The Good Old Days

Early last week I finally got my unread e-mails down to zero, which of course lasted all of a minute and a half. Yesterday alone I had 200 e-mails. I find myself glued to my phone, checking messages regularly so I can keep a handle on all the information and not get a twitch. I suffer from vacaphobia…fear of vacations. I cannot imagine being unplugged for more than a few hours. I don’t know if I could undig myself.

Yes, I have a problem.

In a way, I love this problem. I get to connect with amazing people like you guys. I mean, let’s face it, ten years ago, I couldn’t have afforded to be friends with most of you. Technology has so many advantages and we live in incredible times. But, sometimes, I think back to when I was a kid and it makes me smile. It seems so alien to remember a time when people couldn’t reach you any time or anywhere, where summer days were quiet and boring but oh so precious. Maybe I play Wonder Woman now, balancing writing and being a Mom…but that seems so far off the Wonder Woman I wanted to be when I was 5. She had a way better uniform. Mine is an apron and a laptop.

My son will experience things I only dreamed of as a kid. But, in a sad way, he will never experience an age of innocence that we so took for granted.

I grew up in Fort Worth, TX. Montgomery Wards was a staple in my childhood and every time I drive down 7th street I see this beautiful building (now fancy high-end condos) that brings back so many memories, namely the toy department. I know I am dating myself, but when I was little the idea of the “mall” was in its infancy.

When I was a kid, we shopped at department stores where, like Vegas, there were no clocks, no windows, but always loads of smiling salespeople to help you part with your money. My little brother and I would dash between racks of clothes and dive into the “core” where we could have our own “clubhouse”….well, until my mother had enough our antics and yanked us out, swatted our butts, then swiftly detoured to Housewares—UGH! The Floor of Death. There were few things that could suck harder for a six-year-old than being banished to the World of Kitchen Appliances and Yard Tools. My mother could spend an entire day—I kid you not—looking at refrigerators. The only thing worse was FABRIC STORES.

Ah, and then there was the waiting room for the Sears Catalogue Department.

Take a number please! I remember sitting for hours in horrible burnt orange chairs playing with the sand in the ashtrays (until Mom caught me). I would peruse the catalogues, making lists of all the crap I wanted for my birthday (Lite Brite, Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie Cosmetics Set, Hungry Hungry Hippos Game, Twister {I linked to all the old commercials if you want a flashback :D}).

Meanwhile, my parents waited in line for the clothes they’d ordered for us–turtleneck shirts and orange corduroy pants with reinforced elbow and knees. Über-fashionable.

My father would stand outside chain-smoking while my brother and I took turns checking the candy machines for loose change and petrified pink Chicklets left in the metal dispenser (Hey! I was a kid!). And then they had those “treasures” that came in a plastic bubble. We could buy JEWELRY for a mere .25?! I knew my mother was bad with money in that she could not see the value. She never once gave me two measly quarters to try my luck at landing the gold princess necklace….or a tattoo.

Christmastime was especially magical. Of course every year all the department stores would have a cameo appearance from the Big Guy, himself—Santa. I must have been one of the most annoying children ever in that I never fully bought the whole one guy bringing toys to all the children of the world in 24 hours just out of the goodness of his heart thing.

Me: How old is Santa?

My Dad: No one knows.

Me: How can he visit all the children in the world in 24 hours?

My Dad: Santa is the only thing capable of traveling at light speed.

Me: What’s light speed?

My Dad: The speed Santa travels to give toys to all the children in the world in 24 hours.

Me: How can there be a Santa at Sears, Monkey Wards, and JC Penny’s?

My Dad: They’re clones.

And we wonder why I am warped?

Department stores like Montgomery Wards held so many fine memories, but their age passed and it was time to say good-bye.

There are other businesses like this. Arcades are still around, but not like the old days when we could spend 11 minutes and 43 seconds blowing through our allowance playing Ms. Pac Man or Space Invaders. There were no complex story-lines in these games like today. No, these games accurately reflected life—they got faster and faster and harder and harder until you DIED.

Drive-in movie theaters are pretty much extinct as well. I remember riding in the back of my father’s pickup as we drove down I-30 (no, that wasn’t illegal back then). I always knew we were out of town when I saw the large silver screen nestled in the hills. If it happened to be nightime, we’d be able to catch glimpses of the newest movies. 

I remember falling in love with Burt Reynolds while lying on a quilt spread over the hood of my father’s orange Chevy Ford pick-up (Why was everything orange in the 70s?). Anyway, I knew Burt and I would marry, despite the age difference. I was four and he was older than I could count at the moment using all fingers and toes, but love knew no bounds. 

There was the dancing hot dogs and soda. How can you not love dancing food? There was also a swing set where we could play when we got bored with the movie. You had to walk a half a mile to go pee…but the drive-in was pure magic.

Not a lot of roller rinks anymore, either. Who among you over the age of thirty DIDN’T fall in love at least once while gliding across polished wood under the light of the disco-ball? Stop skate, change directions, and maybe the hokey-pokey, is, in the end, what it’s all about. I still get chills when I hear Summer of ’69 or anything by Journey or Toto.

