|Blast From The Past. A Double Baker's Dozen
by Nathan Barton © 2012
April 30, 2012
Why the good ol' days weren't always good:
O’Rourke has said, “When you think of the good old days, think
dentistry.” You’re grandparents often spoke of the good old days,
and so did their parents. Here’s some of the good in those old
Dentists used hand- or foot-powered drills (up to about
1940 or so).
Kerosene lamps and natural gas were used for light
(small towns until the 1930s, many farms and ranches until the 1950s).
If you went to go to the bathroom, you had to take a
trip outside to visit the little building with the quarter moon cut-out
on the door (Many rural areas to the 1950s, some reservation areas
until the 1990s).
Wringer-style washers, at best. No dryers. Hang the wash
out on a clothes line.
No air-conditioning; or at best (in drier areas) a swamp
cooler outside A window of the house (up to the 1970s).
There were three television networks — ABC, NBC, and
CBS — and controlled mostly by liberals. There was no satellite
TV. Cable was just getting started and mostly used to provide the three
networks and MAYBE PBS and a local “government access” channel to more
remote towns (In many rural areas, there was only ONE channel on the
air.) (1960s and 1970s).
There were no microcomputers, laptops, iTunes, or
“cloud.” (Until the late 1970s, when the Commodore PET and Sinclair
SX-80 showed up: but still no music or internet.)
The fastest way to get information was the daily paper
(or weekly paper in rural areas) or US Mail. If you were VERY lucky,
you had a radio station that had both national and local news for more
than 30 seconds an hour. (Up until the late 1980s)
There was one telephone company to choose from – IF you
were in the city. Rural areas had local phone companies or
cooperatives, usually with party lines, and with an operator for
long-distance calls. (Up until the mid-1980s.) You rented your phone
from your phone company.
There were no plain-paper copiers: you got to use carbon
paper if you needed to make more than an original (even “NCR” (No
Carbon Required) paper didn't exist. If you needed a lot of copies of
something, there were mimeograph or Ditto machines. Then in the late
1960s there were Thermofax machines that were convenient for a few
copies but really horrible.
There were no telephone answering machines or voice mail
until the mid-1970s.
There were no home video recorders or camera. If you
wanted to have movies (video), you needed a film camera, to develop the
film, and then use a projector to watch it. With no sound. The first
video cameras for home, school, and business use came in the early
Your choice for recording sound (no pictures) was with
reel-to-reel tape recorders and players, until the late 1960s, when the
audio cassette was introduced. No track-skipping like CDs or MP3
players: fast forward and reverse worked (usually).
blasts from the past. Do you remember when...
- You had to put new license plates
on your car every year. No stickers, and all with just lettering
few very simple logos or shapes, like a star or a mountain.
You could not use credit cards to pay government fees,
fines, or taxes: they were only for buying gas.
You could not vote except on voting day at the right
voting place for your precinct, unless you were military or some very
specific reason for not being present on voting day.
You had to periodically let a county employee come into
your home to inspect it and “appraise” it to determine not just how
much real estate property taxes you had to pay, but taxes on personal
property as well.
You could not look up government records or ordinances
on-line: you had to go to the court house to see who owned what piece
of land and whether there were easements or liens - usually by looking
at huge bound books or microfilm.
If you were a man, you could get drafted – even if the
US were not at war someplace.
To write or send someone something, you had a choice of
the Post Office or the Post Office: FedEx and UPS were strictly for
businesses. And you couldn't even buy stamps by mail or out of a
vending machine except in very large cities.
You couldn't buy beer or liquor in most states on
Sundays, even in a bar. In fact, in many states, you could only buy
liquor from a state-owned and -operated liquor store, which kept
government office hours.
In many states (not just Oregon), you couldn't pump your
own gas. It was against the law.
The government set minimum and/or maximum prices for
many services, and limited the companies that could offer those
services, such as airlines, telephone service, towing companies,
trucking, lawyers' and doctors' fees, and many others (although some
services that ARE government controlled today were not in those days,
like barber and beauty shops, plumbers, and piano teachers).
Cars didn't have seat belts, emissions controls, safety
glass, or outside rear view mirrors: but you could let your small child
sit up in the front seat or your children and pets in the bed of the
You could let your 14-year-old drive the family car (in
states other than South Dakota, that is) and, once upon a time, you
only had to have a drivers license if you were driving a commercial
vehicle (as in Colorado until 1955).
- You could build a house or barn or put up a fence or
install a driveway in most rural areas and small towns with having to
have 5-10 permits and licenses and two or three or five public hearings.
This is not
to say that everything in the past was bad or everything today is
worse. But let’s put things in perspective before we discount the
present OR glorify the past.
|Nathan Barton is writing this from
the West, where whatever freedom and liberty we have left in this
nation can still be found, despite the efforts of so many haters of
liberty. Feel free to contact him through The Price of
For Redress of Grievances
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