Monday, April 21, 2008

Nostalging about 1962

This weekend, I realized – once again – that my world is changing A LOT. Frankly, I’m not happy with it. I want my old world back.

First, I went to the post office, where I got a notice that the postage rate is increasing again next month. Then, I went to pump gas, and noticed that it had reached a new high: $3.50 per gallon. (Actually, it was several cents over $3.50, but when the price is that high, rounding off to the nearest 10-cents seems reasonable.)

Later in the weekend, I was watching cable TV, and I saw an ad about “digital TV” coming next year. The ad said if you have an old-style analog TV, you will need to get a “converter box”. (I couldn’t figure why they would be airing that ad on cable TV, since anybody with cable already has an updated TV.)

Finally, most frightening of all, I realized that my clothes are tattered and no longer fit me, meaning I will soon need to shop for new duds. This brings to mind the change which disturbs me most: fashion!

Since I only shop for clothes once every 20 years or so, the mere prospect causes culture shock. And since I do most of my shopping at Goodwill, I’m typically about 30 years behind the fashion trends… which was a REAL problem back when I wore neckties, because the neckwear trend seemed to shift from “thin” to “wide” and back to “thin” and back to “wide” about every six months. It was really hard to keep up.

Anyway, these impending changes – postage, gasoline, TV, and fashion – caused me to start daydreaming about the good old days again.

Postage, for instance. The first letters I ever mailed cost me 4-cents for the stamp. I think I still remember the design of those stamps. They were purplish, with a likeness of Lincoln. When postage increased to 5-cent later in the 60’s, George Washington appeared on the stamp. I believe the price went up shortly after the invention of the Zip Code in 1963. For the first few years, the zip code was optional. I think it was a trick by the federal government.

Gasoline in the good old days was great! I remember 25-cent a gallon… and for your quarter, you got a small army of guys washing your windshield, checking your oil, and filling your tires with air while the gas was being pumped. By the time I myself started driving in the late 60’s, it had risen to a whopping 30-cent a gallon.

Incidentally, I pumped that gas into a green and white 53 Chevy that my dad had bought me for $60. It was straight drive – three speed on the column – so after a few weeks of driving it, I decided to learn what a “clutch” was.

Prior to the Chevy, I rode a bicyle… anywhere I wanted to ride it. At 10 or 12 years old, I could ride as far as I wanted to, and nobody thought anything of it. It wasn’t unusual for me to take off on a 10 or 15 mile ride, to the country, or the city, or the lake.

I remember a battery-operated engine-noise toy they came out with called the V-Rroom. Rich kids had them on their bikes to make them sound like motorcyles. (I had cards with clothespins that made noise when they hit the spokes.)

There were some really great toys back then. I didn’t own them all, but I KNEW them all, because they were all advertised during Saturday morning cartoons. Starting with Mr. Potato Head in the 50’s, Hasbro and Mattel learned the power of TV advertising on kids… and they churned out toy after toy for our Baby Boomer generation… like the Rock’em Sock’em Robots, Easy Bake Oven, and G. I. Joe. Today, I’m happy to say that I never owned a G.I. Joe… or an Easy Bake Oven, for that matter… but I did have a Johnny Seven – seven weapons in one!!! Also, I had a Twister and a Slip and Slide. I personally loved the Slip and Slide. What’s not to love about diving head first onto a wet strip of plastic?

Then there were Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, and Etch-a-Sketch… artistic design-and-build type toys that gave me my first indications -- at a very early age -- that I did not, in fact, possess any particular talent. (At about the same time, the nationwide Yo-Yo and Hula Hoop fads were hinting to me that I also seemed to lack skills that required any type of coordination. While I was feeling good about getting the yo-yo to come back to my hand, my four-year younger friends were doing “Walk the Dog” and “Around the World”.)

Until I was a teenager, our family’s only TV was a black and white which received only one channel: WIS, the only VHF station in the market. Of course, I didn’t know what “VHF” meant, until years later when we got a black and white TV with a circular UHF antenna. And suddenly, we had THREE different channels to choose from.

I still remember seeing my first color TV, which had been purchased by a rich relative. This same relative also was the first to have a home with…. AIR CONDITIONING!!! And, I think probably that’s where I saw my first telephone that had push buttons instead of a rotary dial on it.

Do you remember 19-cent hamburgers? Lot’s of places had them back then. Hite’s Dairy Bar in Lexington sold 19-cent hamburgers, milkshakes and French fries. I think McDonalds and Hardees did, too… but there weren’t any around until a little later.

Is it just my imagination, but did all of the original Hardee’s have roofs on them that were shaped sorta like upside down umbrellas?

While I’m nostalging (a word I made up right now, for this column), how about… Dime Stores? Fallout shelters? Diet Rite and Tab? Slinky and Super Ball? Grocery stores before super markets? You know, the kind that had the giant cookies on the counter that you could buy one cookie at a time? Ah, the good old days!

Which brings me to fashion styles I can relate to: like clam-diggers. And shirts with loops on the back of the neck. Crew cuts and flat tops. Letter sweaters. Keds. Penny-loafers. Saddle-oxfords. I liked the looks of Bermuda shorts and pedal pushers. Pants had cuffs. Socks were white. Belts were black. And so were the rims of eyeglasses.

These were the fashions I could relate to. Then, all of a sudden, things changed: Bell-bottom pants. Tie-dyed shirts. Granny glasses. Go-go boots and platform shoes. Love Beads. Mini-skirts. (Okay, mini-skirts were actually okay with me. But not the others.)

And now, its tattoos and piercings, to go along baggy pants hanging down around the knees and inflatable shoes.

I’ve completely lost track. I miss the good old days.

Next week, I’m going shopping for some “new” clothes. I hope they have white socks and black belts.


Anonymous said...

I was born in 1962. It was the time of Camelot and all was right with the world. What the heck happened?

Scott Malyerck

Nathan said...

At least some things never change though!

From the 1930s until today...