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?