Column, Looking Back

Remember when?

By Mary Ellen Shaw

It seems like my inbox has a lot of “remember when” emails that take my age group back to the “good old days.” We all seem to enjoy remembering how things were and comparing those times to the present day.

Something that frequently comes into our conversations is the television of yesteryear. I remember when my parents got our first tv in the late ’50s. It was placed in the section of our living room that was the best spot for everyone to see the picture. The tv was actually a piece of furniture with a dark wooden cabinet. An antenna mounted to the chimney on the roof provided us with a picture.

Mr. Ransom, who was the “go to guy” for tv problems, was the one we called when strong winds moved the antenna just enough to make the picture “snowy.” I remember he would go on our roof and holler down through the chimney to find out if the picture was clear as he turned the antenna. We viewed the picture in black and white and changing the channel meant getting up from the couch or chair. A remote control and color picture would have been considered science fiction items back then!

In the ’60s a huge improvement came along for people who wore glasses and wished they didn’t have to. Contact lenses were the answer! The first lenses were hard and took getting used to. I had worn glasses since 6th grade but a hard lens just seemed too uncomfortable to pique my interest. So I passed on that option but when soft lenses came out in the ’70s I got them and loved them. As I aged bifocal lenses were an option but they didn’t work well for me so back to glasses I went. As they say, “What goes round…comes round.”

The method of paying for things also changed when credit cards became popular. Many people had always gone to local business offices such as the telephone and electric company and paid their bills in person. If you didn’t want to deal with a checking account you paid cash for local transactions and bought money orders to mail for out of town payments. My husband, Peter, came into our marriage using the latter method to pay bills. I was a check writing person back in the ’60s but by the ’70s I gave in and got my first credit card. It was a new experience to make a phone call, order an item and pay for it by credit card. The credit card company has made no money off me over the years as bills are paid in full and on time. So basically they are doing all the work that allows me to enjoy this convenience.

Most of my age group has memories of doing the dishes by hand. Dishwashers were people, not machines, back then. I can remember that my mother would wash the dishes while I stood next to her with a dish towel. She never had a dish rack on the sink drain board. She felt that dishes would remain in the rack long past the time they were dry. So if anyone added more wet dishes they would drip all over the dry ones. It was a “vicious cycle” to her! My husband and I still have the original sink from 1938 but a dish rack now sits on the drain board. I think of her every time that I am too lazy to put away the dry dishes before I add some wet ones. Maybe my husband and I need to upgrade our lives and get a dishwasher!

Back in the ’50s and ’60s our newspaper was delivered by children in the neighborhood. Parents accompanied them on dark mornings and the kids had to come to our door and collect money for the paper. Most people paid a week at a time. I guess that method made sense “back in the day.” Today the paper is delivered by car and payments are made directly to the newspaper. Not many children lasted long as carriers because it was tough to get up and out so early in the morning. But just think what a great life lesson they had in both customer service and finance.

I will take another look back at “then” and “now” in future columns. Young people reading this will probably be grateful for all the inconveniences they missed out on. I wonder what will have changed when they look back. I hope somebody will write about it!

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