While taking a shower this morning, something popped into my tiny Duke head from way out in left field. Something to do with the 3 Stooges. Go figure.
In an episode I saw a year or so ago, Moe, Larry and Curly (or was it Shemp?) were running some kind of store. I think it was a general store, where they sold a little of everything. And apparently they owned it, which triggers a lot of unrelated questions…
Anyway, a woman came in and said she needed to purchase a light bulb. And the thing was shockingly expensive; I can’t remember the price, but it was way more than they cost now, without even taking inflation into account.
And before she paid, um, Moe, he screwed the thing into a light socket built into the top of the checkout counter, just to make sure it worked.
None of this was part of the comedy, it was apparently just the reality of light bulb-buying in the ’30s and ’40s. I guess they were so unreliable, and expensive, stores provided a place where you could test them in advance.
It’s one of those things that people probably didn’t even question or contemplate, which have become extinct over time.
So, while working the shampoo into a lather, careful not to disturb the wasp-built skin raisin on the back of my head, I tried to come up with things that were common when I was but an ugly youngster, which have now gone away.
And here’s what I came up with:
Taking your Coke bottles back for a deposit. That’s what we called it: Coke. It didn’t matter if it was Dr. Pepper or 7UP, and this led people to say things like, “Mountain Dew is my favorite kind of Coke.”
But I’m already getting off the subject…
Every grocery store had a sticky playpen-type thing right inside the front door, where people would put their “empties.” Some of the more fancy-pants places had an empties steward, who would issue you a receipt, but usually it was just done on the honor system.
When you purchased more sodas, in heavy-ass glass eight-packs, the cashier would say, “Did you bring in your bottles?” Then they’d knock forty cents, or whatever, off the price of your new “Cokes.”
And if you didn’t bring your empties, you’d have to pay a deposit on the reusable bottles.
Since empty bottles were worth a nickel each, which was a lot of money to a kid in 1972, we all scavenged for them. Put in a little effort, and you could keep yourself in bubble gum through bottle deposits alone. Oh, it was a genuine cottage industry…
Neighbors sharing a party line. My grandmother, who lived across the street from us, shared a line with two or three other houses when I was young. Can you imagine?
I remember picking up the receiver once, to call my mother at her job, and a fat teenager from two doors down was on there yammering to one of her friends. My grandmother said, “Oh, she usually doesn’t stay on very long. Just try it again in a few minutes.”
The whole thing seems bizarre to me now.
Letting the TV warm-up. Back when televisions had big ol’ tubes in them, we’d have to allow time for them to “warm up.” This was part of the TV-watching experience: “Jeff, if you want to watch Rat Patrol tonight, you’d better turn the TV on, so it can start warming up…” Heh.
Also, when you turned it off, there was a tiny white dot in the middle of the screen for a minute or so. My brother and I would put our thumb over it, then take it away to see if the dot had disappeared yet. And my mother or grandmother would yell at us, “Quit getting fingerprints all over the TV screen! Who cares about the dot?! Just don’t worry about that dot!”
Adjusting the aerial. Every house in the ’60s and ’70s had an eyesore conglomeration of aluminum attached to its roof, which was designed to improve TV reception during that pre-cable era.
My grandfather, never satisfied with the picture, was all the time leaning a ladder against the house and climbing onto the roof to adjust the antennae. Or, as he called it, the “aerial.”
This always made me nervous, because my grandfather wasn’t a young man, and I didn’t see why a person would risk their life just so they could get Flipper crystal-clear. But whatever.
Price stickers in stores. As weird as it now seems, stores used to put prices right on their merchandise. Indeed, when I worked at a grocery store after high school, we’d have to hit everything with a price gun before putting it on the shelf.
There were no scanners, just small pieces of paper stuck to the side of everything, with the cost printed on them. Crazy.
I hate to admit it, but we used to switch stickers at a local discount store, on LPs. I remember buying a copy of Exile On Main Street, a double album, with a sticker off a bottle of Body on Tap or something. The key, you see, was to identify a cashier who either a) didn’t have a clue, or b) didn’t give a single dingle.
