Thursday, February 23, 2012

There are some advantages to being old

Despite deficiencies in appendages and sensory organs, we old farts have a definite advantage over the young 'uns. We may not remember where we put the car keys or what we ate for breakfast, but if we still have long-term memory, we have PERSPECTIVE. We can look back, remember, analyze and compare. We remember things that kids have merely read about (and maybe their sources were wrong.) And, because we can remember when things like cellphones did not exist, we can appreciate -- and maybe even marvel at -- things that younger people take for granted.

After walking around the planet for four or five or six decades, we've seen, heard, smelled, tasted and done a lot.

  • Despite the current GOP's fondness for "The Great Communicator," I can remember when Ronnie Reagan was a doddering old fool in the White House. (For me, the highlight of his career was starring in "Bedtime for Bonzo.")
  • I remember the thrill when finally more than 50% of Americans were opposed to the war in Viet Nam, and when LBJ decided not to run for re-election.
  • I remember when presidental candidates were selected at the conventions, not in primaries.
  • Today, a burger at Mickey Dee's can cost six bucks. I remember the commercial that chanted "Forty-five cents for a three course meal? Sounds to me like that's a steal." (A burger, fries and a shake cost 15 cents each.)
  • I remember when one-gig hard drives and plain-paper fax machines finally became available for less than $1,000.
  • I remember when people were crippled from polio.
  • I remember when most kids had married parents and few mothers worked.
  • I remember when men were not nurses and did not teach at elementary schools.
  • I remembered when it was shocking that politicians and priests were involved in sex scandals.
  • I remember seeing two movies, seven cartoons and a newsreel for 25 cents.
  • I remember penny candy that actually cost a penny.
  • I remember cars that rusted and overheated and had windup windows and no air conditioning.
  • I remember when it was unusual to see an imported car in the USA. Or Ikea.
  • I remember the discoveries of quiche and fondue.
  • I remember when most women used hair spray, and only strippers wore thong underwear.
  • I remember when it was weird for a woman to run for political office.
  • I remember when pregnant girls left high school.
  • I remember door-to-door salesmen, and notebooks that were not computers.
  • I remember typewriters and correction fluid.
  • I remember shotgun weddings, people going to Europe for abortions and sex-change surgery, and to Nevada for divorces.
  • I remember when people were shocked by Playboy magazine.
  • I remember newspapers that did not print color pictures.
  • I remember having to choose from three TV channels.
  • I remember TV antennas (not dishes) on the roof.
  • I remember when headsets were for pilots and telephone operators.
  • I remember when people rented telephones and answering machines.
  • I remember when answering machines were actually machines.
  • I remember when it was weird to buy water.
  • I remember Pennsylvania Station, Bethlehem Steel, and phone numbers with letters.
  • I remember when a doctor made home visits for five bucks, drove a $5,000 Cadillac and lived in a $25,000 house.
  • I remember when an expensive college cost $3,000 per year.
  • I remember paying a nickel to ride on the Staten Island Ferry, and for a bag of potato chips.
  • I remember life before Starbucks, Serbia, Keurigs, plastic shopping bags, Star Trek and Star Wars, bungee cords, The Pill, cordless phones, reality TV, recycling bins, ZIP Codes, email, word processing, sports bras, $200 sneakers, unisex salons, apps, Silly Putty, The Czech Republic, Trumps, Palins, Kardashians, Lohans, Kims, networking, self-realization, permanent press, videos, value propositions, airplane hijacking, Lojack, GPS, VCR, DVR, LSD, HIV, ATMs, PDFs, FAQs, sex surrogates, texting, sexting, Nigerian scams, men going to weddings without neckties, and seatbelts.
  • I remember when 1950s music was not "oldies."
  • I remember when the USA had 180 million people and 48 states. 
  • I remember commercials for "your DeSoto-Plymouth dealer."
  • I remember the USSR.
  • I remember co-features.
  • I remember mink stoles.
  • I remember when Howdy Doody was "live."
  • I remember when Dick Clark was young.
  • I remember "Kukla, Fran and Ollie."
  • I remember "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet."
  • I remember when Johnny Carson replaced Steve Allen on the Tonight Show.
  • I remember being concerned about 1984 and Y2K.
  • I remember when it was unusual for women to wear pants to work.
  • I remember pizza selling 25 cents for a slice. Maybe even 15 cents.
  • Althought I never drank it, I remember ten-cent coffee.
  • I remember soda vending machines that poured liquid into cups.
  • I remember when "gay" merely meant "happy."
  • I remember when there were just three Radio Shack stores in the entire world, and no BestBuys or Circuit Cities.
  • When our family drove cross-country in 1959, gas cost less than 25 cents per gallon.
  • I remember preparing for World War Three. Duck and Cover.
  • I remember when American men did not wear necklaces, and most women did not have tattoos, or piercings other than in their ears.
  • I remember paying for long-distance calls, and keeping them short.