There was also this Skating Rink Hierarchy. The low guys on the totem pole (me) wore those horrid clunky brown rental skates with orange wheels. And you had to get back in line at least six times to get a pair that fit AND worked AND had shoelaces that were still in tact…well, until your mom had to cut them off you at the end of the night. Oh, but to one day be cool and have white skates with pink wheels and glittery laces like all the high school girls. That would be when I knew I had finally made it.

This is me when I grow up….or not.

We waited all week for Saturday cartoons, and most of us learned basic English skills via Schoolhouse Rock.

Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?

It was a world where feathered hair ruled and a Trans-Am was the pinnacle of coolness. We all dreamed of one day growing up and owning Firebird, never suspecting that it too, would go extinct, left in the Age of the Department Stores. I am glad I got the chance to grow up in a world still so innocent, where walking to a snow cone stand was the only way to pass time on a summer night. It was quieter, slower, and I miss it dearly.

What are some things you guys miss? I don’t care how young or old, what is some piece of yesteryear that you want to share? Maybe you’ll jog our memories!

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Just so you guys know, the contest results will be delayed. I had all of your names printed off in nice little slips of paper and in a pretty jar…that I managed to knock off the counter late last night.

*bangs head on desk*

So I have to print off all the names again today, or any results wouldn’t be fair. Stay tuned for the winners. Will get that announced soon.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.


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  1. This post was amazing. Thank you!! It’s a bit of a haul to drive to the roller rink, but I try to take my daughter once a month or so as I’m convinced it’s a valuable life skill. I don’t think she sees the value of it yet. I’m going to go check and see when the drive-in opens this year.

    • Dean Lampman on April 1, 2011 at 2:55 pm
    • Reply

    Great post, Kristen. Lots to think about there, even for guys like me. To your question, I miss the Red Skelton show. When it went off the air, I cried. And so did a little girl I met later in life and eventually married. (We were kindred spirits even before we met.) Sadly, a show like Red Skelton’s would be considered boring today, but I remember it fondly. Thanks for a great trip down memory lane.

  2. I’m pretty sure you must be the same age as I am. I have many of the same memories, though I grew up in New England!

  3. Wow what a great post. The old day might have been simple but no matter what they were fun. As to you checking your messages a lot, you are not alone. I think a lot of us do that since we reply so much on technology. Since we write we are always on the computer doing something that connects us to the world.

  4. They haven’t been extinct for too long, but I miss The Music Store. Yeah, stores still sell music, but not like The Music Store. It was a hang out. Remember all the fun the kids in Empire Records had? They picked AND blasted whatever music they felt like. You always walked out of there with cool stuff you never heard on the radio (Pretty cheap prices too) and on the rare occasion the dude behind the counter complimented your purchase? Well, that was the coolest thing ever. And I guess I’m old, but I like having the artwork and reading the liner notes. It’s part of the music buying process.

    With that, I’m off to spend the day watching Transformers and G.I.Joe because there are also no more good cartoons on TV.

    1. “Damn the Man! Save the Empire!” Thanks for that flashback, Empire Records is one of my all-time favorite movies. 😀

  5. I miss not having a TV.
    When I was a kid we either read books or went outside and play. And no, I’m not super old. I’m 25. My parents were just weird. Or maybe everyone else are the weird ones and they were just exactly right.
    Anyway, now I have a television and I’m hooked on all of its visual goodness. I kid myself that one day I’ll have the guts to get rid of it, but so far nuthin’. I enjoy my Netflix too much.

  6. My favorite line: “No, these games accurately reflected life—they got faster and faster and harder and harder until you DIED.”

    I miss bowling where you had to keep score yourself instead of having your gutter bulls automated with a “you suck” message on the screen that everyone in the alley can see. I miss wearing tall striped socks with open-toed wedge sandals. I miss head bands and leg warms, a la Olivia Newton John in Physical. I miss Princess phones where you could curl the phone cord around your hands and feet as you chatted. I miss the candy counter at the Sears store where the lady scooped Brachs chocolate stars into a plastic baggie, tied it up with a twistie, and handed over into my small, eager hands. I miss opening the mailbox and finding an envelope addressed to me that contained an actual handwritten letter rather than an advertisement, a bill, or an obligatory thank-you card.

    1. Wow! I totally forgot about the Sears candy store! Loved Olivia Newton John. I must have seen Grease 6000 times.


  7. On the subject of roller skates…

    Just the other day I was talking to my mom about them, and she brought up a story of when she was younger. Between her, her brother and her sister, they had one pair of metal roller skates. They came with a key that allowed you to change the size, so they fit different size feet. Her and my uncle laughed as they recalled horrors of losing the key and the skates being stuck on one site — they would go down the street and borrow the skate key of one of their friends.