One time Rocky and I were trying that particular scam, at the same store, and some Baby Huey dancing bear poofter brought the hammer down on us. We had to make a run for it. Not my proudest moment…
Would you like your carbons? Back in the day, before fancy-pants approval systems were perfected, credit cards were a huge pain in the ass. You’d have to take the customer’s card, attach it to an apparatus, lay a form across it and slide a big handle back and forth to make a rubbing of the numbers.
Then you’d have to pull out a booklet, which was updated every couple of weeks, and check to make sure the card hadn’t been stolen or the person’s account wasn’t closed. Or, as we did at Peaches Records, we’d have to call the credit card company and get an approval code over the phone.
The whole process could take five minutes or more. It was a real ball-masher.
Plus, the form had carbon paper in the middle of it, and paranoid customers always wanted to take it with them. You know, so someone couldn’t dig the carbons out of a dumpster, and create a duplicate card with it.
I instantly disliked people who requested their carbons, because they were all doucheketeers. They usually acted like they were a little smarter than everybody else; there was a certain smugness to the carbon-folk.
Making soda tab chains. When I was a youngling the tabs off a can of soda, or beer I suppose, would actually pull all the way off. Consequently, the entire Earth was littered with pull-tabs.
So, kids used to collect them, and link them together to make a chain. I remember camping somewhere, probably Myrtle Beach, and some people we didn’t know made the world’s longest soda tab chain. I mean, that shit stretched an entire city block!
But, of course, that was all ruined when do-gooders forced soda and beer manufacturers to start using the current style of tabs, which stay attached to the can. Wotta rip-off.
And speaking of littering… Is my mind playing tricks on me, or did everyone just throw their trash out car windows during the ’60 and ’70s? I can remember people driving down Dunbar Avenue and, without thinking twice about it, slinging a whole sack of saucy Dairy Queen garbage through the passenger-side window.
What the hell? How was that ever acceptable? It makes me laugh, just thinking about it.
And now it’s your turn… I need to go to work, so you guys can take it from here. What things were once common parts of our everyday lives, and are now completely gone? Use the comments link.
And I’ll see ya tomorrow.
Think about how many people today attach a cc to an e-mail without realizing it stands for: carbon copy!
When i was a kid (back in 1863) before colour T.V’s you could buy a plastic cover for the screen blue on top green in the middle and brown on the bottom so it was almost colour!
karen k says
i remember all those things… and
gas rationing …
Smokey the Bear for fires and the commercial with the crying Indian looking at the garbage/trash?
CB radio’s -EVERYONE had aone, their own ‘handle’-not just for the truckers (can we say CONVOY:) and today – can you see it? CB’s would cause ROAD RAGE galor now – days…can you imagine if everyone today had one in their car – like if you knew the cell phone number of the guy that just cut you off? You just pick up the mic and start slining insults? It would be crazy. The FCC would ban them! lol
Going for hours in the woods climbing trees and building forts and the parents didn’t need to worry that you were going to end up on a milk carton? (oops, they were still bottles then:)
Actually playing outside VS online (didn’t even have ping pong video til I was a teen – we actually played on a REAL table hehe!)
EXXON – put a tiger in your tank….
Gas was all leaded
Cars were cool
The screen door slamming (with each one having a particular ‘beat’ when landing against the frame)
Thanks for the trip down memory lane 🙂
Oh to be a kid again! such great times. Curfew was the setting sun and neighbors would smack your bottom if you did some thing wrong at their house. The ICE CREAM MAN !! driving down the road, Saturday morning cartoons started at 6am and would go till 10 and you would play all day outside. hanging from trees, riding double on your bike without head, elbow and knee gear!
And I am one of the younger reader of the WVSR.
No one mentioned the Beta the machine that went up against the VCR and lost.
ms. barbara jane says
Check out this Canadian Ad. It just came on the TV and I thought of this post. Enjoy!
The Frito Bandito
I can remember when the Baker (bread delivery), Milk man, Butcher, and soda delivery were all standard delivered at home! Plus the green stamps, I still have a sleeping bag from the green stamps.
