Metatalktail Hour: The Past Is a Different Country September 26, 2020 10:17 PM   Subscribe

Good .... someday evening, MetaFilter? Time has no meaning. Anyway, this week, I want to hear about what things were totally normal when you were a child or teenager, that would be SUPER BIZARRE now. Like, if you're an American, was there still a senior smoking lounge when you were in high school?

Of course this is a conversation starter, not limiter, so tell us everything that's up with you! And we're kind of looking for more fun, culturally-weird things than the-past-sucked changes, but HIT US UP, the past is a different country!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 10:17 PM (319 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

When I was little, in Illinois, there were no stores open on Sunday except the White Hen (which is like a 7-11, and were eventually bought by 7-11). And definitely no 24-hour stores! There was a pharmacy open until 11 p.m. and that was HUGE, most closed at 5 or 6 p.m. The 11 p.m. pharmacy was attached to a grocery store, and the grocery closed at 7 p.m. but the pharmacy stayed open until 11, and it was super-weird when we'd go to the after-hours pharmacy.

Also as a kid I spent a lot of time sorting change for tolls -- Illinois accepted pennies in automatic tolls! -- into little film canisters, and labeling the top either 30c or 35c or 40c. Both coin-accepting toll booths and film canisters have gone the way of the dodo, these days.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:23 PM on September 26 [10 favorites]


Oh also, PS, one time my mom went to the White Hen to get a gallon of milk on Sunday (for ROBBER BARON PRICES) and left me and my brother in the car -- which is another thing you can't really do these days -- and do you know who was in the White Hen buying Diet Coke and potato chips? MICHAEL FUCKING JORDAN. I think it was his second or third year on the Bulls. My mom said she looked up -- up -- up at this very tall man at the checkout, and said, "Are you Michael Jordan?" and he said, "Yes ma'am, I am." And she said, "Would you sign something for my son?" and dug around in her purse and all that was in her purse was her strawberry shortcake recipe, and he signed the back of it. And we have never had strawberry shortcake since b/c the recipe is framed backwards and we can't.

It was before he was crazy-famous, but I have vivid memories of my dad sitting me on his lap Jordan's rookie year and saying, "Watch this guy, he's going to be special." (I had literally no idea what he was talking about but it was my dad talking so that was good enough for me.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:30 PM on September 26 [48 favorites]


Adults would smack other people's children if they were "misbehaving" and this was absolutely normal.
posted by tzikeh at 10:49 PM on September 26 [15 favorites]


the whole family would sit down and watch the same thing on TV ... without planning it, arranging schedules etc. It happened all the time, there being only one TV in the house. My dad would generally sign off around 9pm but my mom was in it for the duration. I distinctly remember watching Midnight Cowboy with her and my younger sister, heavily edited* for prime time compatibility, of course, but weird and intense nonetheless.

it was a pleasant and intense surprise when I finally saw the original X-rated cut in a local rep-theater maybe ten years after the fact
posted by philip-random at 10:58 PM on September 26 [11 favorites]


Back in the 70s and 80s, everyone in our family had different color pens and we'd take the TV guide we received for the upcoming week and circle things in it to call dibs on getting the TV for that show. Conflicts were decided by doing chores for each other as payment for television time or else a coin toss if very contentious. There were only like 4 channels anyway.

Maybe not super bizarre today, but the idea of having a tiny magazine mailed to your house which listed, in detail, every show on every network with a capsule summary of the plot would be basically impossible today. Was normal then.
posted by hippybear at 11:10 PM on September 26 [33 favorites]


When we first got to the US (semi-rural Virginia ‘79) I, like most every kid, took the bus to school. There were two buses that drove by our street and I was assigned the earlier one - which went and picked up only black kids. The neighbors across the street took the other bus. No one talked about it and when I asked why was told ‘that’s just the way it is’ That changed a year or so later.

Visiting my father in law for the first time. It was five years after the Berlin Wall came down. He had moved to a town on the Baltic Sea. (Former DDR) All of the border surveillance infrastructure was still around - guard towers at strategic points along the coast, elaborate fencing on the beach. The town itself was grey, none of the buildings had been painted in decades, and on the way out there was a new gas station that, in its crazy illumination, it’s whiteness was like an alien spaceship.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:24 PM on September 26 [11 favorites]


Our family dog loved to lie in the middle of our street. There was a black patch of tar (I guess) that was warm, and he was aging. No one cared because there was no traffic.
posted by Cranberry at 12:35 AM on September 27 [4 favorites]


This kind of thing has been on my mind this evening after watching Class Action Park, a documentary about the (intentionally?) dangerous 80s NJ theme park Action Park, but one past-is-a-different-country thing that occurred to me recently is landlines vs cellphones. To arrange hanging out with your friends as a teen you would have to call their house, probably get their parents, ask for them, repeat the same anxiety wracked process several times, AND somehow agree on a thing to do and where to do it while only being able to talk to one other person, without having any way of communicating if anything went wrong, which now sounds utterly absurd. There was a lot of waiting around at bus stops and train stations for this reason.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:38 AM on September 27 [14 favorites]


When I was in 7th grade I wanted to make pipe bombs, but needed an explosive, so I rode my bike to the local military surplus store and bought a number of boxes of rifle cartridge blanks. They knew me, I'd been going there about once a week since the 4th grade, but no one challenged my right to do it or made me feel awkward about it in any way. And it wasn't like they knew my parents, who had never set foot in that place. I doubt that could happen these days.

The bombs worked, but I only made a tiny handful. What put an end to the whole enterprise was that once another kid went with me up to the dry, completely empty and unpopulated hills where I set them off because I happened to run into him on the way, and when I lit the fuse and tossed one over the little ridge we crouched behind, a whining piece of shrapnel knocked quite a bit of dirt down on his head — at which his eyes rolled back, his lower lip sagged, and he started drooling. I looked at him and I thought 'you know what? this is scary. And dangerous. And what did I ever think was supposed to be so fun about it in the first place?' After that, I was pretty much no longer the kind of person who liked that kind of thing, I guess.
posted by jamjam at 1:10 AM on September 27 [12 favorites]


Back in the 70s and 80s, everyone in our family had different color pens and we'd take the TV guide we received for the upcoming week and circle things in it to call dibs on getting the TV for that show

Similar, but we were only allowed to watch three programmes/day, so we had to circle the ones we wanted. Easy to do as there were only two channels....

Random things:
  • Pay phones that cost 3 two-cent pieces
  • Being sent in to the store to buy cigarettes for my father, aged (and looking) about eleven
  • Cars without seatbelts, kids just sitting on the back seat
  • Everyone smoking inside
posted by Pink Frost at 1:32 AM on September 27 [5 favorites]


When I lived in Arkansas in the mid-70s I remember eating at Sambo's in Little Rock which eventually became a chain of over 1100 restaurants. Today I looked again at the Wikipedia page about Sambo's and discovered that the original restaurant in Santa Barbara, CA - the only one still around - changed its name in July 2020 in response to the killing of George Floyd. It's now known as Chad's who's the owner and a grandson of one of the founders of the chain.

In Lincoln City, OR, there's a restaurant named "Lil Sambo's" and their about page says this:

One question we are often asked is weather or not we were ever a part of the “Sambo’s” national chain; the answer is no. Our name Lil Sambos (originally Lil Black Sambos) is borrowed from the hero of a fictional story about an Indian boy, tigers, and pancakes written by Helen Bannerman in 1899.

This is the exact same story that the chain Sambo's used as their inspiration. Lil Sambo's is making a side run around the question and giving a meaningless answer.

This is the rabbit hole I dove into today while endlessly watching CNN and trying not to think about any of it.
posted by bendy at 1:42 AM on September 27 [4 favorites]


Television had a black and white picture (snooker was still popular on it, though) and there were only three channels. When plans for a fourth channel were mooted, people complained in the letters page of the local newspapers that we would be "spoilt for choice" and "what's the point of yet more channels?".

+ + + + +

I'm continuing my largely outdoors trip around The Hwicce, Bristol and the West Country. Avebury has been visited three times, and yesterday involved a trip to the stone circles of Stanton Drew for the first time in over a year. I'm going back there today - as soon as I've finished this comment - for a solo walk and a think and memory-grapple around the place.

It's been a good trip, possibly the best I've had in England, with more than an element of "make it up as I go along". I'm not usually sure where I'll be in a weeks time, and I only started thinking a few days ago about where I'll spend Halloween/Samhain. One exciting possibility for that appeared yesterday, so I'll see. Public transport has often been nearly deserted and never busy, which is great (not just for safety reasons). I miss Sweden (a lot) but am glad I did not fly there; some other time.

I've met and made friends with several good people on this trip, including a lovely and dear schoolmate I have not seen for 36 years (that was strange, how we both fell back into our old patterns of talking), and the couple to whom I sold my parents house. And, especially, MeFite RandomInconsistencies who is one of the funniest, most perceptive, kindest and generous people I have met, as well as being the best company on West Country rambles and an alchemist in the kitchen, turning lard into the most delicious of foods.

This trip, like joining MetaFilter nearly a decade ago, has turned out to be a very good decision.

Pictures on Flickr to date.
posted by Wordshore at 2:39 AM on September 27 [19 favorites]


We had a sewing machine when I was a kid and every time I tried to use it I'd get these huge snarls of thread under the fabric, and no one I asked knew how to avoid that. So I stopped sewing.

(Today I would just google it, no big deal.)

In general, any time no one around me knew how to do something, or how to fix something, or what that movie we were thinking of was, or any other piece of information, that was the end of the road and you just had to accept that unless it you really cared enough to make a project of tracking it down. I've been thinking a lot lately about the kind of learned helplessness it led to a lot of the time, at least for me. (Also there were two bits of long-lost information I cared about so much that I went around personally asking anyone I could about them for more than 10 years. I'd probably still be asking today if it weren't for the internet. One of those questions was asked long ago by someone else on AskMe, which got me my answer!)

I did use the early internet a few times to find the physical addresses to which to mail physical requests for physical catalogs from which to order some niche products (payment in cash). It was very exciting.
posted by trig at 3:30 AM on September 27 [12 favorites]


Also as a kid I spent a lot of time sorting change for tolls -- Illinois accepted pennies in automatic tolls! -- into little film canisters, and labeling the top either 30c or 35c or 40c. Both coin-accepting toll booths and film canisters have gone the way of the dodo, these days.

Shout out to Chicagoland childhoods. My family used pill bottles. I still get occasionally surprised when I'm in someone's car and we need change and they don't have coins in the console. But coin-operated parking meters are also going the way of the dodo, so that happens less and less.

Yesterday, my friend got in the driver's seat of their car and I was just standing in the road next to the passenger door, waiting for them to let me in. Then I remembered that power locks were a thing. Also, in sad pandemic moments, I was out with said friend yesterday and we were talking about nosepieces for masks and they said "Oh! I have masks for you" and got some they'd made out of their bag. And then clarified I had an actual birthday present waiting in the car. Who is a stuffed turtle named Douglas.

We had a sewing machine when I was a kid and every time I tried to use it I'd get these huge snarls of thread under the fabric, and no one I asked knew how to avoid that. So I stopped sewing.

So... I had this problem and didn't google it. Somehow I did google something that told me that maybe I should set the tension on the machine.
posted by hoyland at 4:06 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


In general, any time no one around me knew how to do something, or how to fix something, or what that movie we were thinking of was, or any other piece of information, that was the end of the road and you just had to accept that unless it you really cared enough to make a project of tracking it down.

Yes! And if someone else had a recipe that you also wanted to have, sometimes you could get access to a photocopier and copy it (they had them in some supermarkets and in the library) but most of the time you'd simply read the recipe and write it down.

