So many things have changed radically in my lifetime. I never wanted to be one of those oldsters who feels compelled to tell the younger generations how much more difficult life was back in the day, but it’s getting harder and harder to resist…
I’m going to burst…
When I was your age…
- We called # a number sign.
- We dropped off our film (twelve shots to the roll) at a camera store for developing and returned a week later to pick up our photo prints.
- Only airplanes had seat belts, not cars.
- It was a huge deal and a pleasure to fly anywhere. You got your ticket from a travel agent, and they gave you a free carry-on bag with the airline’s logo on it. At the airport, you got shuttled to the plane in a bus, and you climbed up a tall stairway to get in and out of the plane (kind of like the President does). You wore your best suit or dress for the flight, and they served you a delicious hot meal—included in the price of your ticket. And you weren’t crowded in like sardines in a can.
- When we wanted to make a phone call, we picked up the receiver and told the operator what phone number we wanted. You had to be in your house to receive a call, or if you were lucky, maybe someone else in your family would take a message for you. There was no such thing as voice mail or an answering machine.
- Pay phones could be found in high school lobbies and on every corner downtown. We’d put a dime in the slot and call our parents to tell them why we’d be late getting home.
- When we had to write a report for school, it meant multiple trips to the library to peruse the encyclopedia and other reference books. We took notes by hand on index cards (no photocopiers), summarized everything in our own words, and then either wrote it out longhand on loose-leaf paper (up to grade 8) or typed it with a manual typewriter (high school and college).
- We were expected to take excellent care of our schoolbooks so that they could be reused for decades. We were required to cut up brown paper grocery bags and use them to make book covers. We all became extremely adept at this process.
- We knew how much a first class postage stamp cost, and it was five cents. It also had glue on the back. You activated it by licking it, and then you stuck it on the envelope.
- I had pen pals in other towns and other countries. I regularly wrote them letters by hand, asking them about their lives and telling them about mine. I sent them by snail mail, and depending on how far they had to go (one of my pen pals lived in Malaysia), it might take up to three weeks to get there. Then I waited for their replies, and the process started over again.
- We sent handwritten thank-you notes for gifts.
- All the stores were closed on Sundays. Where the stores advertised their hours, next to Sunday it read: Closed—see you in church.
- Women wore hats, dresses, and gloves to church on Sunday.
- A candy bar cost a nickel. If you only had a penny, you could buy a jawbreaker, a sleeve of Smarties®, or a gumball. What can you buy for a single coin today?
- We couldn’t make a right turn at a red light. It was against the law.
- A group of us teenagers would pool all our money, come up with fifty cents, buy a gallon of gas, and drive around town all afternoon.
- The milkman made regular home deliveries to an insulated box on your back porch. He’d leave a bill, and you’d put your payment in an envelope sticking out of the washed, empty glass milk bottle when it was empty, and leave it in the milk box.
- Milk was non-homogenized. That means the cream rose to the top of the bottle rather than being distributed throughout the milk.
- If a high school student had a car, it was an old junker, something he could afford to buy from the $2.50 per hour he earned at his part-time job. Or if his parents gave him a car, it would be their old car, certainly not a brand new one that cost the equivalent of a year of college tuition.
- If you were too sick to go to the doctor’s office, he’d come to your house, carrying his stethoscope and syringe and other medical supplies in a little black leather case.
- Nurses wore white uniform dresses, white stockings, and a white cap.
- We had a volunteer fire department and a volunteer first aid squad. When the siren blew, the volunteers would drop what they were doing and head to the station to respond. If I was playing somewhere in the neighborhood, I had to run home when the siren blew so my mother could see I hadn’t been hit by a car.
- When we watched a movie in school, a member of the Audio Video Club wheeled in a projector on a cart and threaded the movie film through it.
- We played outside for hours and wandered the neighborhood unsupervised and unprotected. However, if you did something you shouldn’t, you could be sure some adult would call your parents.
- A TV was a piece of furniture, and the shows were in black and white.
- We bought music on vinyl records. You could buy two songs on a “single” or “45” (so named for the number of revolutions per minute required to play it), or an album on an “LP” or long-playing record. You could stack multiple records on the spindle of your record player, but you had to have a special adapter to accommodate the wide holes in the center of the 45s.
- You couldn’t record music on your own, unless you had a reel-to-reel tape recorder.
- When we went on a road trip, we stopped at the gas station and went inside the office to pick out free road maps to determine our route. The person who rode shotgun had to direct the driver where to go. The maps were challenging to fold, and the state route number you needed usually lay right on the fold, and got too worn to read.
- There was no such thing as a photocopier machine, so if teachers needed multiple copies of a worksheet, they used spirit masters (either commercial or make-it-yourself). Spirit masters had a reverse image that was activated by a special fluid (with a distinct alcohol-like odor and was later discovered to be carcinogenic) that generated up to 100 copies—in purple.
- My first teaching job (in 1974) paid $9,000 per year.
I could go on and on, but why should I have all the fun? What has changed since your childhood? Share in the comments below.