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How U.S. Life Has Changed in the Past 50 Years

While reading a mini-book review, I ran across the phrase, “...foray into the dark side of the city over half a century ago” that got me thinking about the changes I have lived through in my nearly 77 years.

Some random images I recall from my childhood:

My mother using a wringer washing machine and hanging the wet laundry on lines outdoors or, when it was rainy, in the garage.

Milk delivered to our front door several mornings a week. In winter sometimes, the milk froze before we brought it in and a sort of milk cone stuck up above the opening of the glass bottle.

Occasionally, a quarantine announcement was attached to the front door of a home in my neighborhood. There were not yet vaccines for some contagious childhood diseases.

When margarine was first introduced, it was packaged in a flexible plastic bag. The margarine was white and there was an orange button that you broke with your finger and then mashed the whole bag around until the margarine became a uniform yellow color.

That's just a tiny number of examples of how we commonly lived differently in the late 1940s.

Then, remember getting the polio vaccine on a sugar cube in the 1950s? The majority of Americans, adults and children, received the vaccine all on the same day with a followup date or two a couple of weeks later.

When I was very young, right after World War II ended, my mother was the only woman in the neighborhood who worked outside the home. She was not well accepted for this. By the time I graduated from high school in 1958, large and growing numbers of women were entering the workforce (including me).

Until the 1970s, married women could not have credit cards in their own names and in general, we still used cash for most purchases. Today, I am the dinosaur who still pays cash for groceries and other day-to-day purchases and I'm still surprised when I see someone put at little as $3, or even $1 sometimes, on a credit or debit card.

Computers and the internet – I'm not sure we can any longer separate one from the other and the definition of computer has gone from big square boxes sitting under our desks to a hand-held “phone” that can do 10, 20, probably 50 or 100 times more than those first home computers.

It is my contention that we all know a lot more (however trivial those things may be sometimes) nowadays than when we were young because of the internet. Before then, we had to go to the library to find out any small fact or figure. What was the population of the U.S., or the world, when George Washington was president?

Maybe, back then, we never found out because it was often a lot of time and effort to get to the library. Nowadays, a few seconds with Dr. Google at home (or even on the go with our smartphones) and we have the answer.

Strides forward in medicine have been amazing in my lifetime. The two advances that I believe are modern medical miracles are cataract surgery and dental implants. Both are close to 100 percent successful and effective – how great is that.

We all know that obesity has become a large health problem in the U.S. and world. According to the State of Obesity Report,

"From 1990 to 2016, the average percentage of obese adults increased from 11.1% (for the 44 states and DC for which 1990 data are available) to 29.8%. As of 2016, nearly 38% of the US population was obese, with 8% falling into the extreme obesity category.

In regard to life expectancy, there is good news and and (maybe) not so good news. Average life expectancy in 1965 was approximately age 70 to 74 for women, 67 for men. By 2015, it had increased to 79 to 82 for women and 76 for men.

There has been a steady climb in life expectancy in the U.S. since the early 20th century. In the past year or two, however, it has leveled off. It is still growing, but more slowly than in the past. Make of that what you will.

Here's a little video I found about five ways the world has changed in the past 100 years (produced in 2013):

As you certainly have figured out, the little list in this post barely scratches the surface of changes we have witnessed. It has been my experience, too, that I become accustomed to new inventions and ways of doing things so quickly, I sometimes forget how dramatic many of the changes have been.

I'm not as interested in the big-picture developments today as the ones that affect our personal lives, at home and work, day in and day out. What can you add to the list of changes we have witnessed in our lifetimes?


Comments

When I was young, in San Antonio, TX, children played outside most of the day, when school was out and weather permitted. I remember feeling like a caged animal, restlessly hanging around inside the house, during the worst years of the polio scare on hot summer afternoons, from 1:00-3:00, a time referred to as "the heat of the day."

My husband remembers, on hot summer nights, wafting in the smell of the clouds of chemicals put out by the truck that sprayed for mosquitoes. He grew up in the Midwest. I do not remember experiencing these Texas. Seems like the bigger problem we had was chiggers, especially when we played on freshly mowed lawns.

Yes, we not only played outside (in shorts or bundled for the snow), we explored the neighborhood, the vacant lots, the river, went to Saturday morning movies, walked the railroad ties, walked to school and downtown, all WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION.