If I wanted to know something about a certain subject, and no one around me could tell me about it, I'd look it up in the encyclopedia. When we first got a home computer, one of the first things that everyone used it for was to look things up in an encyclopedia on CD-rom, called Encarta.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:33 AM on September 27 [15 favorites]


I would get sent to the corner store to buy cigarettes for my parents at a really young age, maybe seven? Also my older teenage sisters and their friends would smoke at home and no one thought anything about it. Smoking was everywhere and constant.
posted by octothorpe at 4:48 AM on September 27 [8 favorites]


The Jersey Theater was about five blocks away and I and friends were allowed to go to the movies by ourselves at a really young age. I distinctly remember going to see Willy Wonka with my younger friend Johnny when I was seven and he was six without parents. We'd just walk through town by ourselves with a dollar each and buy tickets and candy with that.
posted by octothorpe at 4:55 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid we had not yet been convinced by Big Oil and Unilever et al that we needed plastic bottles of shower gel. We used a block of soap to wash ourselves (at the sink or in the shower). This was a whole lot cheaper and saved a lot of plastic bottles.
Somehow we all switched to liquid soap and shower gel, which is slightly more convenient but a lot more expensive, polluting and wasteful.

I'm currently working on switching back. I've found that from one block of soap, I can make enough liquid handsoap to fill 8 to 10 bottles. Just think about how much water and plastic we buy when we want to buy soap, and how much we pay for the privilege...
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:04 AM on September 27 [12 favorites]


Even nonsmokers had ashtrays in the house somewhere, in a drawer or on the porch or somewhere.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:04 AM on September 27 [13 favorites]


It was considered rude to not let other people smoke in your house.
posted by octothorpe at 5:13 AM on September 27 [15 favorites]


When my mother was in her twenties, cigarettes were offered to guests at parties. There was a well-stocked cigarette holder on the table next to the bowl of salted peanuts.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:22 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


My father is a computer enthusiast, so we’ve always had one in the house ever since I was little. A couple times a year, we’d go to the local computer expo, which was like a roving flea market but the vendors only sold computer stuff. We’d be allowed to buy the “100 games on a disk” which was just the shareware versions of all these bad frames crammed on to a floppy, and my dad would buy knockoff hardware that never seemed to work right. Once we had a computer that ran Windows, there was a lot of fiddling withIRQ settings to get the Sound Blaster to work properly with each game.

When we lived in Germany in the mid-90s, there would be cigarette vending machines out on the street. There was one mounted to someone’s house on our walk from our place to the train station.

Maybe this is a suburb/urban thing, but growing up bicycles only ever seemed to be for kids. There are so many more adults riding nowadays.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:23 AM on September 27 [4 favorites]


Only the teachers had a smoking lounge. Drinking age was 18 but you could get served. Bus to Jersey was free and casino security didn't care if you were 13 if you played craps and wore sunglasses. Hash was five a gram out of a motorcycle helmet on M street from the guy that was always there. You could sneak right in to most concerts and cops just had revolvers so they could only shoot you five or six times and were too old and heavy to chase you up to the skyboxes where you could mingle with the other underage prey and do lines with elected officials who put their hand on your butt. And get this: public school teachers could afford to summer in Europe and bring gifts!

Not sure I want to think about this anymore. Punk rock saved me but I was already on probation so when Minor Threat sold out the Sunday matinee we hitched up to the maze garden at the cathredal and my mom was really concerned that a nun called her and had my wallet. That, that was just too much for her so she got the cops looking for me cause there was just no way I'd ever be near a cathedral and nothing was the truth about that so I was grounded.

Mom had just started working for this ambitious Canadian company that opened it's first US location in Tysons Corner and within two weeks she was managing a proto-starbucks place and the obvious solution was to stick me behind the register.

My son is 14. We work together all the time, especially this year. Even you would think he's a good kid. I am going to kiss him on the mouth when he wakes. He hates that and that's just too bad.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:23 AM on September 27 [20 favorites]


So much of this stuff is also true for me growing up in the 80s, but the problem (? or solution ?) is that I have moved around to the parts of the world well behind the curve. Sucks because the quitting smoking hasn't taken after a couple tries and it is just so damn easy in China. Sending my sons off to buy smokes for me down the corner shop, still totally a thing. Being allowed to smoke as a guest in many different venues, totally normal. For those places like hospitals or schools where it is theoretically "no smoking", just find the stairwell or a remote toilet and its totally normal to light up.

When I was in Kyrgyzstan, the kids were feral and played free and wild (video evidence), just like when I was growing up in rural Surrey, B.C. Here in China quite the opposite, at least in the urban cores children are doted over and everything is nerfed and super safe, kids constantly supervised. I think societies create the kind of people they want to rule.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:27 AM on September 27 [5 favorites]


backseatpilot: When we lived in Germany in the mid-90s, there would be cigarette vending machines out on the street.

There still are. Nowadays they are equipped with a mechanism that lets you prove you're old enough to be allowed to buy cigarettes. I don't smoke so I don't know the details.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:28 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


backseatpilot: Maybe this is a suburb/urban thing, but growing up bicycles only ever seemed to be for kids.

I rather think it's a US thing. Danish, Dutch and German adults on bicycles have been a common sight for a long, long time.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:30 AM on September 27 [5 favorites]


I still see cigarette machines in bars that allow smoking (or at least did before the pandemic)
posted by octothorpe at 5:39 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


When I lived in Arkansas in the mid-70s I remember eating at Sambo's

We often had family holidays in the States, and I remember once must have been late 70s and we were eating in a Little Sambo's. And me, I was just maybe 10 or 11, looking at the decor and thinking "WTF? Isn't this incredibly blatantly racist? How does such a thing exist?!?"
posted by Meatbomb at 5:42 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Our kids find all kinds of extremely ordinary things SUPER BIZARRE and whenever that happens it reminds me and Mr. Redstart that those things are not actually extremely ordinary anymore. My daughter recently informed us that in the past apparently there was something you could dial on your phone to reach someone called "the operator." We looked at each other and started laughing hysterically and then we started trying to remember when calling the operator stopped being a perfectly ordinary thing you could do.

Just yesterday we were talking to the kids about phone books. They thought that was a pretty weird concept and when we explained why they were actually better than using the internet, they totally weren't buying it. (The yellow pages really was a better way to find businesses, because it was pretty much guaranteed to have a complete and up-to-date list of all the electricians or locksmiths or Mexican restaurants in your area - complete because businesses couldn't expect anyone to know about them if they weren't listed and up-to-date because they had to pay each year to renew their listing.)

Other things they find bizarre: laugh tracks, the idea that you might read encyclopedia articles for entertainment, writing a letter on paper with a pen and then mailing it in an envelope.
posted by Redstart at 5:42 AM on September 27 [5 favorites]


I don’t think I know anybody younger than my parents who still has a landline for anything other than the internet or the cable box.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:42 AM on September 27


And not for dialup, but whatever the thing is where like the cable box you still need a phone line for whatever baroque reason they insist you still have one.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 5:46 AM on September 27


Phone books were great for the user, but the phone company charged businesses a ridiculous amount to be listed in the yellow pages, and then in a lot of markets multiple companies started distributing free phone directories and if you wanted to be listed in all of them it was a huge financial burden. Good riddance to them. (But now you can’t prove how strong you are by tearing one in half.)
posted by rikschell at 5:56 AM on September 27 [3 favorites]


I miss my mother taking phone messages for me because when she wrote down the name on the chalk board she would deliberately spell my friends' names in the most bizarre ways she could think of.

My other telephone reminiscences here.

Cigarette smoke was everywhere in the 70s, yes. I also remember running gaily along behind the mosquito truck through the fog of insecticide. Such fun! Amazing I have any lungs left at all.

Just got back from a peaceful week away at a camp on a pond. There were fish, turtles, frogs, loons and a heron. It was a nice break from the wretched news and what I call "internet yammering," which does include MetaFilter but I'm sure you all know what I mean. I am back to reading the local news but am still shying away from the national stuff.
posted by JanetLand at 6:00 AM on September 27 [8 favorites]


Playing outdoors in everybody's yard except 1 cranky neighbor. You respected a margin around houses, you knew that 1 Dad took naps on weekend afternoons, but otherwise, yards were fair game. You played outdoors unsupervised pretty young, younger if you had older siblings tasked with looking out for you, which they might do, very casually.

Having not that many toys. I was the 3rd daughter, so had more hand-me-down toys, but still not the masses of toys kids have now. And not tons of clothes either. This was not an affordability issue.
posted by theora55 at 6:02 AM on September 27 [6 favorites]


In the 60s and 70s, classified ads for jobs were split into "jobs for men" and "jobs for women."
I took shop the first year they let girls take it. Instead of getting grades like the boys did, we took it pass/fail because they couldn't expect girls to know how to work with wood or metal. Home ec for boys came into existence the same year. They got to make pizza, while in girls' home ec, we made "nutritious" things like chipped beef in toast cups.

Another big difference in the US is the draft. That was a huge worry when I was in high school during the Vietnam War. I remember my parents fighting about whether my brother should flee to Canada (Mom was for, Dad against). I read an article saying that one reason we don't have the draft anymore is that the powers that be realized they could go to war to their heart's content without protest if upper-middle class and wealthy kids didn't have to worry about being called up. (I expect someone here knows a lot more about this than I do and will correct me if I'm wrong.)
posted by FencingGal at 6:08 AM on September 27 [10 favorites]


Remember calling collect (aka reversing the charges)? My mother would drop me off at the beauty shop and I’d have to call her from the shop’s pay phone to pick me up. I’d call collect when I forgot to bring along a quarter. It cost over a dollar on the next month’s phone bill so I only did it a few times before my dad gave me a talking to.
posted by erloteiel at 6:10 AM on September 27 [7 favorites]


In my sophomore year in college, I lived in a house without a phone so I'd go and stand by a payphone in the village center and wait for my mom to call at a proscribed time or I'd call collect and she'd refuse the call and then call me right back.
posted by octothorpe at 6:14 AM on September 27 [9 favorites]


Film canisters! We went through rolls and rolls of film every year. My folks would have to pack it separate from the rest of the stuff when traveling, because it couldn't go through the x-ray machine and had to be hand-inspected. And then you'd drop it off at Costco, wander around eating free samples, and swing back around in an hour. And then, of course, having to cull the ones that were blurry or overexposed. I remember being totally fascinated by the strip of negatives, how you could hold them up to light and see a REVERSE IMAGE WHAT BLACK MAGIC IS THIS.

We used to spend a solid 5 weeks of the summer in India with family. This was, of course, pre-internet, and my aunt lived in a relatively small town where there would be planned daily power cuts to avoid overloading the electrics. I mostly read a lot of books -- after I exhausted whatever I'd brought from the States and my cousins' English language books, I started on my aunt's Anne Rice collection and also the Encyclopedia Britannica. I was a weird kid.

Then when we got home, we stopped at the Post Office to pick up a box or two of our held mail, and it was Mail Sorting Day. We'd spread it all out over the living room. Most of it was probably bills or whatnot, but the Most Important Letter was the one from the school assigning you your teacher and class schedule and the back-to-school supply list -- things like crayons or 5-subject notebooks, but also things like Lysol wipes and Kleenex. In retrospect, the school district should probably have been supplying most of those, but at the time, it felt like a communal "we'll all pitch in so teacher doesn't have to buy it all" pro-social endeavor, at least for my family which was able to afford it.