    I’m a baby still. When I was younger, people had skates, but roller blades were what the cool kids had. 😉

  8. What a trip down memory lane….I think I miss Orange Juluis most. I know they still exist every here and there but Midland lost theirs decades ago. I used to love to go to the mall with my mom, order an Orange Juluis, large salty-pretzel with nacho cheese, and a piece of Luca’s pizza. I’d sit on the chairs and bounce the entire time I enjoyed my lunch. Most importantly, this time was special – good quality time with mom.

  9. Kristen,

    I grew up in Colleyville, TX (which has changed vastly since the 70’s and 80’s). I miss Sonic. I miss buying Green Apple Super Bubble gum at the concession stand in between softball games. I miss riding in the back of my dad’s pickup truck after the game, with a group of giddy, jostling girls, on our way for ice cream. I miss the heat of the sun in March.

    1. No Sonic! Horrors! There’s one right down the street from me, and you are welcome to visit! Actually, there are a lot of Sonic drive-ins here in Fort Worth. Are you still in Colleyville?

      1. Gigi,

        You’re not a big fan of tater tots? 🙂 Really, my stomach might not be able to handle so much of Sonic anymore, but the memories!….

        I’m not in Colleyville anymore, moved north. So far north that summer doesn’t hit until July. *sigh* How about you?

      2. Let me rephrase: It’s a horror that you don’t have a Sonic nearby! I adore Sonic, especially the tots! I’m down in Texas… where summer hits in a week or two!

        (I can’t reply to your post, so I replied to mine)

    • Laura Lee Nutt on April 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm
    • Reply

    I miss the days of writing letters. You pulled out your stationary from your desk and lovingly eased it open to take out one little envelope and a sheet or two of that colored and decorated paper that you’d spent fifteen minutes at the store trying to choose between it and two other beautiful patterns. You handwrote because it was more personal then, but because you were writing on expensive-ish paper and you didn’t have a delete key, you had to be very careful. At any mistake or change of wording you had to start all over again or live with a messy letter with lines drawn through words that you knew could still be read. At last, you fold that thick, lovely paper in half and guide it into that envelope that could never fit anything else. You’d seal it and have to track down your address book or the last letter you got from that person to find their address. Then there was the hunt for stamps. Should you put a flag stamp or a bluejay? A flower? And once all that was decided, you walked out your door into the cool evening air or during a bright spring afternoon with birds chirping and other kids playing ball down the street. You’d walk to the mailbox and slide the letter in and wish it luck that the postman didn’t lose it or that it stayed safe from rain or accident.

    When someone else sent you a letter, it was a big deal. They’d taken the time and thought to spend so much effort and their hard-earned 32¢. And you never worried that your stamps weren’t any good anymore because if the post office raised the price, it was a major event.
    You open up that letter, and it was special, so special you even had a box for all the letters you received. People who wrote you letters cared, and knowing that, you wanted to return the gesture. You’d even look for things in life to mention and make mental notes to include them in your next letter.

    Thanks for the post Kristen. It was lovely and rich and heartfelt.

  10. I was telling my husband I really wanted to go roller skating a week or so ago. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    Let’s see… what else do I miss? Meeting up with my best friend and then walking to a close-by shopping center. Browsing the make-up aisle at Walgreens and then trying on fancy dresses at Dillard’s. Eating a personal pan pizza at Godfather’s – and not worrying about the calories.

    Not spending more than 99 cents/gallon for gas!

  11. Love this type of tale. Now you’re just showing off. We know you can write fiction and serious NF and now you heap on some narrative NF. Great stuff.

    I remember the orange in the early 80s too. My mom always seemed to put me in clothes that would disguise me as pollen. That way more bees would attack. I had a major fear of bees and wasps as a kid on account of being stung repeatedly. I blame bright orange and yellow.

    And yes, housewares was and is death. Please ladies, send us away before you go there. Great post Wonder Woman.

  12. Thanks for the fun tromp down memory lane. I remember all that. I think a lot about pre-internet days and I miss it to. I’m glad I grew up then and still have a grasp of real life. And you are so right about the fabric stores. Ugh! Only thing worse was the women’s dept and waiting for my mom to clothes shop. Lol

    What about lemonade stands? Remember those? Kids don’t do them so much anymore.

  13. The smell of a Woolworth store. Wooden floors, fresh popcorn, and hot, salted nuts surrounded by mountains of unnecessary plastic objects. And I miss live DJ’s. We’d take turns at slumber parties calling up one at a time and requesting the same David Cassidy song for hours. No caller ID back then so they had to keep answering. Btw, I still have my roller skates. 🙂 Thanks for the pause that refreshes.

  14. Thanks for the time-traveling! Oh, I remember that Sears catalogue waiting room. I lived in a small town where pretty much everything had to be ordered from Sears. Except the fun little stuff you could get at the 5 & Dime. I miss that old place: dark, wooden floors. The smell of stale popcorn. Tacky little sparkly objects you could buy with your allowance money. Heaven for a kid.