  • I remember tube testers at Radio Shack, being able to select either mono or stereo LPs, when mobile phones cost $3,000, and when going online could cost $20 per HOUR.
  • I remember when color TVs, touch-tone phones and microwave ovens were luxury items.
  • I remember when TVs had knobs and no remote controls.
  • I remember having a $1,000 VCR with a wired remote  control.
  • I remember open-reel tape, 78s, 45s, 33s, 4-track, 8-track, cassettes, Elcassettes, videodiscs, quadraphonic sound, and record players in cars.
  • I remember wristwatches with tiny LED displays.
  • I remember when there was a Disneyland but no Disney Worlds.
  • I (sadly) remember life without TiVo and satelite radio.
  • I remember when cars had just three-speed transmisisons. (The first Corvette had just two.)
  • I remember when turbocharging was exotic.
  • I remember paying to have new cars rustproofed by Ziebart.
  • I remember calling relatives to let them know we had arrived safely -- after a 50-mile drive.
  • I remember when there was no President's Day, but there was a Decoration Day, and weekends had just two days.
  • I remember when it was unusual to see nude bodies or hear dirty words in movies, or hear dirty words on TV or radio.
  • I remember when tacos were exotic, and pizza was not available with eggplant.
  • I remember when pocket calculators were exotic.
  • I remember when people stayed home to watch TV.
  • I remember when a science magazine said that it would never be possible to produce a color video camera that could be sold for less than $25,000.
  • I remember predictions of helicopters in every driveway, flat-screen color TVs, pocket-size phones and the end of war and disease.
  • I also remember when cigarettes cost 27 cents per pack, had no cancer warnings, and were advertised on TV. "More doctors smoke camels than any other brand."
  • I remember when magazines cost a quarter, paperback books cost 35 cents, computers cost millions, and homes had one phone and one TV.
  • I remember when milk and eggs were delivered to homes, mommy was home to cook lunch for the kids, and freezers had to be defrosted.
  • I remember hearing about nickel lunches, but I actually remember drinking nickel Cokes.
  • I remember when kids walked to school and it was up-hill in both directions.
  • I remember when KFC was called Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • I remember when females were not supposed to like sex.
  • I remember when schools, public lavatories and water fountains got integrated.
  • I remember when Ivy League schools had quotas for Jews, and fancy hotels did not allow Jews or dogs to stay in them.
  • I remember when few Jewish people bought German cars and when few WW2 vets bought Japanese cars.
  • I remember when computer screens and printers were monochrome.
  • I remember floppy discs, and laser discs.
  • I remember changing spark plugs.
  • I remember snow tires, even studded snow tires.
  • I remember when radar detectors were illegal in some states.
  • I remember Montgomery-Ward, Gimbel's, Bambergers, Korvette's and Crazy Eddie.
  • I remember when people couldn't buy liquor with a credit card, or lots of things on Sunday.
  • I remember when cable TV was unusual. So were shopping malls. And wearing jeans and sneakers to school.
  • I remember when Howard Johnson's restaurants were ubiquitous, and the signs at McDonald's bragged, "Over One Million Sold."
  • I remember when you had to get phone service from the phone company.
  • I remember when nobody used lasers at home.
  • I remember when most pens and batteries leaked.
  • I remember the appearance of the Magic Marker.
  • I remember when Negroes became Blacks and Afro-Americans.
  • I remember when black people started using the N-word.
  • I remember when it was unusual to see black people in commercials.
  • I remember when "Protestants" became "Christians."
  • I remember when Mormons were considered weird. Hmm.
  • I remember when it was shocking to consider that a Catholic could become president.
  • I remember when Americans went to Cuba for vacation -- but not to China.
  • I remember the iron curtain and iron lungs.
  • I remember my Diners' Club card and receiving Telegrams.
  • I remember stores that let people charge purchases without using charge cards, and when Macy's started accepting American Express.
  • I remember when McDonald's started selling breakfast, and bagels.
  • I remember when banks closed at 3 p.m. and on weekends.
  • I remember when mail order items were ordered and delivered by mail.
  • I remember the switch from steel to aluminum SCUBA tanks, from dual-hose to single-hose regulators, and from ski boots with laces to ski boots with clips.
  • I remember when people without legs did not compete in sports.
  • I remember when Saturn was not a car but Mercury was.
  • I remember back in the 1950s when banks paid less than three percent on savings. Hmm.
  • I remember hearing about the Great Depression and that it could never happen again. 
Of course, one big disadvantage of this perspective and memory may be that nobody wants to hear about it.



  1. Actually, other old people like hearing about the old days. Young people do not. "Grampa, it's time to take your nap."

  2. Where are my keys?

  3. ...and rexograph & mimeograph machines - with their messy stencils; and (for us Bronxites)the construction of the Throgsneck Bridge; and the NY skyline without the Twin Towers - oops!