We bought all the supplies on a family trip to Costco to restock the fridge and drop off the seven thousand canisters of film we'd taken. One year, Trapper Keepers were all the rage, and my mother wouldn't let me get one (who spends that kind of money on a binder, anyway) and instead I had to use cheap-ass binders from the dollar store with badly cut edges that would bite into your arm. Also, the school did supply textbooks, but you had to cover them with a protective cover. For most of my education, that meant cutting up brown paper grocery bags and decorating them, but by the time I was in middle school, these weird stretchy polyester covers were in fashion. My mom let me get those because unlike the Trapper Keeper they were cheap, but I kind of missed the blank brown paper covers.
posted by basalganglia at 6:33 AM on September 27 [14 favorites]


Firecrackers! Go to the corner store, buy some firecrackers, ask mom for some matches, and spend the day setting them off, I was under 10 years old.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:33 AM on September 27 [3 favorites]

Illinois accepted pennies in automatic tolls!
Are they really gone? I've only lived here a few years, but I have encountered them. (I also don't drive much and may have missed their disappearance.) I was astonished to discover that I was expected to have coins on me, drove through without paying since I didn't know what else to do, and then discovered online that one is allowed to skip a certain number of tolls per year without a fine. That license plate cameras, online state department websites, and coin funnels all existed at the same time is a bit surprising.

I'm tempted to claim letting junior high students buy five pound buckets of smokeless gunpowder. But, it's also true I haven't really explored whether that continues to exist where I grew up in the last thirty years. Ashtrays bolted to the walls in public restrooms, though, do seem to have gone away.

It appears that calling for the time went away while I wasn't paying attention. Recording it and putting it on my family's answering machine tape is my second best childhood april fools day prank. It appears that WWV continues their voice broadcast, presumably only because of the self-setting clock industry. (That's a technology that should go away. "It's like a clock, but a shitty one that is certain to be wrong and can't be fixed! And it costs three times as much as a working clock.")
posted by eotvos at 6:46 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


One of the restruants I visited as a child had a stocked cigarette vending machine, just chilling. This was into the 90s, and blew my mind then but now would be unheard of.

I had severe enough asthma that smoking sections in most restraunts could land me in the ER, my mom had to scourer for places we could eat out at with nice big space differences between us and any smokers. I can't remember the last time I actually had to worry about that.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:52 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


A friend had a plane ticket he wasn’t using, so I bought it from him and flew instead. Probably got to the airport 20 minutes before takeoff.
posted by moonmilk at 6:53 AM on September 27 [19 favorites]


On Vancouver Island in the early 90’s you could still get milk delivered in glass bottles (!) which we did (!). No horse drawn carriage, though. Just a guy with a truck.

Oh, and the option of sitting in the smoking section in restaurants.

On preview: yes, cigarette vending machines.
posted by janepanic at 6:58 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Heating or reheating food on the stove, in the oven, toaster oven or toaster. No microwaves.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:58 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


My son just turned 18 and had to register for the draft. We had a talk about how ideally he could choose not to, but a lot of federal and state benefits become unavailable if you don’t, and you can evade the draft later on if it’s ever instituted. I told him how I burned my draft card during the first gulf war in what was a fairly pointless gesture, but I was 18.

Now he has to decide whether to go back to campus in January after they shut down school this fall after less than a month. He misses seeing his friends and this whole year is garbage. So much is riding on the election. Ugh.
posted by rikschell at 6:59 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Car radios with 5 pushbuttons to change stations. Almost every adult being able to drive a manual transmission.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:01 AM on September 27 [7 favorites]


Dogs.

Just nice dogs wandering around doing dog things. Happy to get a handout if you had something or an ear scratch.

Guy I chatted with while doing census work said when he was a kid (right off Alewife Brook Parkway for Cambridge mifis, one side is a green swath) every saturday morning everyone opened their door about the same time and let their dogs out and they'd run up and down the green getting exercise then back home for a nap.

When did every dog need to be tied up, I get it in downtown traffic but it's just a wacky paranoid world nowdays.
posted by sammyo at 7:04 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Picture I took of a cigarette machine in bar two years ago; I assume it's still there.
posted by octothorpe at 7:21 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


I lived in a house without a phone so I'd go and stand by a payphone in the village center and wait for my mom to call at a proscribed time or I'd call collect and she'd refuse the call and then call me right back.

Shades of Bob Wehaddababyitsaboy.
posted by youarenothere at 7:23 AM on September 27 [18 favorites]


I remember going out to eat and my mom had to stop at the supermarket to cash a check because she didn't have a credit card and there were no ATMs and the banks were only open during the day.
posted by octothorpe at 7:35 AM on September 27 [11 favorites]


Real, snail mail letters.

The summer after my sophomore year of college in the mid 80s I was at home up in the Chicago suburbs and my first “in love” boyfriend was home in southern Illinois. Both of us had summer jobs, neither of us had our own car, long distance calls were expensive. Of course, no cell phones or texting or even email. So we wrote letters.

I can still remember coming home from work and finding letters from him waiting for me on the kitchen table. And I remember writing back and calculating how long it would take to get to him and then if he waited a couple of days to write back how long it would take to get the next letter from him...and re reading all his letters in order...this went on all summer.

It was so lovely and romantic and I kind of feel sorry for people who never got to experience that.

We broke up about a year later but stayed in contact somewhat. He passed away awhile ago. I still have all his letters. I haven’t looked at them in decades but I still have them.
posted by bookmammal at 7:43 AM on September 27 [33 favorites]


Carbon paper, replaced for a while by carbonless paper. Manual credit card imprint machines.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:44 AM on September 27 [12 favorites]


When I was in first grade my mom was on Candlepins For Cash, a local bowling-folr-dollars show. My entire class tuned in to watch because I was in the audience and my mom introduced us all so I got about two seconds on local TV.

This was in 1976 and that was the only possible way for someone like me to get on a screen. There were no home video cameras, no smart phones. The only way to get onto a screen (a tube TV being the only screens) was to somehow get on TV. Getting on TV was not very easy.

We have a cassette recording of all of us gathered around the TV watching the show. So it's audio of all of us with the TV in the background. I would give anything to have a video of the episode but I called some time in the 1990s and they said they had no remaining tapes. I feel like there must be a tape in some basement somewhere.

And yes, like everyone else I still find it hard to believe just how much people smoked back then. There was absolutely no concept of "you can't/shouldn't smoke here" unless it was like, church or an operating room or something.
posted by bondcliff at 7:49 AM on September 27 [4 favorites]


Assume born on 1970/1/1 (makes math easier). Before 4th grade (old house). Running around the woods with a BB gun and sometimes even walking down the street with a .22 to head over the hills and shoot cans. Hanging out with dad at the steel fabrication plant when he had to work weekends in a hard hat and sometimes getting to climb up and sit on somebody's lap to drive the overhead cranes. Out and about on bicycles or something until the sun goes down. Welding wood stoves, helping to build houses and decks. What is this OSHA thing?

6th grade, elementary kids walked or rode bikes to school, a good couple of miles. I build a rocket powered model of the Budweiser rocket car that broke the land speed record and teachers let us go outside and set it off in the parking lot.

My new neighbor boys and I would chase each other around with BB guns (one pump neck down rule), or bottle rockets, or just throw clods of dirt (summertime snowball fight). We made calcium carbide powered tennis ball cannons (of course the tennis ball would be soaked in gasoline for effect). I had a whole footlocker of fireworks and easy access to gallon sized barrels of gunpowder, that and a chemistry set, a copy of the Army's Improvised Munitions Handbook and the OSS Sabotage and Demolitions Manual, and model rocket igniters... my bombs were more hide behind wood pile and press button than light fuse and throw/run. Evidently put a small hole in my neighbors garage door once.

Middle school, I made a booby-traped box with a mousetrap that would just make a BANG when opened. And the best thing was making a Shocking Book... basically a stun gun housed inside a hollowed out small book that would knock the piss out of you when you opened it. Nowadays I'd probably be in juvie.

My grandfather roped me in to sitting on his back porch and using my air rifle to plink off the rabbits eating his garden, until a neighbor called the police. A nice warning that you can't do that in city limits and after that... well I just did my plinking from inside through a window. Gramps also taught me to drive which I guess might be a past thing you could get away with.

Those things were not that terribly uncommon in the southern Appalachia in a smallish town on the VA/TN border and well... it might just mostly be the same today. :)

The weird one was going to a summer camp in California before my senior year. It was like 3 months long with pre sophomore/junior/senior kids shoved into dorm rooms only supervised by the summer RA's Basically think of it like starting freshman year of university by taking summer classes. A handful of us even went to administration with the argument that we had signed the same code of conduct as students and were taking the same workload so we should be treated as students. We wanted our meal-plan money back so we could cook for ourselves, access to the recreational facilities, library cards, etc. They actually said yes (after calling guardians). We explored the steam tunnels under campus, borrowed master keys and watched the sun rise from the top of the tallest building on campus, juggled flaming torches, played with liquid nitrogen and high voltage power supplies. We chased each other through the basement with air-soft guns, had toga parties. I think some of the things that happened that summer would be a lawsuit landmine nowadays.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:54 AM on September 27 [6 favorites]


Conkers was a very important thing to primary schoolers in early seventies North of England. It's stuff like this that makes my kids think I grew up in a dangerously whimsical place.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:11 AM on September 27 [6 favorites]


In the 1980s my mom got a speeding ticket in a neighboring state. Every year afterward at the Minnesota State Fair my father would make us all stop at the State Patrol building, where my brothers and I would wait while our parents used some special computer there to look up her driving record, examine the dot matrix print out (with the tearable printer paper edges), and see if this was the year where the ticket was finally expunged from her record.

It must have been fucking humiliating for my mom. And it’s one of those things that I look back on as an adult, add to the list of other weird memories, and realize that my dad was/is a real asshole.
posted by Maarika at 8:26 AM on September 27 [6 favorites]


Seeing a tv show you really enjoyed, and knowing that if it isn’t very popular, you may never be able to see it again, ever.

Getting in mundane arguments about objective facts of the world that go unresolved for years because no one had access to a suitable reference. If the topic wasn’t big enough to make it into the encyclopedia, you might never find a suitable reference to figure out the real answer.

Riding in the back of a pick-up truck.

We had a touch tone phone but didn’t have touch tone service with the phone company, so when you pressed a number, the phone would make a pulse sound to mimic a rotary phone.
posted by skewed at 8:58 AM on September 27 [11 favorites]


When I was little I got my hands on an old WW2 field phone of some kind. I was trying to get it to work, but the diagram for wiring it up was in German. I telephoned the library and asked for the research desk, and the wonderful person there went and found a German-English dictionary, and looked up each of the words for me as I carefully spelled them to her.

Libraries and the special people who work there are still awesome, that hasn't changed.
posted by fritley at 9:24 AM on September 27 [23 favorites]

Just nice dogs wandering around doing dog things.
My childhood mostly involved angry dogs that you'd gather throwing stones to use against the second time you passed by. I only got bitten once. But, there were some really nice dogs too. I don't know how the black lab that visited everyone in our neighborhood kept his figure given the number of treats we all gave him. Perhaps all the jumping and licking worked off the calories. (Sadly, he died shortly after rushing to the vet while vomiting on my lap on the way to the vet. As far as we could tell, a neighbor poisoned him. He was a really sweet dog.)

Living in a big city, my only real connection to dogs is the overwhelming smell of pee that comes from the sidewalk every time it rains. I feel bad for all the dogs that barely manage to hold it until they are four feet from the building entrance.

