Do You Remember?

At a dinner party last night, I told the story about visual note-taking. Rather than write down lists on the board when I’m teaching (or use, shudder, PowerPoint), I draw images. They are not elaborate, but do suggest concepts—a light bulb for an idea, a phone for communication.

Old phones

I had drawn a traditional desk-top phone when someone in the class said, “What’s that?” The traditional phone is no longer a symbol of communication, unless you are in an antique store. I redrew the phone to a smart phone, skipping over several generations of receivers, cordless, and huge mobile phones.

Later in the class, someone asked what “bcc” in email stood for. “Blind carbon copy,” I said before I realized that carbon paper was an office supply even older than a rotary phone. So I explained that too.

And I realized that in my lifetime–which is not really that terribly long—what we think of as “normal” has changed considerably.  I remember. . .

. . . when young ladies wore girdles and stockings every day. To college classes. Pantyhose made our life so much lighter.

Smart phones are much easier to draw than old-fashioned phones.

. .  houses with one, centrally-located, black, table top phone. Everyone made and took calls at this one spot. There were built-in shelves or tables to use.

. . . party lines. More than one family used your line. You’d pick up the phone receiver and hear talking. You weren’t supposed to listen in. But you did.

. . . letting a phone ring 10 times and then hanging up. Pre-answering machine, which was also pre-voicemail. The answering machines were big, and had a cassette tape to record messages.

. . . milk trucks that would deliver milk in glass bottles to your front door. There were zinc boxes to put the bottles in so they wouldn’t freeze.

. . . the tops of the milk bottles had crimped paper caps with the name of the dairy on a disk on the top. The disks became collectables at some point.

Milk bottle tops.

. . . my father wearing the “latest” in men’s wear–nylon, drip-dry shirts. They felt slick and had a slight shine. I’m sure they didn’t breathe. For that matter I remember irons that just heated up–no steam.

. . .  driving to the county dump for big trash, and composting all the kitchen trash because there was no such thing as a garbage truck.

. . . long hot nights with a rotary fan moving air around the room. No air conditioning. The fan’s cord was thick and had a woven cloth covering.

Old-fashioned fan from

. . . ice boxes. No, really. Ice boxes. Big box on the front porch. Guy would come and drop 50-pounds of block ice into it, using huge tongs, and you would put food in to keep it from spoiling. OK, I barely remember it, but I remember the call, “Fifty POUNDS, please!”

. . . pulling into a gas station and having a guy (always male) come out, wearing a coverall uniform and a hat,  put gas in your car, wash your windshield and check your oil. You paid for gas, but not for the other work. And no tipping.

. . . after dinner, you washed the dishes by hand. One person would wash, using a tub of hot soapy water, rinse by dipping in a tub of clean, hot water. Another person would dry the dishes using linen towels with designs embroidered on them. Glasses, plates, knives and forks. You used different towels for different utensils. On good days, we would sing doing this. On bad days, we would bicker until one of my parents would say, sternly, “Don’t make me get up!” And we didn’t.

What do you remember from long ago and far away?

-Quinn McDonald also remember doing her homework in blue-black in with a fountain pen. Even math. And certainly diagramming sentences.