Signs of Age

This is a long post, but it demands absolutely no thought on the reader’s part.

I remember when —

“Turn of the century” meant “around 1900.”

Events were recent if they happened after World War II.

An old movie was released before 1940.

An old car was made before 1940.

An antique car was made before 1920.

The Saturday matinee cost 5₵ and engendered spirited games of “cowboys and Indians” and “war,” replete with cap guns and politically incorrect epithets.

Cap guns and BB guns were given as gifts and confiscated only when they were misused.

Children who misbehaved were spanked. Serious misbehavior merited a few whacks with a belt applied to a bare bottom. The mere threat of a spanking inspired good behavior.

There was a difference between private and public behavior. One didn’t do or say in public what was properly confined to the home (and to the bedroom).

Hockey players were bare-headed, and were penalized for board-checking.

A long baseball game lasted more than two hours.

Communists were (rightly) considered enemies, not just people who were exercising the right of free speech.

Most Democrats were anti-communist and pro-defense.

Most Southerners were Democrats.

People went to the polls to vote on election day (not before) and weren’t barraged by telephone polls.

You could have any phone you liked, as long as it was black, wired, heavy, and had a rotary dial (or maybe not).

A garage was just wide enough for a Model A Ford with its doors half-open.

You could listen to music by going to a night club, going to the movies, turning on the radio, or playing a record on the Victrola — and that was it, unless there was a musician in the house.

There wasn’t any gore in movies, even war movies.

“Charlie Chan” wasn’t considered racist and was played (with dignity) by Anglos.

Grandma had outdoor plumbing, pumped water from the ground, bathed in a large galvanized tub, kept perishable food in an icebox about the size of a mini-bar, and cooked on a wood-burning range.

Lawn mowers didn’t have engines and weren’t operated by immigrants from Latin America.

Cars had running boards.

Male teachers wore suits and female teachers wore ladies’ suits or dresses when they were teaching.

Libraries were quiet.

Adults didn’t talk during movies.

War was waged until the enemy surrendered.

Factory workers were grimy by shift’s end.

People who worked standing up or with their hands vastly outnumbered people who worked at desks.

There were secretaries who typed what other people wrote by hand or dictated to them.

Office computing machines weighed 30 pounds and took several noisy seconds to do simple arithmetic.

College students were mainly interested in grades and sex, and few of them had a political opinion.

When people smoked, they smoked tobacco.

There was a dish full of candy on the coffee table.

The center of home entertainment was either a piano or a console radio.

A city child walked to and from school if he lived within 2 miles of it.

Mothers stayed at home to care for their children and keep house.

Summer vacation didn’t end in the middle of summer.

Cars were cars, not gussied up panel trucks.

Pickup trucks were driven by people who did actual work, like farming and ranching.

Colleges were run by college presidents, not gangs of students.

Baseball players wore their socks long and their pants short, for the simple reason that it made running easier.

Baseball gloves weren’t the size of bushel baskets.

Baseball bats were about 3 feet long, weighed about 3 pounds, and seldom broke.

Basketball players wore shorts, not baggy pants with short legs.

A&P was the biggest grocery chain.

Coffee was brewed in a stove-top percolator.

People quit riding bicycles when they graduated from high school or college.

A driver signaled a turn by putting his left arm out the window. Forearm up meant right turn; arm straight out meant left turn; forearm down meant stopping (from the days before brake lights).

It was legal to drive with only one working tail light if it was on the driver’s side of the car.

New license plates were issued annually, and plates were coded to indicate the county of issuance.

Children were ashamed when their parents divorced.

Children were ashamed when their parents weren’t married in the first place (which was a rare thing).

The Mass was always said in Latin.

Nuns wore floor-length habits and their hair was completely hidden.

Nurses wore white uniforms with skirts, starched white caps, white stockings, and white shoes.

Dentists’ drills ran at a low speed and weren’t water-cooled.

Barbers used hand-operated clippers and asked you what kind of hair oil to apply. They also smoked while cutting hair, and exchanged off-color jokes with older patrons.

If the ice man didn’t deliver to your house, you could go to his stand to buy a block of ice.

The milk man delivered milk in glass bottles.

The coal man backed into your driveway and dropped a load of coal through the coal chute and into your coal bin.

Allowance was earned by cutting the grass, raking leaves, and shoveling coal into the furnace.

The insurance man came to your house to collect the life-insurance premium.

Grandparents were old, sedate, and usually had gray or white hair.

The loudest movie was quieter than almost every kind of “entertainment” now carried on radio, TV, and the internet.

Four-letter words were never uttered over the air or in movies (with the notable but mild exception of one word in GWTW).

Most adult males had served in the armed forces.

An office-seeker proudly proclaimed that he was a veteran.

Male centenarians were usually veterans of the Civil War.

Gas stations sold gas for 10₵ a gallon and dispensed air at no charge.

For a nickel, a Coke machine dispensed Coke (and nothing but Coke) in a green, 8-ounce, glass bottle.

The only kind of water-flotation device seen on a beach was a (usually patched) inner tube.

All auto and bike tires had inner tubes, which were frequently punctured.

Almost every car in the U.S. was made by Ford, GM, or Chrysler.

Most GM and Chrysler cars had straight-8 or straight-6 engines. (My first car was a straight-8 Buick.)

Babe Ruth was a hero to all boys, even those who hated the Yankees.

Basketball was the sport of last resort, played (indoors) only when it was too cold for baseball or football. And football was strictly seasonal (a fall spot). Baseball was the game for all seasons but winter.

Every boy had a glove, a baseball, and a bat. Few had a football; fewer still, a basketball.