Also, on preview, I miss riding in a pickup truck. (I've done it in the last five years, but not in a rich country.) My childhood family once had a Subaru Brat, which had seats and barely functional belts in the back. It was an absurd concept and probably quite dangerous, but also lots of fun. Driving for six hours on the freeway strapped into the back of a truck with the window cracked open so you could hear the music is a fond memory.
posted by eotvos at 9:29 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]

Running around the woods with a BB gun and sometimes even walking down the street with a .22
I spent a month or so walking around in public with an 18 inch long WWII bayonet strapped to my belt when I was 8 or 9. I distinctly remember wearing it to a park building and playing with board games. Even at the time, I suspect that was a parenting choice that invited questions.
posted by eotvos at 9:35 AM on September 27 [4 favorites]


This was in 1976 and that was the only possible way for someone like me to get on a screen. There were no home video cameras, no smart phones.

1969, 10 years old, participant in a televised quiz between the three major primary schools on the island where we lived back then. Scored 4 points; can't remember whether we won that round but I think we did. We did win the series. B/W; colour TV came to the island a few years later.

And a good decade later I was at an open-air rock festival, having positioned myself so that I had a good view of the stage taking photos standing on my camera case and with my back against the scaffolding for a television cam (so I wasn't blocking anyone's view, and the TV cam was a bit higher up and not directly behind me either). Between two acts that cam panned around to show a view of the crowd, and midway through the sweep it caught me changing a roll of film.
posted by Stoneshop at 9:37 AM on September 27


I ran loose at age thirteen. This was in the mid-1950s, summer in the central San Joaquin Valley. Two of my nephews and I liked to go to the Saturday Matinees at the White Theatre, in Fresno. This was a summertime activity for which we not only had to wear a shirt and shoes, but we had to come up with the price of admission.

I guess it was about two miles to the theater downtown from our neighborhood. Perhaps ten gas stations lay along Divisidero Boulevard, between us and the movies. In those days all gas stations had soda machines, which (usually) were coolers with four or five rows of sodas suspended by their necks in chilled water. An opener was built in to the side of the cooler box. Empty bottles were found treasure, worth a nickle each. This detail is important.

Our version of capitalism was to pick up discarded bottles along the roadside, and sell them to each of the several gas stations as we walked to the theater. Surprisingly, we were able to gain enough change to pay our admission (the Saturday matinee price was eleven cents each), and three or four boxes of Milk Duds (ten cents each). Sometimes we had to sneak a bottle or two from one gas station to sell at the next on our route (okay, steal, not sneak). The Milk Duds were an important choice, because, after you eat the candy, if you put the box to your mouth and blow into it, you'll get a loud squeal. When the lights go down, you need a noisemaker.

This matinee featured 25 cartoons (think Road Runner, Mr. McGoo) followed by a serial adventure (Don Winslow of the Navy, Tarzan, maybe Hopalong Cassidy). The only adults in the theater worked at the concession stand and ticket booth. Maybe two-hundred, half wild, unsupervised kids filled the theater. We loved the balconies because we could toss our empty candy wrappers and such down on the kids below.

All in good fun, for sure. I don't remember any fights, which is amazing, if you take into account that the White Theatre was the only one of five theaters downtown that welcomed kids "from the other side of the tracks," as we white kids thought of it in those days. A supremely ironic bend in our reality is that my nephews and I lived on "that" side of town, too. At any rate, when the lights went out, the cartoons came on, and the audience participation phase of the doings began. I remember lots of yelling, cheering, booing, shrill squeals from candy-box muscians, ear-splitting whistles from those with that talent.

Offhand, I can come up with other events where kids my age ran loose, more or less unsupervised--the boat rides in Roeding Park, for example. I'm thinking those times are gone. I don't see them as having been a simpler, or "golden" age. Just different. I'm glad I was me then, instead of me spending my adolescent capital nowadays.
posted by mule98J at 9:52 AM on September 27 [7 favorites]


My own children (teenagers) seem most puzzled by the lack of quality foods/ingredients I experienced in my childhood. My small Pennsylvania town didn’t get its first Taco Bell until 1990. Taco Bell’s “hot” sauce at that time was, by an order of magnitude, the hottest, spiciest condiment I’d ever tasted. Very few people in my community were comfortable with even mild (by 2020 standards) levels of spice/ heat. I didn’t eat an avocado or an artichoke until my 20s, and I enjoyed a relatively middle class upbringing. We ate “out”’perhaps 4-6 times per year, at most. These are the kinds of stories that amaze my own kids, who’ve had access to reasonably sophisticated foods and ingredients their whole lives.
posted by cheapskatebay at 10:38 AM on September 27 [7 favorites]


There was a Sambo's in Edmonton into the 80s, which seemed pretty weird at the time, all strangely racist black-and-orange decor. It was down past Argyll Park if I remember correctly.
posted by aramaic at 10:46 AM on September 27


if you're an American, was there still a senior smoking lounge when you were in high school?

1970, I'm in the tenth grade. Lunch always ends with a quick trip down into The Smoking Hole, the chain-link fenced-in area under the cafeteria. Year 'round, even in the freezing cold. Supposed to be limited to those over 16 (the then-legal-age) but nobody was checking.

When I was about 7 my father gave me a lead-casting set for Christmas. He'd had something similar when he was a boy (and holy cow, mine is currently available NOS on eBay!) This came in handy for all sorts of projects when I was young, but its purpose was casting WWII-era soldiers. So we had these soldiers hanging around the house, and we'd play with them, while watching TV. Often, then, said lead soldiers would wind up in our mouths. Has this early exposure made me dumber than I would have been, without? That would've horrified my father.
posted by Rash at 10:49 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Phoning a friend's house on a landline, having memorised the phone number, and saying "Hi Mrs Smith, is Julie there?". Doing this with several friends in succession in order to arrange to meet on a specific street corner at 7.30pm, so we could get the bus to the underage drinking venue together.

A headteacher denying a petition for girls to be allowed to wear uniform trousers to school instead of skirts, for the stated reason that he enjoyed looking at the girls' legs.

One of the "options" we could choose in school at 14 being a typing class, in which (unlike all the other options) it wasn't possible to get a high grade - the high end of the marking scheme was just missing.

Going to an enormous "college" aged 16-18 that covered our entire county, had no pastoral care, didn't take attendance and relied entirely on the students' motivation to get themselves to any of their classes. The local authority did at least pay those of us with low income parents a small amount of grant money directly, which most of us spent at the underage drinking venue.
posted by quacks like a duck at 10:57 AM on September 27 [8 favorites]


Oh man, I just thought of one that predates me -- school buses used to be frequently driven BY SCHOOL KIDS. Like, they'd pay a responsible junior or senior with a license to drive the bus. (Apparently this continued in some states into the 1980s!) My uncle drove the bus for his Catholic school, and basically he'd park the bus at his little suburban house on the street overnight. Get up really early in the morning, all his younger siblings would get on the bus, and he would drive around northern Virginia picking up Catholic school kids, and then drive over the bridge into DC. (It was actually maybe 3 separate schools -- elementary, and then single-gender HSs, or something like that.)

So he's buzzing across the Teddy Roosevelt bridge, 17 and driving a full-size school bus with 60 kids on it, and none of the drivers will let him move over so he can get OFF the highway. Finally, in frustration, he throws the bus door open, flinging out the stop sign, and traffic on the bridge comes to a screeching halt. He slowly moseys over to the exit, stop sign out the whole time, and only then does he close the door and let the traffic start again.

"Illinois accepted pennies in automatic tolls!"
"Are they really gone?"


I honestly don't know! I got an iPass in the very early 2000s and haven't gone through a coin toll booth since!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:01 AM on September 27 [9 favorites]


There were only like 4 channels anyway.

[fouryorkshiremen] FOUR channels? Lookshoorey [/fouryorkshiremen]

Just one. Started at 4 PM with a children's hour, nearly all of it US cartoons. And we actually got a telly because Fabeltjeskrant was going to be shown. News, and then probably US series for most of the rest of the programming, until 11 PM or so. For movies you went to the cinema, either the open-air near the refinery, or the drive-in.

That telly also made it possible to see the moon landing, late in the afternoon; we were on EDT as well, so no need to stay up late-ish as we would have had to in NL.
posted by Stoneshop at 11:10 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Just too late to add a link to the Fabeltjeskrant
posted by Stoneshop at 11:17 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Seeing a tv show you really enjoyed, and knowing that if it isn’t very popular, you may never be able to see it again, ever.

Yeah, I'm still hoping to find footage of a sitcom called We'll Get By that was on for a handful of episodes when I was a kid and for some reason I thought it was the funniest thing ever. But I probably won't ever see it again.
posted by JanetLand at 11:28 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Looks like the Paley Center has a single episode. You probably don't want to see this show badly enough to schedule a trip to NYC around it, but, y'know, you could.
posted by box at 11:43 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Where are my "smelling that purple mimeograph paper" people at?
posted by NorthernLite at 11:48 AM on September 27 [46 favorites]


The suburban neighborhood I grew up in in the 1970s didn't have free-range dogs, but a thing we also didn't have that everyone seems obsessed with now is dog walking. You had a fenced yard, or you had a tie-out which nobody thought was cruel, but you sure as shit didn't see people walking their dogs up and down the sidewalk on the regular.
posted by drlith at 11:56 AM on September 27 [3 favorites]


Once we had a computer that ran Windows, there was a lot of fiddling withIRQ settings to get the Sound Blaster to work properly with each game.

I can honestly trace my job as a video game programmer more or less directly from lots of playing the make the game run! IRQ conflict / extended memory optimization challenge included for free with all popular PC games of the time.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:16 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Backmasking on tapes and Lps.

Youth pastors that told you the above were about sAtAnIc RiTuAlS
posted by fluttering hellfire at 12:23 PM on September 27 [5 favorites]


When I first started teaching in grad school (so, 2011), grad students weren't allowed to use the department's fancy new color copier. Instead, we had to use the risograph. We also taught all the intro classes, so I would be risographing syllabi and exams and handouts for 80+ students (alongside all the other grad student instructors). The department got a second copier that grad students could access in 2017, so I only taught with an actual copier for 1 semester. Kids Today with photocopiers don't appreciate how good they have it.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:48 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Kids Today with photocopiers don't appreciate how good they have it.

Back in the day we either had ditto machines (love the smell of those purple pages!) or thermofax, which was an impressive technology for the time but also the copies deteriorated over time.
posted by hippybear at 12:56 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


In high school, around 1974/75, my friends and I would go to a local bar on the weekend. We had to teach the ancient bartender how to make a tequila sunrise. We'd get drunk and stagger home, avoiding the parents, and pass out. I would occasionally vomit in my Planet of the Apes garbage can. Then clean it out when nobody was home.

Perfectly normal. Right?
posted by Splunge at 1:03 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Long roadtrips with the station wagon's back seats folded down and a sheet of foam cushioning spread across the tailgate for the kids to sit and sleep on.

Telephone party lines meant sharing your phone line with a random stranger and, over the years, learning about them through scant bits and pieces when you pick up the phone while they're using theirs.

Home ec classes were for girls, shop classes were for boys. In my year one (male) classmate's mother insisted that he take home ec which supposedly led to an escalating volley of threats between said parent and the school's administration before they allowed him to take the class. This particular segregation ended for the class the year after mine.

Radio and the occasional TV variety show being the primary means of finding out about new music. If you lived in neither a big city nor a college town the underground music scene was extremely obscure, something you only learned about in passing mentions in the Rolling Stone or by the oddball cutout at the record shop.

The Bicentennial.
posted by ardgedee at 1:05 PM on September 27 [7 favorites]


Walking to school in first grade. It was about 1.5 miles and I walked with my friends and their siblings.

Waiting for the weather report on the radio.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:05 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


> Both coin-accepting toll booths and film canisters have gone the way of the dodo, these days.

