I Remember, Part III

Abruptly the poker of memory stirs the ashes of recollection and uncovers a forgotten ember, still smoldering down there, still hot, still glowing, still red as red. William Manchester

I remember when Asians were called “Orientals” and the only time I saw one was when a Japanese gardener mowed my neighbor’s lawn. And African-Americans/Blacks were called Negroes until about 1970. There were no Asians or African-Americans in my classrooms from grades 1 through 8. Same for Terri at her school. We did have one Hispanic kid at my school and we teased him at times (with no repercussions in those days) for being a “beaner.”


I remember when my mom ironed our bed sheets. She used an appliance called a mangle that was popular in the 1940’s and 50’s. And when it came to individual items such as pants and shirts, they were dampened using water from a sprinkler bottle and rolled up before they were ironed. Steam irons and spray starch would eventually change that.


My brother Larry remembers when the mail was delivered twice a day. This practice ended in 1950 but continued during the holidays for another 10 years.


My brother also remembers when pennies were made of steel, not copper. This was due to metal shortages during WWII. I looked at my penny collection that I kept as a child and sure enough, the pennies from 1943 are steel, and one is starting to rust.


In the 1950’s nothing was yummier than Jello. It was so popular that housewives started to experiment with molds, creating unique and at times scary concoctions with fruit, vegetables and even cold cuts. When people finally looked up where Jello came from the fad died a justifiable death.

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I remember when cars didn’t have seat belts. They were first introduced around 1960 when some car makers offered them as an option. By 1966 they were standard equipment in all cars and Americans hated them, with only about 10% of drivers/riders buckling up. The fatality rate due to car accidents was soaring however (60,000+ a year in the 1970’s) and gradually seat belts became accepted as a safety necessity.


I remember when there were no paramedics. Ambulances were often Cadillacs that resembled the car the Ghostbusters drove. When called to the scene of an accident the ambulance driver and his helper, often with dubious medical and first aid skills would toss you in the back and take you to the hospital. The first paramedics came on the scene in Seattle Washington in 1970.

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I remember when a dinner salad in the 1950’s was iceberg lettuce with mayonnaise as the dressing. That’s it. If you added a little ketchup to the mayo the salad actually had some color.


I remember when a woman had a baby she didn’t have to come home from the hospital the next day.


I Remember, Part II..

“My mind lets go a thousand things, Like dates of wars and deaths of kings. T.B. Aldrich

Let’s try this one more time:

I remember when a car dashboard had an instrument called a “choke.” Pulling back on the choke adjusted the carburetor’s air/fuel mixture,  making it easier to start your car.


And speaking of… I remember when cars had carburetors instead of today’s fuel injection systems. And most teenage boys could repair them, along with just about anything else that could go wrong with a car.


Keeping with the car theme, I remember when most people thought Japanese cars, including Honda, Datsun (Nissan) and Toyota were crap. We Baby Boomers changed that, nearly bankrupting Detroit automakers in the process.


I remember walking down my street as a young boy with a lawnmower asking people if I could cut their grass. I earned a dollar a lawn but sometimes I got two $.


I grew up in an older part of town and I remember seeing Gold Star banners in windows. This meant that a mom lost a son in the war. I once saw a window banner with three gold stars and I remember feeling bad.


I remember seeing old men sitting on the sidewalk selling pencils. They were WWI veterans. My mom said, “Don’t point.” “Don’t stare.” But I couldn’t help it and I stared anyway.


I remember when gas stations and convenience stores didn’t sell bottled water. If you were thirsty you bought a soda or found a drinking fountain.


In 1959 Terri flew with her parents from L.A. to Chicago on one of the first Boeing 707’s. She remembers being offered a choice of entrees, which was customary in the early days of commercial jet aviation. Passengers were pampered throughout the flight and given moist warm finger towels to clean up as the plane was about to land.


Terri was so impressed by what she saw on her trip that when she got older she looked into what was required to be a stewardess. It turned out that you had to be unmarried, not wear glasses or contacts and you had to be pretty. Terri was blind as a bat with 20/400 vision. Her flying days ended before they could even begin.

Terri remembers how women were treated in the workplace in the 1960’s. She once saw an unmarried co-worker announce that she was pregnant. She was let go immediately.


That will do it for round two. I’ll think about doing one more, but I’m running out of stuff that I remember. Feel free to send me your own recollections.

I Remember..

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”  Mark Twain

In October I’m going to be 68 years old. While I can think of a lot of things I don’t like about getting older, age does have some advantages. For example, young people need to read a history book or go on the Internet to learn about the past. But when you’re in your late 60’s you have accumulated so many life experiences and memories that you’re able to rattle them off endlessly to your spouse, co-workers or bored grandkids. So while I still have all of my mental faculties (which some people might dispute), I’m going to start listing some of those recollections on my blog. Here we go:

I remember going into a restroom and having to insert a nickel or dime into a lock to get into a stall. While some restrooms had a free stall, if the one you were in didn’t and you had no money, you were out of luck.


I remember going to Sears and looking at the bones in my feet using a fluoroscope. Fluoroscopes were really just x-ray machines and in the 1950’s most shoe stores in America had them. They were finally banned when it was realized that the radiation they emitted was probably killing people.


I remember that to make a long distance telephone call, you would need to call the operator to have her do it for you. If you said, “I would like to make a person-to-person call..” it would cost extra. But if the person you were calling wasn’t home, there would be no charge. And speaking of telephones, I recall when you needed to report an emergency you called the operator, not “911.” 911 dispatch centers were not widely in place until the 1970’s. Most telephone operators were women btw. Why? Because the job paid so little.


One more thing about phones. Back in the 1960’s most people had a “party line.” This meant that two or three families all shared one phone line. When you picked up your phone to make a call it wasn’t unusual to hear another person on your party line talking. If someone hogged the phone it could turn into a running battle with a nearby neighbor.


I remember when margarine was white. It turned people off however because it looked like lard (pig fat, which was used in cooking). So manufacturers decided to color it yellow. The dairy industry protested of course so in some states you had to mix in the food dye yourself (which came with the margarine) to make it look like butter.


I remember when Americans ate horse meat. Yes, horse meat. During World War II and the post war years beef and pork were rationed and Americans turned to this stringy red meat as an alternative. While even suggesting eating it today would horrify a lot of people, back then it was no big deal.

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I remember being paid $1.25 an hour in my first job in 1964, which was the minimum wage at the time. Two years later I joined the Marine Corps and was paid $86 a month, or $0.41 an hour. Two years after that I made it all the way up to $0.81 an hour, but still not close to where I had started.


Terri remembers when grocery store meat departments and butcher shops had sawdust on the floor. This allowed blood and fat to be absorbed and made for easy cleanup at the end of the day.


I remember when you were at the movies and the main feature ended everyone clapped.audience[1]







That will do it for now. Much more to come later before I begin to forget.