Recalling The Good Old Days

The strange thing, most people who survived “the good old days” agree, is that while we were terribly deprived by modern standards, everyone seemed relatively content with life.

Younger folks – those under, say, 30 – have difficulty believing that. Some of them don’t understand there was a time when no one had ever heard of such a thing as a cell phone.

But there was. Sadly, the era is not considered a priority in high school history classes. So, as part of the newspaper’s educational function, here’s a primer on that time of technological backwardness:

– Back then we listened to music on record players, being careful not to let the needles scratch the vinyl. Television had black-and-white pictures. If you wanted to change the channel or the volume, you stood up, walked over to the set, and used dials on it. Most of us had two – no more than four or five on a good day for reception – channels from which to choose.

– Cars sometimes came with carburetor chokes that had to be set correctly to start the engine. Most cars had bench seats in the front. Some had manual transmissions with three forward gears. Shift levers were on the steering column.

– And we coped with flat tires. Just about everyone knew how to use a jack to get the flat tire off the ground and change it. Now, many new cars don’t even come with spare tires, just cans of a compound that will temporarily seal holes and reinflate tires.

– But gasoline could be bought for – brace yourselves, kids – 25 cents a gallon. Once, I remember the attendant at the service station where we teenagers hung out urging us to “come look at this!” A customer with dual fuel tanks on his truck was at the pumps. He was about to pay for ten dollars’ worth of gasoline.

– Lawn work was, well, work. Manual mowers with sharpened reels were used. When you pushed them, the reel turned and cut the grass. There were no electric hedge trimmers or gasoline string trimmers.

– Life was similarly primitive in the kitchen. “Dish washer” was two words, and it meant the person who filled a sink with soapy water and scrubbed dishes, silverware, cups and glasses by hand. Don’t even ask about pots and pans.

– Microwave ovens had not been invented. Convenience food was limited to “TV dinners” that came frozen and had to be heated in an oven. It took, as I recall, half an hour or more.

– Stores were limited to what most young people would consider spartan selections of food. For example, two or three varieties of apples might be for sale. Pineapple was purchased in cans.

– Men’s dress shoes, except for Hushpuppies, had leather soles and heels.

– Women’s fingernails were, well, fingernails.

– Carpenters drove nails with an ancient implement called a “hammer.”

– Air conditioning consisted of a small electric fan.

– Most of us learned to type on manual typewriters. Try 40 words a minute on one of those – if you can find it – today.

Again, as hard as it may be for younger folks to believe, most people seemed happy. Of course, so did the cave dwellers, to judge by the archaeological evidence.

Myer can be reached at: