Going, Going, Gone

As we begin the twenty-first century, we need to pay homage to those familiar items of the past century which are slowly disappearing or are no longer in existence.
There was a time, not too long ago, when all of the world’s music was stored on either 45 or 78 rpm black vinyl discs, but not any more. Once there was a time when all office secretaries used black carbon paper when making copies of their typed documents. Now try to buy a typewriter at Office Max. Why send a telegram when a fax message is delivered almost instantly? Automobiles are built today without chokes, radiator caps, or running boards. Their drivers seldom use hand signals when making turns. Engineers have abandoned their slide rules in favor of high-speed computers. With computers the media specialist (librarian) need not refer to a card catalog to find a book. We can only say of these lost items, “They are gone, but not forgotten.”
When I was growing up I went to black and white cowboy movies on Saturday afternoon and drank raw milk delivered in glass bottles from the dairy to our back porch. I remember our first telephone, a wooden box attached to the wall. It had a small crank which you turned to call the operator. There were three other parties on our phone line who would listen in on a conversation. Then the pedestal phone was developed with a rotary dial you turned clockwise with your finger. The operator was only called in an emergency or when you wanted to make a long-distance call. Every community had
at least one or two telephone booths conveniently located for shoppers and travelers. Poor Superman! Today he can’t find a phone booth anywhere for changing into his costume. In his last movie he had to use a department store revolving door.
In the 1930’s my Sundays were spent in church and at home. The State of Pennsylvania had passed something called Blue Laws. These laws were meant to comply with one of the Bible’s Ten Commandments (Exodus 20: 8-10). They were called blue laws because they had first been written on blue paper. As late as 1980 thirteen States still had laws forbidding stores from opening and selling merchandise on Sundays. These laws were relaxed and then abandoned altogether.
I learned to play tennis with a wooden racket that required a two-sided press to keep it from warping. My wooden skis had leather bindings for my 4 buckle arctics. (Arctics are waterproof boots for your information.) My dad bought gasoline at service stations where the attendants rushed out to clean your windshield and check your oil. These attendants also gave you free road maps and money back from a $5 bill after filling your tank. They even put air in your tires, changed the engine’s oil, and put water in the radiator. What a far cry from service stations today!
In elementary school I was taught penmanship and in high school my principal mode of transportation was hitchhiking. Newspapers in those days advertised women’s girdles and men’s felt hats. In the 1930’s people were not informed of the dangers of x-rays and there were a few years before WWII when I had the fit of my shoes checked by a machine called the Foot-O-Scope. It was a large fluoroscope with a screen which showed how your toes fitted inside of a new pair of shoes. This was a good selling gimmick, but medical authorities cautioned against using this instrument.
Gone are the Dutch elm trees that lined both sides of North Lima Road in the 1930’s. They were killed by a devastating disease that wiped out most of the elms in North America. Speaking of disease, back in the 1930’s the County Health Officer would quarantine homes if any resident had measles, mumps, or scarlet fever.
Gone are hotel keys, leisure suits, narrow ties and smoking jackets. I have my father’s velvet smoking jacket that he would put on in the evening before lighting up his pipe. I still remember the smell of his smoking tobacco and the smell of burning leaves in the fall season. I guess what I miss most of the twentieth century is Isaly’s skyscraper ice cream cones. Now there is something which should be brought back.