  15. What a fun post! Really took me back… not that I’m not a bit eaten up with nostalgia already. I have a lot of the SchoolHouse rock videos on my youtube faves so I can share with my daughters as needed. The Preamble is so much cooler when sung.

    Had the biggest crush on Wonder Woman and was disappointed week after week when her wardrobe did not malfunction but continued to defy Newtonian physics.

    I recall not wearing shoes or shirts for months at a time in the summer. We roamed miles from home without parental worry and were thrilled to have ice trays without handles, let alone those cool half-moon shaped ice “cubes” that came out of those new fangled icemakers.

  16. My childhood was spectacular. How couldn’t it be if you live in the African bush?
    We had a house right on the edge of the bush. My mom’s warning, when my brother and I went out to play–watch out for the leopard. “Wally Sinclair spotted one near here last night.” Oh, boy, wrong thing to say to kids. We raced into the bush to find the leopard.
    As we venture deeper, the shadows seem to get longer. A baboon coughs and my younger brother pees himself and digs his nails into my arm. “T–that’s the l–leopard.”
    Me? Oh, I’m the eldest, fear is not allowed.”Stop being a ninny. It isn’t a leopard.” But I’m not sure what the hell it is. “Hang on, stay right there.” I duck behind a bush and have a pee, just in case. Can’t afford to pee in my pants, too. I saunter out and carry on the leopard hunt. “Stop lagging.”
    His eyes are like balloons in freckled snow. “I w–wish I’d brought my pellet gun.”
    A snort of wisdom. “How do you think you’ll stop a leopard with a pellet?”
    “Well, my knife then.”
    I hoot with laughter. “Forget it.”
    “Well, Uncle Henry killed a lion with a pen-knife.”
    Another cough.
    “Gert, shut up.”
    A leopard steps out from among the trees and is almost invisible in the dappled shade. It looks at us and we look back it, frozen. What are you supposed to do for crying out loud?
    I had never seen a leopard that close up, never seen anything so beautiful. It’s blue, yellow eyes are unwavering, exquisite. The bush was absolutely silent, not even a cricket chirruped.
    Suddenly the bush explodes. Baboons are swinging from tree to tree screaming like maniacs.
    The leopard melts into the undergrowth.
    I’m so glad I had a pee. My brother is whimpering and I’m pretty close to doing the same.
    I take his hand and walk backwards. “It’s late, we need to get home,” I quaver.
    “I’m going to tell on you.”
    “Tell what?”
    “Tell mom you took me to the leopard and it nearly ate me.”
    “You wanted to find the leopard, too.” This is not looking good. I pursue the route of threats, never to let him come with me again. That disintegrates into begging then bribery. I lost my Superman comic that day and my brother couldn’t even read. I hated him, until the next adventure, when I needed backup.
    Town was fun, but Livingstone, at the Victoria Falls, only boasted a population of 600. one movie house, six hotels and no traffic lights. Saturday entertainment was a sort of cafe that made milkshakes and the movie house. Needless to say we got all the old movies, being such a backwater. Every kid with with two shillings flocked to the movies at 2 PM.
    For teenagers there was a bop session at the only highschool.
    Now I’ve really aged myself.

    • Joanna Aislinn on April 1, 2011 at 5:01 pm
    • Reply

    We’re lucky to have a roller-skating rink w/in 20 minutes of here–not that I’ll get on them. (Think they’re blue now, like the rental ice skates I do get on at least once a year.) Our dept store was Two Guys; my brother and I once inadvertently rammed some poor woman walking by while we hid and jabbed the cart in/out of the space between the racks. I can still see her doubling over. BTW, one of my brothers got lost there at least once.

    The FABRIC STORE: the one my mom went to is still there. She somehow lost my other brother there when he, at 2 or so, curled up under a table and fell asleep on a pile of fabrics. She still swears the guy told her he had to close the store even if she didn’t find him–maybe she was so panicked she remembered the episode a mite differently than it happened?

    And it IS nice to be ‘not connected’ every now and again. Geez, happens when I somehow leave my cell phone behind. Imagine that. (Can’t get internet at my cottage in the woods either, not w/o an aircard (?) anyway.

    Have a great weekend–this was fun. 🙂

  17. I grew up in Rhode Island in the 50s and 60s. My parents had a beach house on the ocean.
    I remember when the Boston Braves (our favorite team) moved to Milwaukee, All we had left were the Red Sox. YUCK!. But on summer nights at the ocean, we could pick up radio broadcasts out of New York City of the Dodgers and the Giants. Then they moved to California.
    Then the Mets came along. One of my favorite memories is my Dad and I glued to the radio listening to Lindsey Nelson and Ralph Kiner broadcasting, making the game come alive.
    There’s nothing like listening to a baseball game on the radio.

    • Joanna Aislinn on April 1, 2011 at 5:05 pm
    • Reply

    BTW, did anyone see the recent article about the upcoming Wonder Woman movie and the flack over her costume design?

    That costume’s come a bit of a way, baby–but maybe not ALL that much.