I can't speak for film canisters but West Virginia highway tollbooths still use coin baskets in most of their lanes, plus one reserved for QuickPass/EZPass. Granted the toll for one road I take is still only $0.55.
posted by ardgedee at 1:05 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Born in 81. Early in my childhood, I can remember having to wait for the telephone man to come install the phone. Then at some point, we were able to buy our own phone and plug it into the jack ourselves.
posted by Fukiyama at 1:06 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


I'm 29, so the world I grew up in isn't that different to the one I live in today, but: real-deal dress codes in restaurants. Yes, I know dress codes still exist now as a relatively unsubtle way to signal your establishment is whites-only, but as a kid going out for a nice dinner meant putting on dress shoes, plus jackets for men and nice skirts for women. You would never, ever wear jeans to dine out at a place with tablecloths in the '90s, and it still took me well into my 20s before I was convinced that people wouldn't think I was outrageously uncouth to wear anything cocktail-length without pantyhose. This is certainly a past tradition I do not miss. I can even wear jeans to my office now (I mean, even when I'm not working from home for the indefinite future), so take that, 20th century!

Actually, now that I mention tablecloths: these days, red or white tablecloths usually tell you a restaurant is a stuffy, old-fashioned type of place rather than somewhere to see and be seen.
posted by capricorn at 1:24 PM on September 27


- watching men on the moon on black and white television.
- cigarette machines
- the chunk-CHUNK credit card machines and looking up the numbers in a BOOK OF NUMBERS if you worked in retail
- typing class in a room full of clattering typewriters

Where are my "smelling that purple mimeograph paper" people at?

HI!!!!!

Maybe this is a suburb/urban thing, but growing up bicycles only ever seemed to be for kids.

Here adults on bikes are two very distinct groups: fitness people and people who have lost their driver's licenses and still need to get to work. There is no confusing the two.

This thread is so fascinating to me because I both remember the old timey stuff but also live in a rural area where some of the old timey stuff is still here. A list

- people walk around here with guns a lot, also dogs roam the streets though not as much as when I was a kid. There is a cat that comes and visits my yard. That cat is on Instagram.
- landlines, I remember getting "my own" landline and it was a huge deal. People where I live now still have house phones in a lot of cases because cell service is kinda spotty.
- film canisters, my parents were both into photography so I always had these around for various little holders. I still have one in my toiletry kit for the odd "I only need one of these" pills. When my mother died in 2017 she was cremated and we offered a film canister of her ashes if anyone wanted to spread them near where they were. Few people took us up on this so we have a LOT of them leftover.

My grandfather worked for the phone company so we had "custom" phones before those were really a thing and most people had the ones you got from the phone company when you got a line installed.

The Bicentennial.

I lived one town over from Concord MA and they painted the fire hydrants to look like Minutemen and we went to the 4th of July parade and it was Off the Hook, I wish I could remember it better or find the photos.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 1:33 PM on September 27 [8 favorites]


Reading all this, I'm reminded that it's not just the past that's a different country... different countries are also a different country. There's so much here that does not sound familiar to me at all. And also some things that are mentioned as something from the past, and that are still common here.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:45 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]


The Bicentennial.

Oh man, Elton John's 'Philadelphia Freedom' playing incessantly on the radio, with kids singing the popular misheard-lyric "Gave me a piece of mama daddy never had".
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:45 PM on September 27 [4 favorites]


I just found out you can buy multi-packs of plastic 35mm film canisters for next to nothing on Amazon. The old aluminum screw-top versions (which of course are the ones I'd actually like to have) only seem to be available via Ebay, the cheapest price I could find was 1-2 bucks apiece (plus shipping).
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:48 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


My father is a computer enthusiast, so we’ve always had one in the house ever since I was little. A couple times a year, we’d go to the local computer expo, which was like a roving flea market but the vendors only sold computer stuff. We’d be allowed to buy the “100 games on a disk” which was just the shareware versions of all these bad frames crammed on to a floppy - backseatpilot

Wow, that's a flashback. I was in the same space - engineering parent, early apple, tons of floppies. I think I last went to one in around 2001-2002 with my now-spouse and it felt antique then. And expos were the place to get slightly obscure things, be it educational stuff for the 'gifted kids' or weird sewing machine stuff or pastry equipment or electronics.

The first thing I thought of was riding in the back of friends' parents' station wagons, seatbeltless, flipping through random Childcraft volumes.

And this one's only from the 90s, but, uh, boxing payphones. cough cough.
posted by cobaltnine at 1:55 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Photos and printing-- they don't have 1-hour photo any more, you have to call around for a place that does it and they all send it out to a lab. and it costs like $15 a roll! But you do get a CD with the negatives (but often don't get the negatives themselves.) And now everyone has an incredibly good camera all the time, but never prints or saves the photos in any permanent way.

We had a printer and a computer with internet from 1994 onward (my dad was in IT) and I remember the dialup taking over the phone line and missing calls, and reading a book while pictures loaded. And going from everyone saying "Why would you want this?" and teachers asking for papers typed (as in typewriter) or handwritten neatly, to "No, sorry, I don't have email at home" to "We have one email for the family" to everyone having desktops, to everyone having cheap shitty inkjet printers to nobody but me having a printer, to everyone on the phones all the time, and everyone else with no PC nor printer at home (hence why the library is the printer for the entire world.) Phew.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:10 PM on September 27 [6 favorites]


Another entry for There Was Smoking Everywhere:

I had a bunch of hospitalizations as a kid. At some point during that time, the rules were changed and you could no longer smoke in patients’ rooms. My mother was furious. If I wanted to see her, I had to get my IV on a pole and go down the hall to the waiting room where you could still smoke.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:10 PM on September 27 [8 favorites]


And the teacher wheeling in the a/v cart with the TV and VHS on it! So that we could watch a taped Bill Nye episode about plants or something.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:14 PM on September 27 [9 favorites]


I have tons of film canisters, film is not dead! ;)

Cigarettes. I remember candy cigarettes and if you blew on them the right way “smoke” would come out. When I was in boarding school in 9th and 10th grade you had to be in your room at 10 pm unless you were in the horrifying basement smoking lounge. That was ok. So of course everybody was down there gossiping and that’s how I started smoking; it was self defense, really. My junior year at a different school smoking was reserved for seniors and they had a fancy little house to smoke in; the rest of us had to sneak out the street. I got caught was told, and I quote, “young ladies of quality do not smoke on the street. Women of color smoke on the street.” The cigarette machine at the IHOP on Savannah Highway was still 55 cents a pack (remember when keyboards / typewriters had a cents sign?) and that’s where we would go the morning after our all night acid trips. . .

Weed was $35 an ounce, $20 for a half, $10 a quarter. There were several drive through nickel and dime bag markets - everywhere I guess, but the ones I knew were in Charleston SC where the weed often tasted like shrimp from coming in in the hold of a shrimp boat. In SC you could drink beer and wine at 18 but not liquor until you were 21. They sold beer at the college and you’d see people having beer and Cheerios for breakfast. I was the last year for that actually, grandfathered in, they closed it all up behind me - like 3 months behind me it was so weird- so I was the designated beer buyer for a long time.

You could tell your mom you were at your friends house and she would tell her mom she was at yours and nobody ever checked. Benign neglect parenting was an actual thing - parents, by which I mean my mom, because my father, like many if not most, generally had nothing whatsoever to do with the kids - would send you out the door in the morning and tell you not to come home until dinner. One time I got in a canoe and paddled for hours, I found an island and stayed there for a bit. Eventually my dad showed up in a sailboat as it was getting dark. I was maybe 10? I’d been gone for probably 8 or 9 hours? Nobody cared. I remember thinking even then that this was sort of problematic.

Phones. When I was in college sharing an apartment with five or six other people we had a phone that looked exactly like a beer can, we got it at spencer gifts. It often got mixed up with the actual beer cans in the living room, which was always a hilarious moment. When I was a kid some families had two landlines, one for the adults and one for the kids. Oooh fancy. I was taught as a child to answer the phone “Surname residence, myname speaking.”

TV had only a few main channels but then there were also the UHF channels with weird numbers like 56 and 45 and they played the best stuff like endless monster movies. And Gilligan’s Island was on all the time everywhere.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:20 PM on September 27 [13 favorites]


Some random stuff here:

Steam locomotives (they electrified the line close to home in 1967 and that was the end of steam... that's in Northern Germany).

Almost non-existing security checks on transatlantic flights (Frankfurt - JFK on Pan-Am, 1977; we basically just waltzed into the plane).

Another thing that has changed is braces. School kids in the late 60s in Western Germany all wore retainer-type braces, most often made in well-established 1950s-style dental labs that tended to turn out some rather hefty mouthfuls of dental hardware, with little consideration for wearability or elegance. The result was a lot of mumbling and hissing in class, loads of now-I've-got-some-too-can-you-understand-me embarrassment, and the enticing option of influencing the treatment aversely by pocketing those clumsy pink wedges of horror for ever longer stretches of time.
(Fixed braces made their entry in my town only in the mid-70s, first the heavy-metal kind, and somewhat later the various less conspicuous types).

Oh and typewriters, obvsl.

Music lessons: LPs that first were wiped 'clean' by our teacher, using his handkerchief.
posted by Namlit at 2:22 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


I didn’t have braces and I wanted them so I would be like everyone else! And also because in 6th grade Wendy could shoot a tiny pink rubber band off her braces with uncanny accuracy and it was so cool, I envied her deeply.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:25 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]


An Olympics year was much more interesting when it was both Winter and Summer.

Being allowed to stay up to watch a particular show (I had bedtime exceptions for St. Elsewhere, of all things, and Mystery!).

Having cable was a new and unusual thing, as opposed to the handful of channels on broadcast TV. Our neighbor across the street was a TV editor who got cable for professional reasons, so going over to their house to watch films on cable was a bit of an event.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:46 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]


"When I was a kid some families had two landlines, one for the adults and one for the kids. Oooh fancy. "

My parents did this in self-defense when three of their four kids were making and taking independent phone calls, and it was amazing, I felt like Claudia Kishi.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:48 PM on September 27 [6 favorites]


The ginormo consumer satellite dishes in people's front yards.

Pre-HIPAA newspapers would print lists of hospital admissions and discharges by patient name.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 2:51 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


My soccer/baseball coach would just load up the entire team in the bed of the pickup truck and drive over to dairy queen or friendlys for ice cream. These days you wouldn't put your dog back there.

Oh, and maybe this is just because of my upbringing, but people used to drink and drive constantly.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:04 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Cigarette smoking just everywhere, staining walls, discoloring curtains, and leaving greasy films on glass (windows, drinkware, tv screens...). I, too, enabled my parents by buying cigarettes for them. The avenue deli ran a household tab (tracked in a marble notebook, with a pencil attached by a string; the tally was double-checked with an adding machine, and customers who abused the privilege had previous tape tallies stapled to their account pages), so I could make these purchases before I was trusted to carry money. I also knew how my folks took their coffee. Later, I shopped at the newsstand/stationery store, which also carried candy cigarettes (the gum version tasted better, but the chalky hard-candy pack had better smoke effects), smoky stink bombs -- the clerk would throw in a pack of matches -- and Wham-O's (toxic, ethyl acetate/polyvinyl acetate) Super Elastic Bubble Plastic.

Most places had cigarette vending machines near the door, and kids kept track of whose turn it was to feed the coins into the slot and work the dispensing knob. But woe betide you, if you picked a similar-looking but incorrect tobacco brand, because illiteracy, or you learned too late that the right brand was out of stock, or the knob wouldn't respond to your best efforts, and the proprietor had to be summoned to fix your screw-up. Also: children, in a bar? Sure, this is a family establishment, can't you tell by our pinball machine? Here's a milk crate and two telephone books. Who wants a Roy Rogers?
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:06 PM on September 27 [5 favorites]


On opening day of deer season, a number of gun racks in the high school parking lot were full, as kids would get up early to hit the woods and wouldn't make it home to drop off gear before school started.

