|Rotary dial telephone, circa 1954|
Time magazine recently published "Top 10 Things Today’s Kids Will Never Experience". That sent me thinking.
When I was growing up in Marshall, Missouri my grandmother and her lifelong friend talked every day using an operator-assisted telephone. A real person connected them. I was with my grandmother in the early 1950s just after her new rotary dial phone was installed. The first person she dialed was her friend. Afterwards, my grandmother said, “If I hadn’t gotten her I never would have used that thing again.”
A bathtub for your thoughts
Author, poet, and photographer Marilyn Smith volunteers to guide elementary school children through historic Wommack Mill, the oldest building in Fair Grove, Missouri. Corn and oats were ground into animal feed, grain flour, and cornmeal at the mill from 1883-1969.
On one tour, a girl pointed to an old-fashioned metal bathtub with handles on the ends hanging on a wall and asked, “What is that?”
"I explained how water was drawn from a well and heated on a stove and that all the family members took a bath in the same water, often on Saturday night," Marilyn said.
"But what if someone went, you know?" the girl said.
"I told her they continued taking their baths. Her facial expression revealed she felt the whole situation was yucky.”
My grandparents grew up when horse-drawn buggies were dominant and reliable transportation. My parents grew up with automobiles. My brothers and I grew up with airplanes. My children grew up with space travel. My grandchildren are growing up with virtual travel via handheld electronic devices.
In ninth grade I was the only boy in my typewriting class.
When I met my wife-to-be she was a long-distance telephone operator who talked with callers. (Imagine that.)
I learned to drive in a 1954 Chevrolet with three-speed manual transmission. The shift lever was on the steering column.
As a youngster I sat with my grandparents in their car on the public square. We watched people walk by as we ate Dairy Queen soft serve. (Now that’s entertainment.)
My first experience with color television was a black-and-white fitted with a glass cover that had one row each of red, yellow, and blue tinting.
We had an icebox in our kitchen when I was growing up. Mother put a card with a large black 5 or 10 printed on it outside the kitchen door so the delivery man knew how many pounds of ice to leave.
In 2009, Wired.com listed "100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About" in the areas of audio-visual entertainment, computers and video gaming, the Internet, and "everything else".
Since 1998, Beloit College has issued an annual Mindset List to show a view of the world from the adolescent consciousness. College officials Tom McBride and Ron Nief wrote a book, The Mindset Lists of American History: From Typewriters to Text Messages, covering the last 130 years.
Indiana’s Department of Education has made teaching cursive optional and encourages schools to focus on keyboarding (typewriting to us old fogies).
Controversy is ongoing whether elementary school children should learn multiplication tables (I learned ‘em, dagnabbit) or use calculators.
My grandchildren will never know the simplicity of a manual typewriter and the magic of carbon paper, the pleasure of owning a collection of 45-rpm records and the joy of playing them, or the enduring object lessons and zaniness of Howdy Doody, Buffalo Bob, and Clarabell the Clown.
Photo courtesy ProhibitOnions.
What will your children or grandchildren never experience?
Win a free book. Dorsey Levell and I will give an autographed copy of our Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance to the first five persons who correctly identify the actor who often used dagnabbit in his movie roles. Email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will contact the winners for their postal addresses and permission to post their names on my blog.