    1. I like Linda Carter’s way better. Go star-spangled granny panties!

  18. I remember (and miss) days with my best friend where we’d both leave home early and ride our bikes 3-4 miles to meet in the middle, then spend the day biking along the riverfront, swimming and jumping off people’s docks, hitting up my granny’s house for lunch, and never once calling home. We would end the day sitting in front of the 7-11 eating icecream cones before we rode home. I remember the cool chill of that 7-11 as we wandered in, damp from swimming, barefoot, in nothing but bathing suits and sunglasses to get a soda or a snack. I remember the drive-in movies, too. My much older cousin was a bit of a prude and took me (at 4 or 5) with her when she and her boyfriends went on dates. She figured, with a kid in the front seat between them, there would be no question of hanky-panky. I watched Star Wars and fell in love with Luke Skywalker sitting there between my cousin and her boyfriend. Like you, I was convinced that I’d marry him in spite of the vast age difference. He was blonde and blue-eyed. I was blonde and blue-eyed… we were perfect for each other! It never occurred to me that Luke Skywalker was really an actor and not a Jedi at all. As far as I was conerned I was going to grow up, get a light saber, travel the stars, and marry a hero of the Rebellion.

  19. Camaros, bell bottom jeans, Clackers, Hot Wheels, The Fonz, Charlie’s Angels, and disco. I could go on and on. Going back even more, my grandmother said she grew up during the greatest time in history. When she was born in the late 1800’s there were no cars or planes. From that, she lived to see a man walk on the moon. Pretty cool.

  20. I live in the Good Old Days an hour a day. And I don’t mean my good old days, I mean my Grandfather’s. Several years back I picked up all the Jack Benny shows on eBay, but never had time to listen to them. That is, not until I got a car with an .mp3 player, and realized that between a half hour to work and a half hour home, there was a whole hour every day that was just getting shot to heck in a handbasket. Local radio was awful at those hours, so I started listening to them, starting in May 1932. It was awful for 2 years (fortunately few of those survive), then middling for another 2, until Fall 1936, when it just hit its stride and took off. Looking at my notebook, I see that this morning I listened to my 624th episode since starting in March 2010. You’d think it would have gotten old long ago. The basic formula is simple enough. Jack is cheap, and vain, Don is fat, Dennis is young, naive and bizarre, Phil Harris is drunk, illiterate and lives off his wife, Alice Faye’s reputation. Rochester is a wisecracking sharpie, and Mary is rude and cynical. Despite that, it never has gotten old, the writing is sharp enough that they can keep it endlessly funny. I still get at least one soda-up-the-nose moment per episode, which is why I don’t drink in the car. If I tried to re-tell every really good gag I’ve heard, it would be a book in itself, and even the ones I can remember off the top of my head would be a chapter.

    If I had to pick one single best routine, it would be one from 1944, in which Jack and Groucho Marx are playing checkers, while Rochester tries to sing hints to him about what to play. (Groucho: “I wish Frank Sinatra was on my side.”)

    I’ve been very susceptible to the advertising. When Jell-O became the sponsor, (J-E-L-L….Ooooooo!) I went out and started buying Jell-O again, for the first time in years. But ONLY the canonical “six delicious flavours” that they sold then (Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherry, Orange, Lemon and Lime, and always in that order, for reasons I never understood). . When Grape Nuts took over, I started buying Grape Nuts. Fortunately when Lucky Strike took over, I resisted the urge to take up smoking, but only barely.

    Television is interesting. There were a few stray references to it in the 30’s, leaving me wondering how on earth they knew what it even was. After the war, there were several more. By Fall 1950, there began to be jokes about nobody remembering what radio was (even though the show lasted 5 more years).

    The only drawback is that when people say the years fly by, they really do, in this case. It seems like only a year ago it was 1932. Now it’s 1952. Where DO the years go, anyway? Oh well, when they run out, I can always get them back.

  21. I miss the days when the people you were hanging out with didn’t all have cellphones that they were constantly checking. I also do miss hiding in the clothing racks at the department stores, and playing hiding-go-seek tag with my cousins and their neighbors in the summer time, or catching lightning bugs.

    1. Smartphones are great, but there’s something to be said about the old days of leaving that distraction behind.

  22. Well, Kristin, I come from what was then a small town named Langley Prairie in southwestern BC, about 150 miles north of Seattle, not much more than the junction of a couple of highways. It’s a much larger city now and has been renamed Langley. It’s primarily an agricultural community on the Fraser River delta surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by the Pacific ocean. Much of what has been mentioned above seems to apply more to my kids than me.

    I remember the day in 1954 when Bobby, who lived five doors down the street from us, got a television. (They were not called TVs back then). It was the first one in the neighbourhood and the first one we had ever seen. Bobby invited all us kids, boys and girls, over to his house after school to watch programs like Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Howdy Doody and more. Flickering, grainy, black and white images shone on a big 17″ screen once you managed to get the rabbit ears adjusted just right. It was almost like going the the picture show but it didn’t cost us our allowance. There were only two channels, CBS from Bellingham, Washington and CBC from Vancouver, BC.