For that matter, gun racks in general. Don't see many of them where I am these days.
Most everyone has a locked case.
posted by madajb at 3:19 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Answering the phone "(town)(four digits)"

Calling someone and hanging up before they answered, as a way to communicate "I'm on my way over" but without paying for the call.

Having a bank book for a savings account, where someone would write in each transaction and stamp it with the bank stamp.

Listening to the Top 40 on the radio every week (the radio being a big thing in a cabinet in the living room) and writing down the names of songs and artists because there was no other way to look them up later, this show was the only way to access the information.

Bookkeeping happened in special ledgers you could buy.

Making cheap flyers involved hand drawing art and typography, followed by manually arranging the artwork elements on a sheet of paper, gluing them down, photocopying the thing at the library, and then mailing the results off in a huge pile of hand written envelopes with stamps. You could get a special sponge in a pot to use instead of licking the stamps.
posted by quacks like a duck at 3:26 PM on September 27 [5 favorites]


blnkfrnk: "And the teacher wheeling in the a/v cart with the TV and VHS on it! So that we could watch a taped Bill Nye episode about plants or something."

The A/V Cart had a 16mm or 32mm film projector on it when I was in school.
posted by octothorpe at 3:29 PM on September 27 [4 favorites]


There are still a few one hour film processing shops around; there's two in my city. I shoot film almost exclusively and go through scores of rolls of 35mm and 120 film a year and quite a few boxes of 4x5 sheet film. There are lots of us still around.
posted by octothorpe at 3:34 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Card catalogs! The card in the back of the library book that you put your name on and then turned into the school librarian! (That was cool, because you could see who had checked out the book before you. And then when I went to grad school, it was cool, because I could see when I was checking out books that hadn't been checked out since 1917, when they still used that system.) Looking things up in the physical copy of the Readers Guide Periodical Literature. In general, I learned a whole lot of library skills when I was in high school and college that became obsolete about six months after I arrived in grad school. (In my first semester, my advisor informed us that online catalogs would never be as good as the physical books and card catalog, and we didn't need to learn how to use the online databases. But even she changed her tune pretty quickly.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:36 PM on September 27 [14 favorites]


Two things I notice a lot when walking around:

Littering. The sides of the roads just being an endless stream of styrofoam containers, drink cans and random bit of detritus.
I know that people still litter, but I feel like it would not longer be socially acceptable to just open your window and toss out a fast food bag full of trash.

Dog crap.
When I was kid, sidewalks and lawns were minefields.
Having to scrape off a shoe after being less than attentive happened more than a few times.
These days if it happened, you'd be rightfully indignant.
posted by madajb at 3:38 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


There were no cellphones. I used to organize events with my friends in advance. Hey, let's meet at the diner and then see that movie at 9. If someone didn't show up, you didn't worry and went ahead and did whatever it was.
posted by chavenet at 4:08 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


I was taught as a child to answer the phone “Surname residence, myname speaking.”

And we were trained to let the phone ring exactly twice before picking up.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:49 PM on September 27 [5 favorites]


In 1984, when I was a sophomore in high school, I started smoking. I was the last of my friends to start. I was living at my grandmother house at the time. One day she called me downstairs. She had found my cigarettes. I thought she was going to ground me or threaten to tell my mother, who also smoked (as did everyone). But she just asked me to sit down at the dining room table in front of this fancy ashtray and table lighter that I'd never seen before. I thought she was going to make me smoke a pack of cigarettes right then and there as my punishment (this was THE go-to way parents dealt with kids who were caught smoking at the time). But, my grandmother wasn't upset at all. She basically said if I was going to smoke, I was going to smoke like a 'lady'. She proceeded to explain the dos and don'ts of smoking, as she understood them. This included: how to properly hold a cigarette, how to never walk while holding a cigarette, how to blow out the match (not wave it around like a sailor), how - when a gentleman is lighting your cigarette - to place your hand on his hand as a way of steadying the flame (!), how to only take a couple of puffs with minutes-long pauses in between, then, when you are done, remove the burning end in the (presumably beautiful, crystal ashtray) not stamp it out. Very much a lesson in how to beautifully hold a cigarette that you only just barely ever smoke.

Oh, I meant to add - I never got in any trouble. My parent's didn't punish me either!
posted by marimeko at 4:49 PM on September 27 [12 favorites]


when I was in junior high, the VP would do "random locker searches", in the interest of fairness, one could be present and on 16 October of '82, at 11:17 a.m.-#773 was searched.

"pipe, zig zag papers, empty film canister, Golden Nugget casino playing card with suspect resin residue...water pipe no stem...where's the bowl?"

"top lip of locker"

"o.k....im going to keep the zig zags, here is this, close it up, off to geography, I'm sure Ms. J is missing your Monograph on Pingos"

I learned a lot about the Arctic that day.
posted by clavdivs at 4:53 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


I still make long distance calls at night, because for much of my life, rates went down substantially at 11 pm. It feels odd to call siblings in other states during the day; they feel the same. My mobile plan has unlimited US calling.
posted by theora55 at 5:03 PM on September 27 [13 favorites]


Oh, man, this thread, the memories ... One that I haven't seen so far is the way that my nighborhood library checked out books when I was a kid, in the late 50s/early 60s. You'd bring your books up to the desk, hand the librarian your card, and she (all the librarians there were women, it would probably have been listed in the "Help Wanted, Female" section of the newspaper ads, as FencingGal mentions above) would take the cards and my books, flick a switch, and start talking in a very quiet, dulcet librarian-voice into a small microphone, reading first my card number, and then for each book, "Transaction number 40357, book number 18106" or whatever. And as she talked a little red light flickered, tracking her voice, to verify the transaction was being recorded.

It felt *incredibly* high-tech and moderne to me at the time; in retrospect, I'm not sure how the whole system actually functioned. Did they have someone in the basement transcribing the recordings? Or ... I just don't know. Anyway, I remembered this in a flashback late last year, pre-COVID, when I was self-checking out a bunch of books at my current neighborhood library--which involves scanning one's card, and then setting the entire stack of books down on a glass surface underneath which some kind of magico-Xray-scanner reads all the bar codes in sequence. Now *that's* high-tech moderne, my friends. (And jeez, I miss my old neighborhood library--a Carnegie building from 1917, just beautiful.)
posted by Kat Allison at 5:43 PM on September 27 [7 favorites]


When I was in third grade I occasionally walked home half a mile at lunch so that I could walk my kindergartener sister back to school.
That was at the elementary school where the entire jungle gym was set directly on the asphalt. A perfect place to hang upside down by your knees.
posted by meinvt at 6:24 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]


The dress code (and not just for dinner, capricorn.) Inconceivable now, but quite apparent in old films -- if you were female, you had to wear a dress or a skirt until the late 1960s. Sure, now, you can if you want to, but back then (except in a few situations) you had to.
posted by Rash at 6:26 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


“Surname residence, myname speaking.”

My favorite response, c/o my stepdad, was "(surname) summer home; sum're here, sum're not!" In college my dorm roommate - who was American but his family had spent many years in England because of traveling for his dad's job - would answer the phone "Dog and Hare Pub" which I found hilarious because I thought he was saying "hair" instead of "hare".

During the years my best friend and I were age 13 to 17, his parents (dad retired Navy, mom "housewife") would often send us to the liquor store on our bikes with money and a handwritten note to buy them gin and cartons of cigarettes, and nobody batted an eye. Meanwhile his parents would continue chain-smoking and drinking and playing cards at the dining room table, all the while arguing at the tops of their voices. There was a permanent haze in the air at their house; I'd come home absolutely reeking of stale smoke. It's a wonder I never picked up the habit myself.

I'd frequently spend Friday or Saturday nights at his house, doing lots of underage drinking (I mean, it's not like his parents cared or even fucking noticed). The next morning, quite hungover, we'd motor off to the grocery store to buy sting and chicken necks then spend the morning at a nearby undeveloped area with lots of brackish-water canals, enticing blue crabs into nets. We usually had his .22 rifle along for the ride, which we'd use to amuse ourselves while waiting for crabs to be enticed by making cattail heads violently go poof or further perforating found beer and soda cans. After we' caught a dozen or so crabs we'd bring them home to boil in a giant pot and have ourselves a feast Best hangover cure ever.

Once we got to be legal driving age (16 at the time in Florida), my friend and I would sometimes spend all afternoon or evening driving around aimlessly in his dad's Pinto chatting about nothing much and endlessly repeating Pink Floyd or Supertramp on the car's 8-track (for years afterward I'd anticipate the interruptive 5-second silence and ka-CHUNK of the track change, even when listening to the LPs). Amazingly, somehow we'd agreed early on not to drink before or during these outings, so that was probably the safest thing we did during those years.

The hours and hours of unsupervised alone time seem astounding in this day and age.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:33 PM on September 27 [8 favorites]


The cable box had a push button for each station which you had to depress to select that channel. My grandmother’s semi-rural house had a motorized television antenna on the roof with a dial and diagram in top of the television. You’d select the direction based on channel wanted, wait for it to rotate around, and then fine tune if necessary.
posted by meinvt at 6:37 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


... to buy *stRing and chicken necks ...
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:42 PM on September 27


The A/V Cart had a 16mm or 32mm film projector on it when I was in school.

Team 8mm Film Loop all the way!

(not really, I hated film loops. Birds Of The Prairies can go fuck itself forever.)
posted by aramaic at 6:51 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


I don't often think of myself as "old" but as a teacher you are practically ancient to your students.

My year 7 (12 yo) kids were shocked that I didn't have a mobile phone at their age, and when I was in year 10 I was able to use the family one if I was going out. I didn't have my own phone until after I finished highschool.
I used to text in my tweets!
I didn't have a smart phone until I had finished University.

I did have a laptop though. I remember looking for free wi-fi. With 4G I haven't done that in years.

Actually giving your home phone number to people.

Playing games on your phone/device without ads.

iPods, and before them disc men and walkmen.

Spending hours in the video rental store finding something to watch as a part of a sleep over.

Having a monthly metcard in Melbourne, which meant at the stations too small to have barriers, you could run to catch the train without fumbling for your ticket. Having to tap on/off a myki really messed with my flow.
posted by freethefeet at 7:17 PM on September 27


Home taping! For many years I corresponded with a friend I met via Teenage Wildlife (the preeminent Bowie fan page of 1997) and we sent tapes back and forth to each other in the mail. Because that was how you shared music then.

Someone mentioned waiting for the DJ to name the song-- I still know a ton of music by heart with no idea of the artist because of this.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:25 PM on September 27 [6 favorites]


What jumps to mind is certain tech changes and social issues.

I wasn't on the (primitive)internet until I was almost middle-aged, l and didn't have a phone with unlimited minutes & texting, or a tablet or a streaming TV until the last eight years. Yet I can barely recall what life before that, let alone childhood, was like. It does feel like some alternate world.

Going to the library to read big-city newspapers 4 days old. And later in HS getting a subscription to the Sunday NY Times, and feeling very sophisticated when it arrived at my house mid-week. Being even more thrilled when I went to college in a bigger metro area, and being able to get it at the bookstore on Sunday!

Checking out LPS from the library. Encyclopedias. Learning the Dewey Decimal system.

Everything from planning a trip to researching your genealogy involved the library or a bookstore or writing a letter for more information. (You waited eagerly for the mail to come.)

Learning to read with Dick and Jane (and Sally and Spot!) books.