I remember party lines and still have a bit of rage inside of me because of them. We were on the same line as these two old ladies, they were sisters that lived in the same house. They would NEVER hang their phone up. Seriously.
They would sit the phone “handle” beside the base when they were done talking. Every evening, my mom or dad would have to walk over to their house, knock on the door and ask them to please hang up their phone.
I don’t know if they just wanted the couple minutes of company, or if they were just old hags that liked to piss people off.
You mentioned renting the rotary phone and exchangin it when it broke–thing is, those things NEVER broke. Ours weighed about 40-pounds and if you picked it up you could pound holes in your asbestos lined walls with it and still make a call.
I also recall the pop bottles–which we would literally collect from the side of the road, and before they were made extinct, the refund jumped up to a dime a piece.
I remember in MIDDLE school, you could smoke if you had a note from your parents. I also remember you could bring your gun to school if you’d been hunting in the morning before arrival–you simply had to check the firearm in for storage in the principal’s office.
Good ole days–gone forever.
Uncle Buzz in Wheeling says
You are showing your Southern roots – soda?
Soda is bicarbonate of soda, what the oldsters used to take as an antacid. (I’m on ranitidine, myself.)
Anyways, up here we call Coke, Pepsi, etc. *pop*.
Soda is an inaccurate, southern term for pop. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain this to the unenlightened.
Must be a southern affliction. By southern, I mean anywhere south of, say, New Martinsville.
Meditation: it’s not what you think.
OK here goes…
Restaurants served ice water to everyone, but no free refills on soda. My Dad would make us drink the water first and we couldn’t touch the soda until our meal got to the table.
We drank Kool-Aid that our mother brought into existence in a glass pitcher. It had cane sugar from a paper bag. The only plastic involved were the re-usable plastic tumblers we drank it out of.
If a toy broke we did our best to fix it. My brother had a box of “G.I.Joe” parts. All of the arms, legs, heads, chests and “underwears” (if you had little G.I. Joe, you know what I’m talking about) all donated from other fallen soldiers whenever another guy would get injured we’d disassemble him and replace his broken part with one as close to the original as we could find in the box.
Even though we had plenty of money, I didn’t always get everything I wanted for Christmas.
Easter was the day you got new church clothes, not another “toy-buying” holiday.
My freshman year of high school kids who were old enough to buy cigarettes got a “smoke break” out side on the lawn. It was banished the next year though.
Most of the FFA or hard core red necks had gun racks in their trucks with guns in them. We even had a kid show up with a shotgun to “kill” one of our teachers. Said teacher dis-armed said kid, and kicked his ass right then and there. The authorities were alerted and the kid was arrested, nothing was said to the teacher.
When I was a kid there was no such thing as a heat index. If the football coach saw lightening he would turn his back to that cloud and tell us to keep practicing that he “didn’t see nothing.”
Gas was really expensive and cars got terrible gas mileage, oh wait was that 1977 or 2007?? Who can tell they’re so similar, and it all starts running together after a while.
Shiny Rod says
Uncle Buzz -damn you yankees
Son of Sam says
Brillcream..a little dab’oldoya.
Wow, almost everything was mentioned . . . mercurochrome, testing vacuum tubes, milk delivery, mimeographs (mmmm), rotary phones, gas rationing, full service gas station,
How about . . .
. . . paying a dime to use a public bathroom. My mom and grandma would make one of us smaller ones crawl underneath the stall door and open it.
. . . tissue paper for AirMail letters. We had relatives in Mexico and Peru and my parents would type letters on this very, very, thin paper to save on postage. My dad would make a “carbon copy” of the letter he wrote. WHY???
. . . going door-to-door collecting subscription money for the local paper.
. . . learning Apple Basic programming in 1980. Yikes!!
Ahh, the memories. And, this is only from the 60’s forward
Bill in WV says
I can still remember, when I was a kid, when you needed a bag of ice, you would pull up to good ‘ol North Pole Ice, tell the guy what you wanted, then he would go back into the place, come back out with a giant block of ice on a couple of hooks and throw it into a crusher which fed into a plastic bag. I used to LOVE watching that kinda stuff.