    The newness of it all soon wore off and it wasn’t long before Bobby’s mom tossed us out of the house and we went back to spending our time doing the kinds of stuff we always did. Playing baseball in a corner of the field at Michael and Lloyd’s house. Playing cowboys and indians in Mary-Jean’s back yard. Exploring the forest behind Barry’s house and the swamp beside Lynn’s house. Taking our home made fishing poles and hiking a mile over to the river across the railroad tracks, stopping along the way to kick over a few cowpies in search of a tin can full of juicy worms to tempt the local trout. A couple of years later I read Tom Sawyer and discovered that I was him. I even had my own Becky except her name was Janet. And the Nicomekl River substituted for the Mississippi. Hmm, I think I just got sidetracked. There was a point to that if I could only remember what it was. Oh yeah – I wanted to show what eight year-old kids did before television.

    About a year later my dad bought a used television and set it up at one end of our living room. Dad liked football. The first Superbowl came a few years later. We all watched hockey together. My favorite program was the Baseball Game of the Week with Dizzy Dean doing the play-by-play. I still remember watching Don Larson throw a perfect game in the 1956 world series when I was ten years old. It’s still my favorite show and tonight I get to search through a thousand channels to find the one carrying the Toronto Blue Jays home opener in HD so I can watch it on our smallish 40″ screen with surround sound. It’s almost like being at the ball park.

  23. Several people have mentioned the five & dime. We had one of those too. I think you’ll really like this video, especially if you’re from Austin. Ours didn’t have an elevator.

  24. Wow! You really go for the gut with this piece.

    I remember all the things you mention and also think back so fondly on those days. Pen pals and the thrill of getting a thick envelope in the mail… real mail, real letter, of course! The smell of home-baked molasses cookies or Snickerdoodles on coming home from school. Rainy afternoons reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon mysteries. The great smell of a stack of books from the local library. State fairs and the smell of cotton candy, the heady smell of animals and hay in the 4-H exhibits. (gotta be an animal lover to appreciate that smell).

    Big treat was going to the IHOP. Or walking with my best friend to the (strip) shopping center and spending my $5 weekly allowance. Looking through the Sears catalogue…

    I miss the all-around wholesomeness. The quiet and peace, the age of good manners and, and, and….

    Thanks for the memories!

  25. Oh what a fun walk down memory lane! What I miss is being booted out of the house on a fine summer morning to explore (as long as I stayed within the “boundaries”) and just plain run around.

    We’d organize huge neighborhood games: Bloody Mary, Kick-the-can, baseball (but always had to play with a ghost man), and Freeze tag. We’d also ride bicycles all over town, and as long as we stayed off the “busy” streets, no one had a problem with it. (The one time I did venture on a “busy” street my mother received three phone calls and was waiting with a switch in her hand when I returned home.

    I wish my children could have similar experiences freedom and busybodyness.

  26. >>I miss the days of writing letters.

    I don’t. I love to futz with my prose and love the instant editing ability of a computer. I’ll write a sentence, decide it doesn’t sound right, and then rewrite it. And I hated having to type it perfect the first time, or face dealing with white-out. (“Q: How can you tell if an Aggie has been using your computer? A: By the white-out on the screen.” A little transitional humor there, from the early days of computing, which few people would understand now.)

    The other day I pulled out my old pocket recorder to take notes in the car, and found it didn’t work. I almost bought another, but then realized that I’ve always hated tape (having to rewind and fast forward to get to exactly the place you want, and then the tape gets all crinkled and sounds awful), so I thought I’d see what people are using these days in its place. I found that they’ve got pocket .mp3 recorders that let you save to individual files and dump them off onto your computer.

    On the other hand, I’m still a luddite in some ways. I still use MS-Dos on an occasional basis, and still have a manual typewriter (I use it for addressing envelopes that I want to have a more personal look). In general I’ll resist new technology as long as the old tech is still breathing and doing what I want. Some people have to have the newest and fastest all the time, I’d rather go for the antique look.

    But I resent when people use the label “nostalgia” to describe the appeal of something old. Nostalgia only goes so far. I might watch an old show once or twice just out of “nostalgia” value, even if it’s no good, just for the sake of the memory. But any more exposure than that only comes if it’s something that deserves the attention on its own merits. A year or so ago my wife and I watched every episode of That Girl together. I’d have watched one or two just for nostalgia, but the only reason to watch all 130+ is because they were good enough to stand on their own. I still play the old Infocom text-only computer games from time to time. Not because of nostalgia (I never played them when they were actually on the market), but because they’re better than a lot of the stuff out there now.

    One advantage of old things is that real classic “hits” are few and far between. There’s only a few of them (or none at all) that are new at any one time. But if you dig into the past, there are hundreds of great things all available at the same time, if only you know which ones to look for.

  27. I miss the fact that, because we had THREE television stations to choose from (not including PBS because, well, who included PBS at that age?), we have a collective experience of TV that disappeared with the explosion of cable. Everyone my age can sing the oreo cookie song, tell you the ingredients of a big mac, name every character in the brady bunch, tell you what kind of car the duke boys drove, and reveal who shot JR. There is a camaraderie that came in knowing we were all sitting in front of the same shows, creating the same collective memories. There is very little that compares in our current age.

  28. Amazing post. I loved all the nostalgia and poignancy, of looking back to a simpler time that we can’t ever get back. The older I get, the more often I find myself looking back.

    You and I must be exactly the same age (all those toys, skates, memories, are SO similar to my own (and my grandparents and parents are all from Ft Worth – it was my second home, growing up)!

    Anyway, loved this post. Thanks for the memories!

  29. Fun post, Kristen!

    Well I definitely DON’T miss the Farrah Fawcett “feathered look” or the hideously unattractive patches my mother used to iron onto our jeans (those rectangular ones with the rounded edges) that went on the OUTSIDE.

    I do miss walking to the 7-11 or Circle K and getting a handful of candy for a dollar. We thought we were King Midas when we had a whole dollar . Abba Zabba’s, Necco wafers and those candy necklaces that turned our necks into a rainbow.

    Most of all, I miss the times when we would run out of the house after lunch and not be expected home until dinnertime. Those were some tree-climbing, canyon exploring, imagination-building days!

  30. Hmm, I had a wonderful childhood, but I don’t know that I miss it. I love my life now, so I wouldn’t want to give any part of it up to go back in time. 🙂

    It’s okay to wonder how someone so cheerful and optimistic can write such dark stuff. LOL!

      • Gene Lempp on April 2, 2011 at 1:11 pm
      • Reply

      Hey Jami!
      Some of us purge our ‘dark sides’ into our writing so we don’t chase the kids through the house with an ax…like in the Shining 🙂

  31. I’m age 24 so I haven’t had a lot of time to reminisce. However, there are a few things I miss: not having a cell phone, an e-mail, a facebook/twitter account. It’s when people can’t reach me 24/7. I believe that all of these technologies we have are both a blessing and a curse. It would be nice if we could get a way from technology for just a week. 🙂

    • Gene Lempp on April 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm
    • Reply

    Wow Kristen that really takes me back, we must be in the same age group. I remember when ‘Stick’ was a great game, it could be a sword, a digging tool, a wizards staff…finding the right stick was a quest in its own right. Pre-electronic cars, dial phones and UHF/VF TV sets that, horror, you had to get up and walk over to in order to adjust the volume or change the channel. Oh, and no MTV, just local channels that were clear or fuzzy depending on where you lived in relation to the station, the angle of the rabbit ears, the weather and the position of the tin-foil pyramid one was wearing on their head 🙂

    There was a lot more orange, and avocado and golfer plaid…one wonderful Christmas my mom dressed me in golfer plaid pants and earth-tone horizontal stripped sweater. My grandfather recorded the event on his ‘movie camera’, complete with tripod light arrays that took 20 minutes to set up and recorded to actual projector film. We would watch selections every year on a reel-to-reel projector. Great times.

    Honestly, I don’t miss it most of the time, but it is calming to think back. When I can text my daughters (both teens) anytime, email friends and hear back in less than a day (rather that waiting a week or more for a letter response) or research rapidly online (instead of a day long trip to a library) I find I like this new age far better.

    But every time I see a good stick the adventure in my head begins again 🙂

    Thanks for a fun post, carpe diem!

  32. I think you and I must be around the same age 🙂

    I loved the roller rink and was lamenting the fact that there aren’t many around anymore because I know my kids would love it. Guess what? I’m staying with a friend in southern Ohio at the moment and there are two or three rinks not too far away! Guess what we’ll be doing one weekend soon?

    By the way – I brought my own skates to the rink with me – they were blue suede-look “low rise” shoe skates. I used them til the wheels fell off!

  33. This post made my heart ache. I, too, mourn those simple days where entertainment was made up in your mind more than your machines.

    Speaking of Saturday morning cartoons, how about the Bugs Bunny Show? “On with the show this is it…”

    I loved how you had to wait a WHOLE YEAR to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. If you missed it the night it aired on ABC (complete with Dolly Madison commercials), tough rocks. Had to wait another year. Which was why the paper T.V. Guide that came in the Sunday paper became the bible.

    Riding my bike to the “County Store” and buying a bag full of candy – Fun Dip, Atomic Fireballs, Pixie Stix. Likewise, the concession stand during little league games and the fact that we’d run around wild on the playground, the bleachers and the surrounding woods while our parents watched the game.

    What will our kids look back on with nostalgia about the present times, I wonder…

  34. P.S. Remember how the epitome of cool at the roller rink was being able to “shoot the duck”?

    1. OMG…I was so proud of myself when I learned to do that. I love writing nostalgia pieces because you guys bring up so many things I have forgotten. Sigh.

