So tomorrow I turn 50. FIFTY. FIVE – ZERO. HALF A CENTURY.
I don’t feel 50. Heck, I certainly don’t act 50. I took an online test that was supposed to measure my mental age. I got 19. People who know me (and claim to love me) would argue even the 19. I am guessing they are thinking more along the lines of “12”. I may or may not agree with that assessment. It depends if you are talking about “farts” and if I am giggling to myself while you do. Of course, if you are talking about “farts”, it probably doesn’t say a lot about YOUR mental age either.
So fine. I accept that fact that I have the mind of a 12 year old, and that I laugh at farts. And at other bathroom humor that I really can’t talk about because sometimes my mom reads my blog and I don’t want a lecture (yes, 50 year olds still get lectures from their mothers. If they are lucky). I am sure, however, that she would love to take the time to tell you that in the 3rd grade I wrote a story about how the wiener dog got his shape. It involved eating hot dogs. And a lot of flatulence. Enough flatulence to warrant a note home to my mom from the teacher.
I’m not sure how, but my post about turning 50 has turned into a Fart Fest. And really I just wanted to talk about how things have changed in my lifetime. This walk down Nostalgia Lane started a few days ago when my friend, the Divine Miss J, told me she took her tween-aged daughter into an antique shop, where they came upon a rotary phone. Her daughter was all “Mom! You have to show me how this works!” so Miss J dialed a random number. Her daughters reaction was “Wow. That’s really slow.” And it WAS slow. Rotary phones were awful! I still have nightmares about trying to dial someone and having to start over and over and over again because I keep mis-dialing.
These nightmares are probably related to trying to call in to contests on the local radio station, where you had to be caller number 9 or whatever, and then you got to hear your voice on the radio and be famous, so you made up a persona for yourself called “Concord Chink” and you would talk in a gravelly voice you made up that sounded suspiciously like Wolfman Jack. (If you don’t know who Wolfman Jack is, you are too young to be reading this blog and you should leave. Now.)
And on those rare moments when you could get on, you used every ounce of your weirdness to try to get more air time. Oh, and this was back in the day when AM radio was king. Yes, you heard me AM RADIO. All you twenty-somethings just said, “What? There’s an AM radio? WTH is that?” and are busy tuning your radios to AM, where you will only hear static because this is the new millennium and we listen to satellite radio now baby, where you can get anything you want. But back in the day – it was Top Forty on Sunday night with the local AM radio DJ and Casey Kasem.
And if we wanted to record a song, we got out our birthday tape recorder, and held the microphone up to the speaker when our favorite song came on, cursing the DJ if he had too long of a lead-in. Now that was what you call “sound quality”. I remember when they came out with the radio/cassette recorder (aka The Boom Box), where you could record from the radio right in the same unit, and the sound was sooo much better. Almost as good as an LP. Oh yeah – forget iTunes. We went to the record store and bought actual vinyl records that we played on our parents stereos or our little record players we got when we turned 10 so we could listen to Tony DeFranco in our room instead of making our parent’s ears bleed.
And Lord knows it was way cooler to listen to the Top 40 on Sunday because this was the Land That Time Forgot, and we had no cable, no Netflix, no DVD players. Not even VHS or Beta tapes yet. Oh, and speaking of “tapes” – for some unexplained reason there was a short period that saw the popularity of the 8-track tape. No clue why, because the tapes would annoyingly change in the middle of the songs. My husband and I can still remember where the track changed on our favorites. A tiny bit of personal history here – my husband, who normally throws away everything, kept some of his old 8-tracks and cassettes. When the kids were little, we had my parents old stereo, which had an 8-track player in it, so the first version of “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” that my children heard was the 8-track version. Yeah. Can’t beat that with a stick.
Getting back to Sunday night TV: You know what we had for the Sunday Night line up? Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Hee Haw, and the weekly Disney movie which we hoped would be Winnie the Pooh and not some lame Herbie movie. I would render a guess that if you are under 30, you have never seen Hee Haw. I don’t know whether to pity you or be thankful that you haven’t been scarred. It’s a close call.
Fridays and Saturdays were better. We had Mary Tyler Moore, Carol Burnett, Red Skeleton, and Bob Newhart. Hmmmm. I wonder if we can watch any of those on Netflix. I also have a sudden craving for a hot bath, my jammies, and a bowl of Friday night popcorn, made in a giant pot with a black, seasoned bottom, covered in butter and salt and served in my mother’s biggest metal mixing bowl. And maybe, if we were super good that week, a glass of white soda served in an aluminum tumbler. Remember drinking soda out of aluminum cups? The cup would get so cold from the ice, it would hurt your teeth to touch the edge of it.
As time moved forward, we all graduated to touch tone phones, and thus the era of the “Princess” phone was born. The Princess phone was marketed towards the 1970’s teenage girl, and anyone who was anyone had a Princess phone in her bedroom. But one thing we didn’t have then was caller ID. That’s right – if the phone rang, you just answered it. It wasn’t a telemarketer or a political party. It was your grandma or brother or best friend. Or a twisted adolescent crank calling you about Prince Albert in a can or asking if your refrigerator was running. Or better yet, an obscene phone call – normally just heavy breathing but sometimes you got a live one that started asking you questions about your attire, and if you let him talk or started asking questions back, your mom would make you hang up the phone before you got to the good stuff.
Before the days of telemarketing, we had door to door salesmen. My dad was a Fuller Brush man for a short while before he went into the family clothing store business, and my mother says he was very successful at it, but probably not because so many housewives needed scrub brushes. No, it was probably because so many housewives needed a break from children and cleaning and my dad was a cutie patootie.
We also had beefy Kirby salesmen, touting their 15 billion pound vacuum cleaners. That’s how suburban housewives lifted weights back then. They didn’t need gyms – they just dragged out the Kirby every day and hauled it up and down the steps. And we had milkmen. Yes, real live men drove around in trucks and delivered milk to your door or your milk box. The milk box also made a great place to put your tadpoles after you caught them. As long as your mom didn’t find out. Then you might get a taste of why she really bought that Fuller Brush.
My dad wore a suit every day. That’s a lot of dry cleaning. So we had the dry cleaning guy, who also delivered to your front door. Back then, you didn’t just buy a product. You bought a service. Whether it was having your milk delivered to your front porch or going to my dad’s store to have him measure you for a suit and get you ready for your daughter’s wedding, it wasn’t some Joe Schmoe from across the country nagging you during dinner. It was your neighbor down the street or the guy across town, and you knew if you bought from him you were putting food on his table. And you also knew he would likely show up in your store when he needed new work boots or something.
When I was growing up, the minivan wasn’t even a glint in Lee Iococa’s eye yet. The station wagon was king of the road, and there wasn’t a seat belt in sight. There were five of us kids, and usually three in the back seat and two in the way back. Sitting in the way back when you were little was the cat’s ass. You could either sit in the flip up seat and watch the world disappear while making faces at the car behind you, or you just stretched out with your sibling or cousins, and played Slug Bug. And long car rides did not come equipped with dvd players or iPods with head phones. Instead we fought over windows and sang the cheesiest camp songs we could think of, with our parents in the front singing right along with us. To this day, we still sing “You Are My Sunshine” at major family gatherings.
And finally. FINALLY, the last thing I am going to bring up. I know this was a long post so bear with me just a little while yet. I can’t help it I’m old and have a lot to remember, but not so old that I have forgotten it all. Anyway, I want you to shut your eyes, and remember a time without the internet. Yes, I know it’s very scary so feel free to hold someone’s hand. Now imagine your best friend asking you if you knew the name of the band who sang “Junk Food Junkie”, and you couldn’t google it. Yeah, pretty darn frightening, isn’t it? How would you find out? Back then, our ‘Google’ was “Go To The Library” or “Look It Up In The World Book Encyclopedia” or “Call The DJ At WDUZ And Hope He Doesn’t Recognize You As Concord Chink And Hang Up Before You Can Ask”.
You do realize that you can get an answer to just about any factoidal question from the internet, right? I dare you to try to find an unanswerable question. In fact, I Triple Dog Dare You. If you find one, post it in my comments. Or one of your own fun nostalgic memories – that works too!
And now, I bid you adieu, with a reminder to my wonderful siblings that even though I will soon join you in the 5th decade, you will still always be older than me. because I am the baby, and I will always be younger than you. Always. Forever. And Ever. So Happy 54th coming up this year, Joe. And Happy 56th, Maribeth. And Happy 58th, Celeste. And Happy 59th (your first of many, I am sure), Terri.
On a side note, I just realized that our birthdays are in reverse chronological order. Me – the youngest – in January. Then Joe, on April 13th, Maribeth on April 30th, Celeste in August and Terri in September. That’s kind of bizarre.
Anyway, I’m out until next week! Have a good one! Stay warm!