him consider him even stranger.

I usually try to avoid the professor, but as I was walking down the street, I was preoccupied trying to remember the words of the "My Mother the Car" theme song. Deep in thought, it took me a few moments to realize that a bright, sunny day had suddenly become very dark. It was either the end of the world or the Volkswagen-sized Professor Von Venn was standing between me and the sun.

Just my luck! It was the professor.

It seems that he had spent the last six months in the research laboratory at Northeast South Dakota State College, which, oddly enough, is located in Wewanta, W.Va.

However, one of the researchers left Von Venn's cage unlocked and the professor escaped.

The professor explained that he had spent those six months trying to figure out how baby boomers survived their younger years without the advantages young people of today have.

It was a very hot day and the professor did provide quite a bit of shade, so I stuck around to listen to what he had to say.

"How did the kids of the '50s and '60s survive all those germs?" Von Venn ventured. "They were virtually defenseless against those invisible little buggers?

"The youths of today are sterile enough to perform surgery due to the many sanitizing products available. Just about anywhere they go, there is hand sanitizer and, if there isn't, the kids generally carry their own.

"A half-century or so ago, hand washing was done with soap and water, and only under the direct order of Mom or Dad. Generally, this occurred only at mealtimes.

"If a kid's hands were particularly dirty and grimy, there was usually only one option - Lava. This soap contained pumice and was capable of sanding the dirt off little hands."

Von Venn asked if he could continue and I washed my hands of the whole thing.

"Beverages and germs were two other disadvantages baby boomers did not realize at the time. Today's youngsters carry their own beverages - whether it's a bottle of water or a gallon of iced tea.

"Back then, it was a common practice for little guys to pool their money and buy soda by the quart. This would be shared by taking a swig or two, wiping off the mouth of the bottle and passing it on to the next kid.

"This would not have been sanitary even if the soda sharers had washed their lips with Lava before and after they drank.

"When baby boomers played games or just ran around haphazardly, there were not many thirst-quenching options. There was the aforementioned soda, water and an occasional glass of Kool-Aid.

"Sports drinks and bottled water were still years away. If someone had mentioned 'Gatorade,' the kids would have thought it was a charity to help large reptiles in Florida swamps.

"Air conditioning is in just about every place today, but back then kids had to sweat their way through summer. Of course, so did everybody else.

"About the only places a kid could cool off were swimming pools, the frozen-food section of grocery stores and in soda coolers at local garages and grocery stores.

"There wasn't a soda machine on every corner as there is today. Most small towns had even fewer soda machines than they had traffic lights.

"Much more common then were old coolers in which ice was used to chill the soda bottles. Most store or garage owners took a dim view of finding kids floating among the sodas trying to keep cool.

"At night, kids and their parents stayed out on front porches as long as possible because they knew blast-furnace-type heat awaited them when they went upstairs to bed.

"If you were among the few kids with a fan in your room, all you got was recycled hot air - sort of like reruns of political speeches.

"Baby boomers also had much more limited communications options. Even if there had been portable telephones back then, they would have been so big that no kid would have been able to lift one.

"It's a wonder how kids were able to get by without having a phone and/or portable computer with them every moment of the day.

"There were only two ways youngsters could call a friend after leaving home. There was a primitive device known as a pay phone booth that has since become extinct.

"The other way was to go to the house of the kid you wanted to see and then yell as loudly as possible, 'Yo, Alphonsus! Yo, Alphonsus!'

"Baby boomers grew up without computers, texting, CDs, MP3s and DVDs. Back then, movie theaters had bigger screens than homes did.

"They also grew up without excessive fears about germs, concerns about the need for a constant intake of fluids, worries about keeping cool and the necessity of taking a phone with them.

"But the baby boomers frequently had something that is often missed by the kids of today with all of their technology - fun."

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)