Riding the bus downtown alone at 9 years old, for a dime. Mail coming twice a day. The ragman still coming around with a horse-drawn cart. Nuns in the old-fashioned habits walking two-by-two in our very Catholic neighborhood. Strong prejudice about other ethnicities here in Buffalo, NY - "mixed marriages" were interfaith and interethnic (Polish-Italian, Irish-anything). Being scandalized by Elizabeth Taylor's multiple marriages. Having local radio stations scramble the refrain of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" because it was...just unacceptable, I guess. Khruschev's shoe at the UN (who would have believed he'd be proven right about burying us?!!) Flat wooden swings, not those rubber fanny-pinchers that hold you in place nowadays. Nickel popsicles. $1.35 minimum wage. Paying $7 cash to the doctor for a walk-in visit, where we'd both be smoking while we talked.

While the increase in average lifetime continues, the disheartening statistic is the slide in the standings among other countries. The effective but costly US health-care system is not universally available as it is in most developed countries and more US people are dying prematurely because they are shut out of care.

I learned to drive barefoot...because we were barefoot all summer.

I grew up just over the county line from Baltimore City - the Hess shoe store had live monkeys in the window, next to the barber shop that was in the shoe store. Yup - monkeys, barbers, shoes, all in the same store.

We lived in brick row houses - black men we called "A-rabs" drove horse-driven carts selling produce through the back alleys between the houses. I can still hear the call "Strawwwwww berrries.."

Taking the bus all the way downtown to Howard Street, where all the department stores were all within a few blocks. That was a dress-up event, and we had lunch or tea in the afternoon.

A baby blue Ford Torino, with roll-up windows and those triangle vents. The smell of the leather seats and the smother heat while you tried to crank the windows down as fast as you could in August.

Yes, taking the bus, the un-air conditioned bus, as a young girl, by myself.

There were no buses to elementary school - we walked. There were no snow days - we walked in the snow. No air conditioning in schools, 90 degrees inside in mid-June.

Well behaved children, all of us, no matter the socio-economic level. We shut up and watched, and would never dare embarass our parents by dancing all over store aisles, being loud, or back-talking. Even in the grocery store, we just wouldn't dare.

the definition of computer has gone from big square boxes sitting under our desks to a hand-held “phone” that can do 10, 20, probably 50 or 100 times more than those first home computers.

As the nit-picking computer guy, I had to check the numbers on this. From the wikipedia article on Moore's law, I see that my iPhone today is 100,000 times faster than the Apple 2 computer I used in 1981! And my laptop is 500,000 times faster. But that's for a pretty narrow definition of what a computer can "do"; I don't know if my phone is 100,000 times more useful. :)

I remember after the war we lived in Chicago in a cold water flat and had an iceman. We must have been poor but I didn't know it. The first TV dinners. All our neighborhoods were defined by nationality. We mostly lived in Polish (my Dad) but my Mom was Italian. All the ladies wore a hat on Easter and got all dressed up. Paying a quarter for cigarettes. Buying our dog from the Montgomery Wards catalog.

One thing that hasn't changed is my Dad was always complaining about taxes. I guess some things never change.

Oh, don't get me started, Ronni. I wrote a post once called "I am from ... a while ago" detailing such things and once I started, I could barely stop. In a nutshell, however, I'd say the things that have changed the most, to our great benefit, are the advances in technology and medicine. My cancer, and probably yours too, was diagnosed and treated in ways that didn't exist 25 years ago. Many of today's vaccines didn't exist then. I had a congenital sinus problem that wasn't properly diagnosed until MRIs were invented in the '70s.

And we've all heard how the moon missions were accomplished with less computer power than in one of today's smart phones. Society in general has changed a lot too, and not necessarily for the better.

Ah, see how I go on. Sorry. I'll stop now.

Good fallout from computers - we purchased an entire set of encyclopedias (not sure which brand) in the late 1980's for our 3 sons. Not only did it cost well over a $1,000 but became largely obsolete soon after we bought it - not a problem now with Wikipedia, where, for example, the deaths of movie stars are entered into bio updates the day after!

Also remember using my grandmother's outhouse during a thunderstorm in late 1950's (she lived in PA coal country) - grandparents did not get indoor plumbing until about 1960, so we took Saturday night bath in big round bucket with hot water poured from a kettle. Recall standing in line at school to get Salk vaccine dose & worked with a man in the 1980's who was wheelchair bound with polio because he contracted it just the year before the vaccine became available.

Our first family car was a used 1932 Dodge with running boards. The paper boy used to ride on them sometimes and toss his papers to customers. Bet my grandkids don't know what running boards were.

Being pre-Easter it makes me think of my Mom in white gloves, stockings, heels and dressed for church. My sister and I had little straw boaters that we decorated every year. My grands go to church in jeans and tees. I have a pair of Mom's white kid gloves that I don't think I ever saw her wear and I can't throw away because they are hers and pristine, how useless.

My kid's dad had a heart attack in his early 40's and received surgery that didn't exist just a few years before that happened. His doctor said all they could have done previously was to make him comfortable while he died. He's almost 80 now.

What I remember most about being a kid though was the freedom. We didn't have too much but we wandered everywhere on foot and sometimes by bike with no fear or care.

School bullying.

Back then it was a nasty note pinned to someone's back or desk.

Now days cyber bullying offen leads to suicide.


When I was young we had a phone with a party line. You'd pick up the receiver and one of the neighbors would be talking--you'd have to wait. This was very hard during my teen years.

My mother had a wringer washer when I was little, and she was still hanging laundry outside by the time I left for college. When she was at home, she wore what she called "house dresses" with hose that had runs in them. I never saw her wear pants until I was in high school.

When I was in grade school, we not only walked to school and back, we also walked home for lunch. All the moms were at home. One girl in my class had a divorced mom who worked, and we felt sorry for her because she had to eat a packed lunch at school (no cafeteria).

We had a set of encyclopedias, and I can remember using them for research. I also remember leafing through them and reading random articles when I had nothing better to do. In addition to the encyclopedia, we had a set of something called "The Book of Knowledge." Don't remember what that was.

I lived in a small town, and sometimes in the summer, farmers would come up the street in a station wagon or truck. They'd park somewhere and the housewives would come out to buy fruits and vegetables.

Like others, I rambled all over town with my friends in the summer, even in grade school. When it was time for supper, Mom would come out on the porch and holler my name. I was usually somewhere nearby by then.

I learned to type on a large, heavy, manual typewriter. When I graduated high school, I asked for a small portable that I could take to college. That little typewriter lasted for 15 years, before I bought a used IBM selectric when my employer converted to computers. I remember how wonderful it was to have the backspace correct type that meant I didn't have to use white-out to correct mistakes.

Remember carbon paper and mimeograph machines?
And when a gallon of gas cost 17 cents?
I remember streetcars before they all got ripped out in the 1950s. That was a monumental bad idea.
I can still see the coal truck backing down the driveway. The bed of the truck tipped sideways into a chute to the basement "coal room" and my father (and sometimes my mother) going down every night to feed the coal hopper that fed the furnace.
The byproduct of all those coal and wood stoves (and other pollution sources) coated the snow. You could see gray lines between white layers of snow. As a boy, that's how I figured how much it had snowed.

Stick shifts to automatics in our cars, smoke billowing engines to diesel, prop planes to jets. I can drive a stick shift. How many kids can today? I cannot use the paddle shift on the steering wheels on a lot of newer cars. I remember Victory Gardens and actually still have some of the ration books we had during the war in order to shop. Plucking pin feathers from store bought chickens. Walking a half mile to our school bus stop and if I missed it walking to high school. No, Mom wouldn't drive me. Film cameras.

My husband tells me I have a great mind for trivia but you know, I'd not trade my life during those years for anything. I had wonderful, loving supportive parents. I loved school and my friends. I was a very happy kid.

Ashtrays everywhere because everybody smoked, iceboxes, long underwear (how I hated it), a new pencil box for the first day of school, running boards and rumble seats on cars and the first air-conditioning in theaters - a very big deal.

Then too, attitudes were different - we were so compliant and unquestioning. And then came the Sixties.

My early memories are mostly delineated between pre and post war ( WWII). So many helpful things were originally developed from wartime research !

Pre- war memories include :
The rare sight and sound of an airplane slowly flying overhead.
It was an excitement to cause utter fascination.

Today, on the east coast at least, there is no longer a day or even 5 minutes of complete quiet.
Some type of mechanical noise is ever present. I do miss the sound of silence.

Other memories:
Galoshes ( sp?); "Leggins" ; ice boxes (pre refrigerators); Levis ( the only "blue Jeans") made only for men
Milk, Ice, bread, farm fresh produce in season - all delivered by horse drawn wagons.

The distant, haunting sound of steam train whistles . . .

Seeing ( sometimes limbless) veterans of the Civil War sitting on our town sidewalks, begging,
And always a few riding in wagons in our town's Memorial Day parades

Frequent homeless men ( "hobos") knocking on our door and politely asking for a meal in exchange for doing odd jobs.
Most homeowners tried to help them out - even inviting them into the kitchen to eat their meal

Cars were unreliable ( overheated; frequent flat tires; etc)

So many memories and so many changes ! Not always for the better.


Two things - 1) to the Buffalo gal -doesn't it seem funny now how ethnic we thought Buffalo was and it was all Western European.
2) in early 50s, my grandmother still used a mangle to iron sheets for the beds.
3) I have a milkperson again. But no little metal box, it's a nice cooler now.
Thanks for all the remembrances.

I remember:

Most businesses being closed on Sundays, and many were not open until 9:00 pm on weeknights.

Going trick-or-treating with my younger sister, just like all the other neighborhood kids, alone. No adults accompanied us, and we never had a problem.

Grocery stores with fewer "prepared and processed" foods; more real food.

Enjoying a Sunday drive with my family along 2-lane roads; no freeways. We were able to see so much!

Living in a large city and being able to see the Milky Way at night. Sadly no longer possible due to light pollution.

Almost all of what I remember has already been covered but as cat-mom to 3 kitties, I'll add: commercial cat litter. When I was a child in the late 40's-early '50s, our cats lived primarily outdoors and mostly weren't neutered, unfortunately. We kept a bed and box in the garage so they could come inside during bad weather. Changing the dirt box was one of my jobs.

At my mother's insistence "just in case" I ever needed to earn a living (which turned out to be necessary--thanks, Mom!) I learned to type in summer school at age 16 on an Underwood manual typewriter. The keyboard itself hasn't changed much, but it's a lot easier to use. Many women of our era who worked outside the home probably were secretaries/clerical workers (now called administrative assistants) at some point and remember carbon paper. If the boss needed 10 copies of the letter we were typing, that meant 10 sheets of carbon paper--and you did NOT want to make a mistake!

I can’t even start listing the individual changes; the way of life we had growing up is as gone as if we were a Plains Indian tribe (well aware of the irony in that statement). We were 5th generation farm kids, living a few miles from a small town, as was most of Nebraska in those days. There was no running to town to the grocery store, all food was grown and put up to last through the winter. What we didn’t raise, a neighbor did (dairy cows, for example). There were one-room country schools dotting the county, and we went to “town school” when we entered 9th grade (indoor plumbing, yay!). There were many small towns within 15 miles of each other, with a variety of stores, doctor’s offices, lumberyards, small industries, etc. What few are left are barely hanging on. Consolidation, automation and corporate farming finished off what the industrial revolution started.

I was born in 1946 and lived in Los Angeles near the airport. Memories: hiding in the garage when jets were new to me--terrifyingly loud! Listening to anti-aircraft guns being tested in the cliffs near our house. Nearly all the adults I knew smoked. When I started teaching in the 1960's, I used messy mimeograph machines, stinky "ditto" machines, and chalk. Cars were huge, without seat belts. I got vaccinations in school, not at the doctor's; my first polio vaccinations were injections--sugar cubes came later. Double sessions, 35-40 kids in a class, including in high school. Dick and Jane. Playing dolls with the neighbor girls until I was eleven years old. Playing outside, but not really allowed to go anywhere because I had helicopter parents even then. Hearing my parents and grandmother use racial slurs. Not understanding until years later that my wonderful high school French teacher (male) and my chemistry teacher (female) were gay.

Addendum to above: Orange groves and truck farms right in Los Angeles. Smog so thick that it hurt to breathe. Butterflies and caterpillars in our yard (garden) that disappeared sometime in the 1950s and returned after anti-pollution rules improved the air a little.

Almost no one I knew had divorced parents. When my best friend told me his parents were divorcing, I had to promise I wouldn't tell anyone. Now, a directory of the addresses and phone numbers of the parents of a school class has separate addresses for about 75% of the moms and dads.

I grew up in a large, affluent New York City apartment building. Each family had a laundress they employed for one or two days a week. The mostly elderly and virtually all black women toiled in the basement of the building in a huge steamy, stifling room washing and ironing clothes in what looked like a production line factory of workers miserably unhappy but resigned to their fate. I was heartbroken the first time I saw that room.

We had a "master antenna" (one antenna for everyone in the building) on the roof for TV, but the reception was still full of ghosts on our 10" TV, enlarged to 12" by a globe-like "enlarger."

A daughter of friends of my parents got leukemia, and it was understood she had a zero chance of surviving more than a year or two. Now most leukemias are curable. She was never told she had a terminal illness.

My grandmother in her 80's and aunt in her '50s were also never told they had terminal cancers. Now thirteen year olds post "vlogs" on YouTube about their cancers.

One of my favorite things to do at the library when I should have been working on a paper was to find magazine articles about people or subjects I was curious about in "The Readers Guide to Periodical Literature," the Google of its day. Then, I'd try to find the articles in stacks of old magazines.

In the summer at the beach where the main street is now lined with expensive, trendy designer stores, we got our clothes at Mrs. Epstein's clothes store, the only place for clothes in the town. Mrs. Epstein was a short, cranky old lady who didn't care if you bought anything or not. All the clothes were in cardboard boxes piled to the ceiling behind a counter. You told Mrs. Epstein what you wanted, say blue jeans. Mrs. Epstein would measure you, then climb one of those ladders you see in libraries that slide along the shelves. She'd find jeans in your size by pulling them out of a box. She'd hand them to you. God help you if they didn't fit.

When I read this, early this morning, I got to thinking of my own "what's changed" and thought about it all day.

Returning to this post and the comments, I see just about all my thoughts have been echoed by others. From the wringer washer to the yellow button for the margarine, it's all there.

One memory that I've been smiling at has stuck with me all day (and one look at my scarred knees will bear this out) clamp on roller skates. Using the key, tighten those skates as hard as they would go to one's thick soled Buster Browns and then head for everywhere. Always on the sidewalks, no matter how skewed they were, because the recently tarred roads gummed up the wheels terribly.

Yes, I remember many of these things too. I am 69 and...
I remember my mother hanging wet laundry on the laundry lines outside the back.
We too had milk delivered usually daily, in glass bottles. Later that went obsolete. I recall later my parents sending me to the store to pick up a quart of milk for 25 cents.
Gasoline was about the same price per gallon.
Cream cheese came in a small wooden box with a sliding top panel.
The first computer I saw took half a large room. There were no computer science curriculums when I started college, I was already in my third or fourth year of college when I read in the news that MIT and Stanford started Computer Science programs, before that it was part of the math dept (at least where I was).
When I started working the minimum wage was $1.25 per hour.

Ice skating on tennis courts flooded with water in New Jersey.
High point of my 8th grade was when an Italian classmate on whom I had a forbidden crush (we were Irish) saw fit to beat someone up in my back yard. I felt honored by that -- not sure why at this distance, but probably something quite primitive.

Another primitive thing I'm glad is gone is nasty nuns literally beating wayward boys in front of the whole class, using window poles on the backs of their legs and rulers with a metal strip on their hands, drawing blood.

I'm 78, and remember getting the back of my hands hit with a ruler by a public school teacher at Selma Avenue school in Hollywood. Probably something to do with math. Also I remember in the same second grade class being so bored sitting in a reading group and having to listen to all the poor kids who haltingly read aloud and couldn't pronounce words. I do not recall any classmates from Mexico or any foreign country.

My father, born in 1907, was shot in the stomach after dinner on Thanksgiving day when he was 15 years old. This was an accident when he and another kid were going hunting, climbing a fence. Not to get into the gory details, but the story was the doctor spread out his intestines and sewed up all the holes...he survived and lived to be 94 years old. The doctor asked him why there was a bullet next to his spine years later when he was hospitalized for a mild heart attack.

I can identify with many comments - milk in a glass bottle, with the cream on the top lifting the paper lid...not from cold weather. The Fuller Brush man who delivered everything from Studio Girl shampoo to (cod liver oil?). Catching the bus in Burbank by the RR tracks to go to Hollywood for piano lessons with my sister, and buying Sen-sen at the bus depot. Shopping for school clothes at the Broadway Hollywood.

We walked everywhere, my mother didn't drive, and there were no school buses but sometimes we took the city bus. We went to the summer program at the elementary school to earn a free pass to swim at the Verdugo plunge. And Girl Scouts was great for going camping and learning how to do all kinds of things...yes, this has brought back many happy memories with friends. I loved school, always loved escaping into a book.

A trivial addition to all the fascinating reminiscences: when I first started going to the movies, the practice was to arrive whenever you wanted to and sit through the film (or films--double features were the rule) and stay on until you came to the point where you'd come in. This changed in 1960, following Hitchcock's insistence on "no late admissions" for Psycho. The earlier practice seems totally bizarre, and I wonder if it was really as widespread as I think it was. I can't imagine how we managed to make sense of what we were watching!

Delightful fun with other elders! Yes, to most of these experiences! I also remember children playing in neighborhoods, up to being a divorced mom in the 70s with full time work letting my own 2 play after school as "latch-key" kids and narry a worry...until the late 80's when children weren't allowed to be at home alone and a social worker came calling. That's when "after school programs" became part of life for us. I would take a wagon of pop bottles down to the local corner grocery on my own when I was 7, and get to use the nickles to buy candy and gum...early recycling. My mom as one of the first working-wives in the 50s meant I was also hanging around all afternoon following school, and I remember the library as my best baby-sitter.

Penny candy! Going to the corner store with my little sisters and some coins, and taking forever to make our selection. Wax bottles with a few drops of grape syrup, candy buttons on paper strips, root beer barrels and cherry flavored red hats.

I would also be sent there with a note from my older sisters, to buy cigarettes and other things for them. I once argued with the clerk that my note said NOODLES, not whatever-it-was that he'd put in my bag (MODESS). I made him phone my sister, who was inexplicably not speaking to me when I got home.

Let us not forget that these are the "good ol' days" that our grand-kids will be blogging about 50 years from now.

"Remember when we had to speak into a phone to make a call. How quaint."

Not to mention how politics and religion have changed.
Being president use to be held by honorable men of integrity (well most) , but nothing like what we see today in trump and the republicans.

And religion use to really want to help the less fortunate regardless of ethnicity or beliefs. And they sure weren't trying to take over the government in their lust for power.

Windows, when I was a young one, were not as easy to clean on the outside as the
windows that are available for installation these days.

I have a vision of my father sitting on the window sill of a 2nd floor window,
his legs hanging into our bathtub, his upper torso outside the window
so that he might sit there and wash the outside glass. Yikes.

I remember the ice man bringing a large square of ice for our icebox. My dad would empty the water tray every morning before riding the subway to work. I remember sitting in school with my hands clasped on the desk. I remember buying a slice of cheesecake for 3 cents. I remember the pickle lady rolling up her sleeve to hunt for a pickle in a barrel. I remember buying a cigarette for a penny and smoking it while waiting for the train to take me home from school. I remember sleeping out on the fire escape in the heat of the summer. I remember the TV programs shutting down at midnight after playing the Star Spangled Banner. I remember having the milkman bring Golden Guernsey milk for my children because I thought the extra milk fat was good for them. When they were sick, I made malted with a raw egg thrown in---couldn"t hurt!!

Such memories!!! I could write a book!!!

Love your blog, Ronni. We seem to be in the same age bracket, it’s so much fun to read your memories of growing up. I had a great amount of freedom as a kid. Much like our dog, I was sent outdoors after breakfast, back in for lunch then gone again until dinner time. Thinking back I don’t recall my Mom ever asking where I had been.
Just watched your chat with Alex. Terrific news on your health status. I understand very well why you don’t want to hear anything about pancreatic cancer. I have the same reaction to anything regarding breast cancer. No, no and no. I have taken a big step (year 6) in that I have refused to have any further mammograms. If it returns, so be it.
BTW, Portland and Portland are both lovely cities.

In the '50's, I don't remember penny candy except for one place. On the platforms of the New York City subway, there were small vending machines about the size of a pay phone. They were bolted to the girders. Mostly, they sold gum and maybe cigarettes, but a few sold tiny bars of chocoloat for a penny. They were hard to find and often didn't work or were empty. I loved the look of the midget size and the taste of the semi-sweet chocolat. The odor in the subway combined with the chocolat's smell made for a unique aroma that brings back memories of my first independent travel. 


My favorite candy were Mason Mint Patties. They cost five cents at my local drugstore. I used to buy them when walking the dog. One day, they upped the price to six cents. I was outraged and immediately found a stationary store that sold them for a nickel and never went back to that drugstore. That was probably my first experience with inflation.