Ben K says
My Dad had a job as a milkman for a while when I was a kid, then he got promoted to driving a big truck to deliver to schools/hospitals/etc. As I remember, it was one of those old Mack (?) semis that had the dual shifters.
I also remember my first computer class (junior year in high school), learning basic on an Apple. No mouse, no hard drive, my final project was different colored dots that would fly up and explode like fireworks on the screen. Sort of.
We used to go an old school barber shop
(not Super/Great/Clips/Cuts) and they had three chairs and Playboy magazines. We would thumb through them while waiting for our buzzcut. Nobody said “BOO” to a seven year old checking out Miss November and pitchin’ a tent. And then you got two pieces of Bazooka bubblegum when you were through.
Gas stations used to have stacks of Coke in glass bottles sitting out as displays. Sometimes they got too hot in the sun and would go off like a bomb…acid soaked shrapnel everywhere…awesome.
What about Speedy Gonzales…he was politically incorrect but funny as hell.
I miss the REAL Slug Bug game where you got to punch the crap out of your brother whenver you saw a VW Beetle.
And I miss my green Schwinn Sting Ray. I could get that thing flyin’ and then hit the coaster brake and skid that slick back tire for 40 feet.
Knowing it was time to go outside and play on Saturday mornings as soon as Soul Train came on! Then staying outside ALL DAY until a) the street light came on or b) we heard Dad whistle for us. Crawdad fishin’ in the creek behind our house. Riding mini-bikes all over the neighborhood…with no helmets! Riding on the “back dash” of our giant car, or on the tailgate of Dad’s truck with our feet dangling off. It’s a wonder any of us survived!
When I was about 7 or 8 I would spend Saturdays running errands with my dad (I found out later this was just an excuse for my dad to get out of the house go bar hopping on a Saturday morning!). We’d usually go to auto parts stores in East Wheeling. He’d buy me a 25cent 10 ounce coke – in a bottle from one of those machines where you opened the little skinny door on the right and pull the coke bottle out of the hole. Of course, there was a deposit on the bottles so I had to drink it before we left the store! He’d spend time waiting for me just sitting on the stool at the auto parts store and look through the car manuals (he was a mechanic).
Then, he would actually take me into the bars (along 29th street in Wheeling – I think the Silver Rail). I’d get to sit right at the bar and drink a coke and have beer nuts while he had beers. No one even cared!!
But then we were busted…we were driving past the bar returning from my grandma’s in McMechan and I informed the family (8 of us crammed into a station wagon -complete with a back window covered in stickers of states we’d visited, and no seat belts because my dad tore them all out) that I’d been in the Silver Rail with dad!! No more barhopping on Saturday mornings 🙁
For a while a schoolfriend worked retail and had a great little scam going with those credit card carbons. He made/stole a lot of money, before he went to jail for it.
Oral Roberts says
ooey gooey, rich and chewy inside
that’s right, take a bite
tender golden flakey on the outside
Your darn tootin
It’s a big fig Newton
It’s a big, fig, Newton.
Aye, aye, aye aye
I am the Frito Bandito
You give me your corn chips and I’ll be your friend
The Frito Bandito you must not offend
Did the Baby Huey dancing bear poofter work at Murphy Mart?
Cause I remember that guy.
What about smoking?! You could smoke anywhere…at work, on an airplane…in the HOSPITAL.
I remember “chipmunking”. With the rotary phone system we had if you dialed your own number it would ring busy, you then hung up and a few minutes later your phone would ring. Who ever picked it up would hear this funny noise kind of like chipmunk chatter. We would say you got chipmunked. It was best done when someone had 2 lines in their house and that way they were caught off guard.
Son of Sam said “Brillcream”. Most excellent. To the larger point:
Remember we had to wet our hair, put in goop and comb it back? Then came “the wet head is dead” ad campaign and that was the end of the greasers.
Greased and combed hair. With a part. And a “wave”.
I used to love ice cream cones from Isaly’s in the summer. Love that Mr. Softee ice cream too.