Wednesday, March 08, 2006
What did you do before television? Old goats like me get that question a lot from the younger generation. First, today’s children can’t really believe that there ever was a time without television, cell phones, microwaves, computers, etc. Yes, Virginia, there was joy in the non-tech world. In the evenings when our generation was still in school we did home work. We played quiet games like Monopoly. It is still around, but not the rage it once was.. We read books, newspapers and magazines. There was radio in my youth. Tom Mix, Bobby Benson, Buck Rogers, Little Orphan Annie, Flash Gordon – were all fifteen minute adventure serials that many of us listened to. They were on in the early evening before our parents switched to Lowell Thomas who read fifteen minutes of news. In the New York area there was a great music program on every afternoon called the “Make Believe Ballroom” on WNEW. The host, Martin Block, was the first of the great disc jockeys. That was all AM radio with static a frequent interruption to listening pleasure.
Ipods were unheard of in those days, but we did have our big clunky phonographs. We collected 76 rpm records which were about 10 inches in diameter and had about 3 minutes of music (one song) on each side. We played them until they wore out or got so covered with scratches that they sounded horrible.
Without television, movies were a more popular source of entertainment, particular after sound and then Technicolor came along. They were a lot cheaper then also. We, the kids, used to go to the Saturday afternoon double feature complete with two serials for twenty cents. Adults wouldn’t be caught dead at that show. Too much hooting and hollering. We used to take a candy box (empty) and blow in one end making a very rude sound. Great fun
Building models from kits was a big time kids’ hobby in those days. Balsa wood, glue and paper properly cut and assembled could create neat model airplanes, ships and automobiles. Kits came in various degrees of complexity and detail to match abilities. There was a company named Heath that put out Heathkits (imaginative name?). These were based on the growing field of electronics. They provided the parts and instructions for anything from simple radios and accessories to complete weather stations. My first wind meter was home made.I made a fine short wave radio with which I spent hours listening to stations around the world.
Oh yes, another lost art that kept us busy – writing letters. There were no e-mails or text messages or IM with their cryptic shortcuts. We spent evenings writing legible letters to friends and relatives. Stamps were two cents and then went to three cents later.
Technology didn't first enter my Mom's kitchen with the microwave oven. I think it was just before WWII(long before the microwave) that the pressure cooker became the thing the Jones had to have. It was a pot made out of heavy steel that cooked things very much faster than the usual pot or pan. Veggies in two or three minutes, for instance. It was sealed so that very little water was turned to steam under pressure. They had safety valves that released steam at critical pressure so the whole business didn’t blow sky high. Our kitchen ceiling was repainted several times to remove evidence of untended beans or peas. The microwave came along and only a few diehards still use pressure cookers
Net, net, what we did without TV and pop technology was enjoy ourselves just like you do with it.