Oh gosh, I'm 13 years younger than you, Ronni, but I remember using an outhouse a couple of Xs when we visited family friends out in the country (which forever made me grateful for indoor plumbing), wearing skirts to school from kindergarten thru most of high school, black and white TV, driving a car without a seat belt, prayers said in school in first grade & no shopping on Sundays. Mom had a washer and dryer in the apartment but her older sister, my aunt, who lived nearby, still used a wringer washing machine and a washboard. I learned to cream butter and whip cream by hand. Mom made most of my clothes for me on a very heavy gray Singer sewing machine that swung below out of sight into the cabinet. I spent a lot of time in the fabric departments which all stores had including Woolworths. We lived in an apartment until I was 11. The 1st floor renters shared a bathroom down the hall with the other renters on the first floor.

I like all of the conveniences of today. Central air conditioning. Cooking is so much easier with microwaves and crockpots. Shopping is easier. Prices are more competitive. More products are available.

Clothing is so inexpensive today (I won't go into quality). Healthcare is a marvel. We have much better antibiotics today than 50 years ago. When Dad had his stroke, he got physical, occupational and speech therapy. Did these exist 50 years ago?

I recall many of the items others have described — I remember the outdoor well water hand pump on grandmas’s farm we had to “prime” with a little water to get a flow; the party phone line with distinct rings for each house; the Farmall tractor with a hand clutch I drove into the night at age 9 or 10 for my uncle and a neighbor as they gathered hay bales onto the wagon being pulled; leading a horse to pull a huge fork full of hay from the back of a wagon up to a barn’s hay mow for storage; riding on a horse drawn fertilizer spreader; repellent odiferous outhouses; the Omar truck delivering pastry treats weekly; the periodic visit of the Raleigh salesman with healing meds, liquids and ointments; the huge thick Sears Roebuck and “Monkey” Wards catalogs - wish books, especially for Christmas — sometimes old ones recycled for use in outhouses.

The fascination using a stereoscope viewer. Visiting the “general store” with bins of various foods to scoop — only in recent years once again available in some stores. Sunday afternoon local band concerts in the small town center gazebo. Cylinder recordings and player I.e. Harry Lauder “Roamin’ In The Gloamin’”; 78 rpm records. Big brother buying 25cents Red Bird gas to run his Model A Ford with rumble seat. Auto with floor gear shift with floor clutch; auto with beginning automatic shift requiring letting up on gas pedal to shift gears. X-ray machine to look at feet in shoe store before radiation health concern known. Pneumatic tube in J.C.Penny store to take payments to another floor & bring back change. Listening spellbound to radio music, stories using imagination creating mental videos. Afternoons or evenings on a porch swing with other neighbors on their porches, too.

Selling Christmas, other greeting cards in community before card stores. Having only 2 pairs of shoes — good shoes (new ones - worn only for dress up) and everyday shoes (formerly good shoes). Needing to wear a dress up to go down town. A nickel for two dips of ice cream on cone. Five and dime store with donut making machine I could watch. Movie theater showing Sat. aft serial films I didn’t go to; musical movies I mostly saw at other theater for 16 cents of my 35cents weekly allowance. Many more changes to recall as life evolves.

Wringer washer and hanging clothes outside (still hang clothes outside and the wringer washer is sitting in the basement). Party line phone, too easy and tempting to listen to someone else’s phone conversation! Outhouse and no electricity; baths in a big metal tub. Living on a farm, summer days were wonderful - walking everywhere, exploring creeks - at the time, I envied my friends who lived in town (500 population), but deep down, I am sure I loved my life in the country.

To me, the Internet and personal computers were the most profound change in my lifetime. I'm 58 now. I grew up in a small town and two of my classmates and I were the only ones we knew (besides one of my buddy's fathers) that were interested in electronics. We exhausted the library books on electronics by the time we were in Junior High. We aced the "Electronics 1 and 2" classes in high school. Between the three of us we subscribed to all the electronics and Amateur Radio magazines we could afford at the time and those were our intellectual lifeline for learning about electronics. Eventually we went off to college (electronics "trade school" for me) and settled elsewhere for careers in electronics. If the Internet (and reasonable home computers) had been available back then, life would have been completely different. I could probably have stayed in my home town and created businesses and jobs for ourselves and continued living a more livable small town life.

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