Dragging the long cord of the phone hanging on the kitchen wall onto the basement steps for privacy.

Sending letters from camp and college and onward. (Which I do even now to my elderly mother.)

Your dad getting angry because he couldn't read the map.

Transistor radios.
Getting a color tv!

When I was really young, it was still a big deal when someone flew somewhere.

Forget the fact we didn't wear bike helmets. You also didn't see people in expensive pro-like athletic gear biking or running like they were training for the Olympics. (Were things less intense then?)

Being harassed by an adult, or having a teacher who said "weird" things. But none of us told anyone.

Nobody was "out." Homophobia was in. Racial bigotry was terrible - and only people in really blue bubbles ever thought that had gotten better since.

Misogyny, when it was still called sexism. Or when it didn't have a name at all.

Sexist double entendres in movies, in all media.

I recall a magazine ad probably from the early 70s which showed the smarmy face of a young sales clerk. The ad copy was something like, "When you go to buy sanitary napkins, the guy behind the counter should be your only worry."

Yes, you were supposed to be embarrassed about menstruating.

I still recall watching Jimmy Connors make a remark at the US Open (late 70s/early 80s, when I was already in young adulthood) asking why "a woman" was linesperson. Had that happened post-social media world, he would have been dragged to hell online.
posted by NorthernLite at 8:08 PM on September 27 [6 favorites]


When I was in 7th grade I wanted to make pipe bombs, but needed an explosive, so....

The bombs worked


You...made pipe bombs?
posted by medusa at 8:34 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


I still struggle to believe this one but it happened: US President Bill Clinton visited Australia in 1996 and flew into Sydney airport. My friend in high school, who was into planes and had just got his drivers' licence, drove out by himself early one morning with a pair of wire cutters, clipped the fence, walked around inside the tarmac, took pictures of Air Force One, then had the film developed and brought the prints to school. There were absolutely no consequences.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:27 PM on September 27 [7 favorites]


"The card in the back of the library book that you put your name on and then turned into the school librarian!"

I loved these! My best friend and I alternately checked out The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles from the school library, beginning in third grade, so often that we went through three or four of those checkout cards before graduating in 5th grade. Nobody else checked it out those three years, just us!

"When I was in third grade I occasionally walked home half a mile at lunch so that I could walk my kindergartener sister back to school."

Where I went to grade school, in the mid-80s, it was still assumed that every student had a stay-at-home mother at home (white upper-middle-class suburbia near Chicago), and everyone who lived closer than half a mile was REQUIRED to walk home from school for (a presumably hot) lunch prepared by their mother. If your mother worked -- which a lot of my friends' moms did! -- you had to submit a special form to the school and get it signed by the principal to allow you to eat in the lunchroom (/gymnasium).

"The dress code (and not just for dinner, capricorn.) Inconceivable now, but quite apparent in old films -- if you were female, you had to wear a dress or a skirt until the late 1960s."

My mother graduated college in 1972 and was required to wear skirts to class until she graduated. In 1970 they were allowed to wear pants to the dining hall and it was a MAJOR COUP.

People always laugh when I tell them this, but until the day he died, in 1999ish, my grandfather wore a blazer and tie TO GO TO MCDONALDS because you wear a coat and tie when dining out. I was 21ish but I still wore skirts to church and to dinner with him every. single. time. because he had very strong opinions about appropriate dress. (I mean mostly he took us to very nice restaurants, but even when we were on a road trip and stopping at McDonalds for lunch, he put on a coat and tie.) There was a whole DISCUSSION with my mom and my grandma when I discovered skorts in the early 90s and finally it was decided if I didn't TELL my grandfather there were shorts under my skirt, I could probably wear a skort to church. (Side note: My grandfather quit Catholicism when he was about 13 (THIS WAS VERY REBELLIOUS FOR THE ERA) but went to church EVERY SUNDAY for his ENTIRE LIFE and insisted all of his children and grandchildren dress very formally for Mass and attend weekly Mass and do Catholicy things.)

"The hours and hours of unsupervised alone time seem astounding in this day and age."

Covid is making my kids gain some of this back, because we just desperately want a break from them, and there are hardly any cars on the local roads because of the pandemic. When they're between Zoom school classes, they grab a GPS watch we have and say "I'm going on a bike ride!" (only because we've insisted it's polite to tell people you live with where you're going) and disappear for an hour. They're basically allowed to go as far as they don't have to cross a state highway. At first I would watch their progress on the watch, but after six months I feel basically fine about them riding all over town. One of them likes to go watch trains, the other likes to explore every tiny street and cul-de-sac. When it's safe again, we'll probably encourage them to go buy ice cream from the ice cream shoppe, or candy from the dollar store, to practice minor transactions. But right now they just ride all over and come back when they're tired.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 9:53 PM on September 27 [9 favorites]


Until early 1993, women senators on the Senate floor were expected to wear skirts or dresses.

I've probably mentioned this: Before my parents married in 1964, they each lived "at home" (meaning, with their parents and siblings) in Brooklyn. In the months before the wedding, my mom answered many apartment rental ads. When she gave her own "ethnic" surname to the person on the other end of the phone, the listing would practically evaporate; calling again and using my dad's family name led to showings. (A couple of weeks into the search, she just stuck with his name, and when they parted ways some twenty years later she kept that name.) My dad had to be on the contracts for the cars my mom bought, when the payments were deducted from her paycheck. He was required to be on the auto insurance policy as well, though the man didn't have a driver's license until the mid-70s. (The first car in their married life was a 1965 red Mustang convertible, and even that failed to galvanize him.)

My mom worked for Ma Bell before it splintered. More than one malcontent paid their phone bill by showing up at the office on Friday, 5 minutes before closing, shaking a coffee can of coins. (In the early days of my parents' courtship, an unusually obnoxious customer turned out to be one of my dad's many, many cousins. Tommy, who hadn't been introduced to his cousin's girlfriend yet, had yelled a lot at the phone company employees, first over the course of several calls and finally in-person at the office. Then he'd paid his bill in pennies. Then he'd demanded a recount. Dad recognized him from Mom's can-you-believe-this-schmuck work anecdote, and Tommy turned up the following week with apology flowers. Tommy's mother and her sisters had stood on his neck, plus something like a third of the 40-odd first cousins chimed in, too.) Anyway -- Mom the sci-fi nerd submitted a request to work at the Bell pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair. She had years of excellent performance reviews, seniority in her department, and lived and worked nearby. But her bosses straight-up told her they didn't want to waste the technology training on her, since she was just going to quit after she got married.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:54 PM on September 27 [9 favorites]


I feel like I watched my school’s video technology budget advance by year.

Always with the one-reel movies (the very premise of Ignoramia made me cry; it was about a whole kingdom of people who couldn’t read) and the beep-to-advance filmstrips, but then in third and fourth grade watching “Read All About It!” (or “Demonstrations In Physics” in middle school) on tv because they broadcast it on public television during school hours (I guess a lot of daytime public tv programming during the week was for educational use).

Then the VCR showed up, and we very occasionally got to see actual movies in school and not just weird educational ones. My fourth grade teacher showed us “The Last Unicorn” with a half-second of black tape recorded over each of the probably two swears in that movie. I had already watched it a bunch of times on The Movie Channel, but a chance to watch a movie I loved during school let me forget how awful my school was for an hour or so.

That same teacher actually taught me how to thread film into the projector. I kinda forgot about that until now.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 9:55 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


"Then the VCR showed up, and we very occasionally got to see actual movies in school and not just weird educational ones. "

In grade school in the early 80s, the Friday before winter break, the whole school would troop down to the auditorium to watch a Disney movie on the reel projector, because the teachers always rented (?) a Disney movie as their Christmas/Hannukah gift to the students. I don't really know how getting films worked when they were on reels, but they always got a Disney film and we all watched it on the projector in the auditorium, kindergarteners through 5th graders. Before VCRs and VHS tapes, that was where I saw most Disney movies! The one I remember most vividly was Sleeping Beauty (which was out of the vault at the time), but I know the holiday movie thing went on until at least the 90s (probably on projected VHS? Or maybe still reels? I don't know) because my youngest brother saw Lion King and was scarred for life.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:01 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Candy cigarettes, everyone smoking all the time, that’s pretty much my childhood. Probably the only reason I’ve never smoked was the poster hung up in schools, a closeup of a tongue sticking out of a mouth, covered in ash and cigarette butts, and the tag line, “Kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray.”

In the way that certain things hit you at just the right moment and stick with you forever, I have never seen an ashtray without thinking of that poster, and involuntarily imaging what it would be like to like it. I’ve worked hard to avoid looking at them because it still pops into my head, and I have a hard time imagining a more repulsive act.

I remember my friends and I essentially LARPing around the neighborhood and the woods in the area with “swords” we’d fashioned from saplings (unsupervised use of saws, and of course pocket knives to strip the bark, because bark was for the handle, the carved part was the sword). We were maybe 11, at the height of Mazes and Monsters hysteria, just wandering around, screaming about orcs, and hacking at each other with five foot long sticks. As long as we were home by the time streetlights came on, no worries.

And now I’ve been in Japan long enough to see change on a scale that boggles my students’ minds. Just in class today, I mentioned how there used to be smoking areas on train platforms at stations, and several students were stunned by that. I have memories of working at a school that had several courtyard areas, and teachers would just go into the courtyard to smoke, in full view of any student in the hallway. Going home one night (this is in 2002!) the junior high soccer coach had all the kids take a knee, and just before he was about to begin his talk, paused to light up, with all of his students literally looking up to him.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:03 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Eyebrows, getting everyone together to watch a projected movie in the cafeteria or gymnasium would have qualified as an “assembly,” but watching movies in the classrooms had a different vibe.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:11 PM on September 27


Has anyone mentioned the huge video disc movies that overlapped with reel projectors and film strips in the 80’s but seemed to disappear before vhs? They never worked right and they were just enormous compared to later dvds (which omg are kind of also obsolete I am realizing now). The teachers would like use their whole bodies to maneuver the huge disc cases into the players; the discs were never actually seen, just sucked directly from the case into the player somehow
posted by Tandem Affinity at 10:16 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Are you talking about these? I only just found out about them a few weeks ago. Never saw one in the wild.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:34 PM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows, the school I graduated from also did the movie assembly the day before Christmas break. We never got anything as fancy as a Disney movie, though! Disney movies and recent releases were out of our price range.

The one year I was on student Council we got to choose the feature film from a rental catalog (the rest of the day would be filled up with shorts from the school’s film library). We had to submit a list of choices that would be filled according to availability, and in the end none of our picks were available and they sent us some Jerry Lewis comedy. The auditorium was just big enough to hold the entire K-12 student body.

It was skirts-only for girls at my primary school, but since it was a Baptist parochial school it wasn’t really a sign-of-the-times thing. In winter we wore pants under our skirts on the way to school and took them off in the cloakroom. My mother’s public school was no trousers for girls and no jeans for boys - her brothers were sent home once because they had outgrown their dress pants over the summer and there wasn’t money for new ones yet. My grandparents had to get a charge account at JC Penney so they could go back to school.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:02 PM on September 27


My mom would choose winter coats or clothes for us (if we needed them - as mentioned upthread, kids had fewer pieces of clothing), and put them on layaway. The department store (Sears or JC Penney) required a down payment and some percentage payment each month. You needed to be able to pay for the clothes in full before you could take them home.

With fast fashion being what it is today, I have the idea that clothing is a much smaller proportion of a US family’s budget than it used to be.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:17 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]


This is in 2000, but making sure I got in the smoking carriage of the train to college, versus today, 17 days since quitting!
posted by ellieBOA at 11:42 PM on September 27 [9 favorites]


cheapskatebay, funny you should mention avocados. There's a book called The Land Before Avocado: Journeys In A Lost Australia, on this very topic.
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 12:15 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Congrats, ellieBOA!

