There are a lot of things that my generation grew up with that were always there and seemed like they always would be. Until they weren’t. Some of them were simple things that seem funny now when viewed through the lens of time. While progress has rendered them obsolete or ignorant and replaced them with improved technology or enlightened awareness, I still sometimes find myself wistfully lamenting their loss. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane and remember a few of my favorite things that have gone the way of the dodo bird. (Along with expressions like “gone the way of the dodo bird.”)
According to penile pictorial historians, the first dick pic was taken in 1950 by Anthony Weiner’s grandfather, Peter Weiner, using a Polaroid Camera. Before everyone carried cell phones and selfies became a self-obsessed national obsession, we all had to wait hours - if not days - to see how our pictures came out. The only way we could take photos that we could see “instantly” was with a Polaroid Camera. (Except you had to shake it for 60 seconds and blow on it like tacky fingernail polish.) Otherwise, a stranger always saw your pictures before you did. We all lived in fear of some pervert at the Fotomat keeping his own personal copies of our pictures at the beach. And if you ever attempted to take a nude photo you would probably get arrested, or at least get funny looks from the formerly friendly staff at your local drug store.
Full-Service Gas Stations
As I remember the old full service gas stations, they were never the clean wholesome pictures of Americana that they were portrayed to be in their advertising. Usually, you got your gas pumped and your windshield wiped by some filthy mechanic with rotting teeth and more grease under his fingernails than you had in your whole car. They didn’t offer to check your oil or tires but, if you asked, they would begrudgingly do it. Although, they did give away free stuff like trading stamps, wall calendars and road maps. (You know, more crap that has since been rendered useless.) The gas crisis of the 1970’s changed all that. Now we have to pay extra for those services, if you can even find the rare gas station that offers them. Interestingly, two states have made self-service gas stations illegal, New Jersey and Oregon. I guess they don’t want anybody who’s packing heat or getting high pumping their own gas.
I’m Guessing She’s From Oregon
Before Google Maps and Waze showed us how to get everywhere we’re going, the only way to figure out how to drive someplace was with an oversized, unwieldy, hard to read and mind-bendingly confusing road map. The writing was smaller than the fine print in Ant-Man’s contract and the squiggly lines resembled the varicose veins on my Aunt Tessie’s legs. Some maps came in book form but most were printed on paper large enough to carpet a small room. But it was folded over so many times it was the size of a letter envelope before you opened it. Unfortunately, they would never be that size again because it was impossible to properly refold them into their original form. It was like having a wrestling match with a giant piece of origami. And losing. They were about as useful as Betty White on a basketball team.
Which Way Do I Go?
I remember when I joined the Columbia House Record Club and got 13 albums for a penny. I bought the latest from Van Morrison, Donovan, Chicago and others, but there was a catch. They made me sign a membership agreement to buy a lot more records at full price. I signed it, but I had no intention of buying more. I thought I was outsmarting them because I was only 15, hence a legal minor, so my signature was not legally binding. I thought I was pulling off the crime of the century. Unfortunately, I spent the rest of my teenage years tormented by guilt and living in fear that I'd get caught. It was like I was trapped in my own musical version of Crime and Punishment. Columbia House finally folded in 2009. How they stayed in business that long, I’ll never know.
From the Walkman to the iPod to the Earbud to the inevitable microchip implant in our brains, the technology for listening to music keeps getting smaller. But before that, the industry went big with the Boom Box. An oversized sound system that obnoxious kids used to carry around, mostly to annoy adults with their loud music. Some of them were the size of a large tool box and just as heavy. I imagine that many a middle-aged back problem and hearing impairment started when a young person balanced a cassette player, radio tuner, amplifier, stereo loudspeakers and/or a CD player in a metal case on their shoulder all day. And yet, like the mullet haircut, they were once considered cool. And never will be again.
I used to love to watch the old variety shows on TV with big stars like Bob Hope, Dean Martin, and Carol Burnett. And then there were those lesser stars who never seemed to do anything else like Joey Heatherton and Lola Falana. Remember when impressionists were popular? (I don’t mean the painters, I mean the comedians.) I was never really a fan of Rich Little, Frank Gorshin or John Byner. It seemed like they were just doing impressions of each other doing impressions. They all did the same tired old Kirk Douglas, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant bits. (Did you know that Cary Grant never actually said, “Judy, Judy, Judy”?) But I did enjoy the corny sketches when they’d crack each other up, the big production numbers with the leggy dancers and those classic duets where they’d sing an endless medley of similarly themed songs. They don’t make TV shows like that anymore. And the more I think about it, that’s probably a good thing.
Dean Martin & The Golddiggers
People used to drink and drive all the time. And we didn’t wear seat belts, either. (It’s amazing we’re still alive to tell the tale.) It was illegal, but if a cop pulled you over for drunk driving it was more likely you’d get a slap on the wrist than get handcuffs slapped on your wrists. While I hate to admit it, I have many fond of memories of driving drunk or stoned with my friends. It was like riding in bumper cars, but with a death wish. I realize now how reckless it was and how fortunate I am that I never hurt or killed anyone, including myself. But back then it was as commonly accepted and stupid as pregnant women smoking or bald men wearing toupees. It wasn’t until Mothers Against Drunk Driving formed in 1980 that things started to change and everyone realized how dangerous it was (duh) and law enforcement started cracking down (double-duh). Now if you get caught drunk driving, you could lose your license, pay thousands of dollars in fines and even go to jail. I know that’s a good thing, but they really took all the fun out of drinking and driving.
This was another stupid activity many of us regularly engaged in. After being raised with the ominous maxim “never get in cars with strangers”, generations of youthful travelers recklessly stuck out their thumbs on the highways of America inviting any creep, rapist or murderer with a car to have their way with them. What could possibly go wrong? This activity was eventually replaced by ride service companies like Uber and Lyft. Now it’s just as dangerous, plus you have to pay for the ride with a driver who is an unemployable loser that gets to rate you as a passenger. I think I’d rather be left for dead on the side of the road.
When exactly did cursive writing become obsolete? I never had kids, so I guess I missed the part where our public school systems decided to declare war on penmanship. I only recently found out about this when I saw a story on the news about how some schools were trying to bring cursive writing back. Bring it back? Where did it go? Does everyone only know how to type with their thumbs anymore? Of course, that not only means that kids can’t sign their own names (I guess they just make a big X now) but they won’t be able to read cursive writing, either. A hand written note from their parents probably looks like ancient hieroglyphics to them.
I miss all these things and more. Not because they were all good, but because they were all part of the fabric of my life. (And I hate it when fabrics fade.) So many things from the past are gone now, replaced by progress and evolution. Some have tried to make a comeback, but none will ever see their original glory days. Like all lessons in history, it is important to remember where we came from, what we’ve lost, what we’ve gained and the mistakes we made in the past. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat them. Nobody wants to get caught drunk driving while trying to read a road map and picking up a hitch-hiker with a boom box in 2020.