In the old garage at the family cabin when I was a kid there was an “ice box”. I imagine if you used that term today, a child or young adult might think you were talking about a cooler that you’d use on a camping trip or just to hold beverages at a picnic or bonfire. The ice box was actually the predecessor to the refrigerator, the “appliance” that kept perishable items cold with a block of ice. In my lifetime it was never used to store food but to hold old phone books. Phone books were thick, with tissue thin pages with every household’s phone number in it alphabetically by last name. The books with the yellow pages were the business phone numbers. Much like a dictionary, it was often difficult to locate what you wanted. Not so much because you couldn’t spell it but because gas stations were listed under “service stations” and barbers were included under “stylists”. In most homes they were used in lieu of a booster seat when young guests were being seated at the table. Chances are that today social services might take a child away from someone willing to plant someone vulnerable atop a stack of unsecured books with shiny (read slippery) covers.
While taking pictures at a family gathering over the weekend, a great aunt handed me her camera, prompting her sister to ask “you don’t have one on your phone?”. The inquiring sibling was wearing her cell phone in a wrist strap contraption. “Oh no, I could never have a phone with that much on it.” In their late seventies and into their eighties, I admired their cellphone ownership. Having gone from “party lines” where nosy neighbors had access to your personal business via their rotary phones to touch tone technology and eventually phones that permitted them to move from room to room and more recently the advent of the cellphone, they had lived through a substantial portion of communication history. Raised on radio shows, it would have been difficult to imagine that one day they could have access to entire movie libraries or watch a television program that they had missed, at a time of their own choosing. I am certain that my own families mobile phone bill each month is larger than the mortgage payment was on the house where I was raised.
I miss the days of rolling down my window and saying “Fill it up with regular and check the oil.” when I refueled. I remember shortly after purchasing my first new car in Missouri in 1986 that the first time I did that the attendant inquired how many miles I had on the car “175” came my reply. After a couple of years of adding a quart of oil to my Nova every time I filled the tank I was learning that was not normal. I remember my Ford Escort as being the last car I owned that did not have power windows. Same thing regarding manual locks. My last Honda CRV had a CD player and a cassette player (I assume my last). One of the early vehicles I drove was a Lincoln that had an 8track and curb feelers). Despite owning two minivans when my kids were younger we never owned one that had a DVD player in it, something I know parents of youngsters find indispensable on road trips now. Personally, I always enjoyed car discussions and pointing things out as we drove to our destination. Our kids were however in car seats and then graduated to boosters (not a stack of phone books) that were located in the back seat. My husband and I came home from the hospital in our mother’s arms, in the front seat. It was not uncommon while growing up to see missing pieces of dashboards in cars from children taking a bite out of it when being launched by a quick stop or the classic spider web of a windshield where the entire head had made impact. The cars were heavier back then but the safety features, airbags and seat belt laws of today have made passengers safer over the years.
After the recent death of Robin Williams, my daughter had a circle of friends over to have a mini film festival; Dead Poets Society, Jumanji and Aladdin. It made me wonder when I would truly part with my VHS movies, so emblematic of my children’s childhood. Perhaps someday when I consider parting with my own cassette tapes.