  35. Schoolhouse Rock is awesome! When I moved to NZ and became an English teacher I made my class a wiki with all the Schoolhouse Rock videos on it (bless Youtube). They love it and I love hearing ‘Conjunction Junction’ in the hallways 🙂

  36. I’m REALLY the good old days! And it took me much longer than you to get my first book published, a memoir. I bought your book for my Nook. I’m not commenting to win, but I’ve already put the icon on my blog’s sidebar. I haven’t finished it yet–got bogged down when my book cover and final galleys arrived. But your book is incredibly informative, and entertaining. It’s like the author is sitting across from me and we’re having a lively conversation. I know the information is going to help me with this social media thing, which is boggling when you’re “older.” I did manage to figure out Blogger; it’s more user friendly than WordPress, which I couldn’t do. At least I can do the basics.

    Your memories trigger mine. I go back BEFORE TV. It was 1952 when we got a little black and white; I was twelve. So I grew up with neighbors and jump rope, marbles, kick the can etc. and in winter, snow forts and fox and geese circles. We lay on the ground waving arms and legs into snow angels. Five cents for an ice cream cone; 10 cents a double scoop; two- party phone lines; the old Underwood pound-pound-pound typewriter and carbon paper for copies. And the radio: listened to The Shadow and Our Miss Brooks, and the old soap operas where you could imagine what everyone looked like. It was a slower, less violent time, and looking back, I often want to go back. But I don’t want to give up the computer. Cell phones are good, too. I use the phone in moderation, but not the computer. I love the friends I’ve made blogging.

  37. @Julie: I was just talking to a friend about watching TV specials in the days before video recorders and said the same thing.

    @Kristen: I hadn’t heard the term “Monkey Ward’s” in ages! We also had a Woolworth’s in our town too.

    Growing up in Upstate NY, we occuppied our time riding bikes, walking to the downtown area, hiking in the nearby woods, or swimming in the public pools. Hardly any of us stayed in doors after Saturday morning cartoons. “Staying connected” meant calling your friends on a rotary-dial phone. (In fact I still know the phone # of my best friend’s mom, because she still lives next door to where we lived).

  38. I loved this post Kristen! good job. 🙂

    • Darcy Peal on April 3, 2011 at 7:02 am
    • Reply

    Chewing wax – Yep I used to buy orange chewing wax in the shape of a harmonica. Did anyone have this in the states? I live in Canada.

  39. You made me smile in your recollection as to why everything was orange in the 70’s. Yes! Orange and Browns were really popular. The 70s were a cheesy time, bad fashions, bad music, at least as far as I’m concerned, but things got cooler in the late 70s and became fantastic in the early 80s as far as music went anyway.

    I do remember seeing Trans-Ams everywhere and Camaros as well, my father had a red one. This was in Miami, as we were living there at the time. Dad is still there, I ran away to London. Us vampiric girls do not like the sun 😉

    Thanks for this great post, it’s always nice to get nostalgic 🙂

  40. We must be close in age because you nailed everything I remember about being little (even playing with the sand in the ashtray!). I remember all the girls with their feathered hair.. I desperately wanted to be one of those girls! But my hair was always curly, and even after hours of attempting to force my hair into feather mode, the curls would persevere.
    Journey still brings back fond memories… and as far as roller rinks… every time I hear “Hey Mickey” by Toni Basil my memory warps back to the days of skating in circles and getting out of the way of the older, cooler kids.
    Thanks for this!


  41. Nice trip down memory lane. Many of your memories coincide with mine. Thanks, Kristen

  42. Fun post! Thanks for reminiscing about the good ol’ days. I still enjoy the luxury of “unplugging” from the media as much as possible. Heck, I got rid of my cell phone…can you believe it? Now, my hubby has to field all my calls. 🙂

  43. I am a child of the 80’s as well, though more the latter half. My first drive in movie was Ghostbusters. I remember my mom covering my eyes when the ghost undid Ray’s pants…lol

    You should check out the nostalgia critic. He talks about all kinds of stuff like this. I love his videos…

  44. I miss the cars I could fix with wire and duct tape. Running out of gas on a date (The tank got a hole in it) and free gas from her fathers bulk tank every time I picked her up after that. I miss a time when people didn’t mind letting you look for your golf balls in the woods (half were mine anyway). Crossing the border into Canada from the states without checking my license (good thing because I was 15) and getting back across. I miss my film camera…sometimes. I don’t miss bell bottoms though!
    Still mad at Burt though. His car didn’t break like mine on the jumps. Not even a welder could fix that.
    Fun blog Kristen

  45. Thanks Kristen – and all of you who posted comments! I laughed out loud so many times my husband was getting worried. What a great way to take a good break from social media immersion!
    Great memories one and all!

  46. Woolworths was the store. I remember the days. Montgomery Wards was great. Solo Serve was a great store. Better stores have arrived; but the memories continue. The shows: I love Lucy, The Honeymooners, Red fFox, Bonanza. Who remembers Peyton Place? Dark Shadows? Memories.

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