We had a set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias which probably went out of date before the installment plan finished. You could dial the reference desk at the "big library" with your burning question, but really, who were you to do that?
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:19 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


Late 70s in Western Mass and Upstate New York. It was fine to just sit in the back of a pick up truck going down Route 7 or whatever. Was in Boy Scouts and we would do these paper drives to collect recyclable paper and sell it off for something like 14$ a ton (who knows) but would often wind up with a bunch of us kids sitting on mounds of newspaper with the wind in our hair.

Knives. We all had a ton of knives. Later I wound up running an archery range by myself when I was about 14 at camp. Nobody lost an eye.

if you're an American, was there still a senior smoking lounge when you were in high school?

Early 80s Connecticut--it was a painted off area between the cafeteria and the parking lot called The Butt Porch.
posted by Gotanda at 3:43 AM on September 28


I don’t think I know anybody younger than my parents who still has a landline for anything other than the internet or the cable box.

We didn't have a phone connected to the landline for a long time until it occurred to me there's no point teaching the kids how to call an ambulance in an emergency if they're not going to be able to find someone's mobile phone, or they might not know how to unlock it, or there might not be signal, or it might not be charged... so I got one literally just for emergencies.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:02 AM on September 28


Growing up, our phone had a 911 sticker on it that was clearly some sort of reminder promotion thing from when 911 was rolled out. I'm not quite old enough to have been taught something other than 911 though.
posted by hoyland at 5:18 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]


We didn't even have 911 growing up; there was just a normal phone number for the police and a different one for fire.
posted by octothorpe at 5:27 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


Has anyone mentioned the huge video disc movies that overlapped with reel projectors and film strips in the 80’s but seemed to disappear before vhs?

VLP (Video Long Play). They were somewhat popular for self-paced computer-based training as they could easily skip back and forth nearly instantly, and pause showing one frame without the damage a tape would suffer.

I had to endure quite a few when I worked for DEC; it showed the work environment being rather different in the US, less autonomous, even though the Field Service motto was "Do the right thing", i.e.fix the customer's problem even if you had to go outside the appropriate channels.

And about work and dress codes: when I started in 1985 every FS engineer would be expected to wear a shirt and tie. I didn't; in my life I've actually ever worn a tie only twice. My manager repeatedly disapproved of this, and in one performance review posed the question whether a customer would prefer to see a FS engineer with or without a tie. My rather pointed reply was that he'd prefer one who fixed their problems, which I was undeniably quite good at, and that was the last time it was ever mentioned. After that a few colleagues started ditching their ties as well.
posted by Stoneshop at 5:33 AM on September 28


Here's my contribution to the 1970s cigarette canon.

As a kid I used to love the Johnson & Smith joke catalog and would pour over it with a fine tooth and comb looking for awesome pranks. As a side note, that catalog probably qualifies as something that would be pretty bizarre these days, ordering cherry smoke bombs and grenades through the mail, for example. In fact, it seemed like half the catalog was filled with exploding things: fountain pens, gift boxes, etc.

Anyway, I saved up my allowance and bought the exploding cigarette loads (which I'm amazed are still a thing you can get). Both my parents smoked and one Sunday morning around the age of 6, I got up early and meticulously added the cigarette loads to whatever was left in the pack and went and watched Davey and Goliath or whatever until my parents woke up and had their traditional coffee and cigarette "breakfast".

Not sure what I was expecting exactly when their cigarettes started exploding, but it was not laughter. Although I think they were mainly pissed because they had to dig all the remaining loads out, effectively ruining their cigs.
posted by jeremias at 5:33 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


In grade school in the early 80s, the Friday before winter break, the whole school would troop down to the auditorium to watch a Disney movie on the reel projector

And thus, I have seen Old Yeller 4 or 5 times. (Talk about being scarred for life . . . )
posted by soundguy99 at 6:42 AM on September 28


there would be cigarette vending machines out on the street.

There was a cigarette vending machine on my hall freshman year of college (Women's College in Virginia) in the early/mid 90s, but they stopped refilling shortly after I arrived. My freshman hall was a smoking hall and we all smoked a lot in our dorm rooms, usually sitting on the beds in our dorm rooms. We operated in clouds of smoke all the time. We were perennially pissed that the campus snack bar didn't carry cigarettes so we could not bill them home.

As a kid, Mom sent me into the 7-11 /Fast Fare down the hill to pick up cartons of Virginia Slim Ultra Lights for her. She would wave from the driver's side and I (8, 9 years old) would fill out the check that she'd signed with the total. Basically adults smoked. I really cannot stress this enough. It felt universal until sometime around the early 90s. My dad quit when he was 45, in what felt like a cascade of sudden non-smokers. And by the time I got to high school, I literally didn't know any teenagers that didn't smoke by the time we graduated.

I smoked inside at my desk from Freshman year of college until the mid 2000s with roommates that also smoked inside at their desks at home. The worst was regularly having to replace your nicotine-yellowed computer keyboard because of all the ash and tar that got lodged under the keys. I remember, when I finally quit smoking inside (five or so years before I actually quit smoking), wondering if I'd ever be able to write without a cigarette in hand.

So much food that now feels obvious and non-exotic was sort of unavailable (I had my first sushi when I was sixteen and it was A BIG DEAL), and I grew up in Asheville, a reasonably affluent resort town full of New Yorkers and hippies (albeit a reasonably afffluent resort town full of New Yorkers and hippies in Appalachia).

Oh and I've mentioned this before, but kids of the post Napster/ streaming/ internet age: You have no idea how hard it used to be to not even acquire but to simply hear music. It took me years to track down a Big Star record, for example. And I remember what a big fucking deal it was when I finally got my hands on "Daddy's Highway" from The Bats, which I'd been reading about for years and COULD NOT FIND ANYWHERE. I finally found used copy of an import disk at a record store in Charleston, SC of all places (while borrowing my mother's car on family beach trip). I want to tell you, after all the build-up, that it disappointed. Reader: it did not
posted by thivaia at 7:33 AM on September 28 [6 favorites]


Pong. The first video game I can recall. It was on the tv somehow. Hours spent hitting that ball back and forth.

Battle of the Network Stars. It was past the golden age of film with the stars under contract and all sorts of publicity, but TV was reaching more and more homes and they needed a vehicle to promote stars, shows and to show the hunks and the jiggle. The Brady Bunch and Partricge Family lineup with Love Boat thrown in too. Heck, I remember Captain Kangeroo and Mr. Green Jeans.

My HS had a smoking lounge. Had to be 18 to go in. Never once saw that enforced. What it really did was take the smoking out of the bathrooms. Sort of a plus. We also had no substitute teachers. If a teacher was absent in HS, you got a free period.

In HS, I played sports or was in a few clubs. My mother (or father) did not pick me up. I usually missed the late bus so I had to either walk the 3 miles or ask a senior to give me a ride. That was a thing. It was sort of an obligation to the seniors to give rides to their brothers and sisters and their friends since someone had done it for them when they were little.

In Junior high school (now they call it middle school) I was a "walker" because I lived just under the mileage limit. My bf and neighbor and I would walk by cutting through back yards. It was the direct route. We learned which houses were ok with that and which houses we had to run through.

My gym teacher was a WW II vet and a tough guy on the outside but a softie on the inside. We would have gym with the boys. Girls had gym at the same time, but they did it separately. My gym teacher would lovingly, call us all "sissies" and "creampuffs". He liked me because I was a youth hockey player and he loved the Boston Bruins. The big thing all year was for us kids to beg him to take out his teeth. He would laugh, but once, near the end of the year, he would oblige.

Drinking age was 18. In NY, where I grew up, that translated into, "If you can walk up to the bar and order it, they would serve you". After my final HS basketball game, on the bus ride back to our school, the coach took out a $20 (worth a lot more back then) and gave it to the Captain (me!) and said, "West, here's $20. Buy the team a beer." Since pitchers were like $3 at the old man bar, we had a good time. What I appreciate nowadays is that the kids rarely drink and drive. Back then, we would all pile into a few cars driven by drunk friends and go home. Not good.

The weed sucked back then. I mean we loved to get high, but compared to the weed now, it was dirt weed often with what we called sticks and stones, twigs and seeds. Also, paraquat weed.

We also hitch hiked. In college, circa 1980, I went to a pair of Grateful Dead concerts halfway across the country by hitching.

Obviously no cell phones. We all had family landlines. What I remember was that rather than call each other to arrange the evening, in HS we just had the prearranged meet at either the local burger joint or the local bar. You would head over there around 7:00 or 7:30 and see who was up for doing something.

The meals were different too. A lot of what I guess is called traditional meals, like meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and some can of vegetables. We would also have snacks after school that were pure sugar and pure glory. The Hostess Twinkie or the Enterman's cupcakes. Come home from school, eat Twinkie and watch the 4:30 movie on ABC7.

I was at the age when AM radio was dying for FM. Listening to the radio. Cousin Brucie. DJs had personality. Then as I was in college came MTV. Video DJs. Martha Quin.

I also remember going to the arcade to play Skee Ball and pinball and other pre video game arcade games. When Space Invaders hit, it was mind boggling.
posted by AugustWest at 7:47 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


To add on to what you're talking about thivaia, what I think of as the summer of Napster (1996) is one of the peak aesthetic experiences of my life, and can never be repeated. Napster was big enough at that point where it had all the popular music ever recorded, and lots of bootleg stuff. Which meant that I was able to type in the name of a song I remembered from my childhood and listen to it for the first time in a decade--and I got to do this like 300 times over the course of the summer. Many of these songs were mainstream stuff that had just gone out of style, and even if I wanted to buy it, I wouldn't know where to find the album, so it was effectively impossible to hear. Most of them weren't even great songs, but it was just so awesome to be able to scratch a musical itch that had been dormant for a decade or more. Really fantastic. Now I can basically always listen to any song ever recorded, and that is also great, but different.
posted by skewed at 7:53 AM on September 28 [10 favorites]


You have no idea how hard it used to be to not even acquire but to simply hear music.

Yes. From reading books and magazines, I used to know about music long before (if ever) I had a chance to hear it.

And films? There was no video rental place. No home videocassette player. No cable. No fancy cinema that specialized in classic movies. If I couldn't catch it on some fuzzy broadcast channel at 2:00 AM or get lucky and find out Elwy Yost was running it, I couldn't see it. Ever.
posted by pracowity at 7:59 AM on September 28 [10 favorites]


this is proving a fascinating thread for me. Thank you, Eyebrows McGee, for posting. And speaking of McDonalds, I remember a time that it didn't exist -- not in my vicinity anyway. And then (a primary school age kid living in suburban Toronto at the time) we started to see ads on the one American TV channel we got -- out of Buffalo.

A restaurant that had its own clown -- how cool was that?

But the family moved west to Vancouver before I ever actually saw any golden arches. That changed the day we drove into Vancouver working the main freeway through the suburb known as Burnaby and there they were, seen in the distance way off to the right rising out of the sprawl like the beacons they were. We kids instantly wanted to go investigate. But my parents being my parents -- it would be at least another six or eight months before I had my first taste of what was immediately a very disappointing hamburger.
posted by philip-random at 8:05 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]


And films? There was no video rental place. No home videocassette player. No cable. No fancy cinema that specialized in classic movies. If I couldn't catch it on some fuzzy broadcast channel at 2:00 AM or get lucky and find out Elwy Yost was running it, I couldn't see it. Ever.

Hilariously, in 1981 I wrote a paper for my high school drama class on the films of Ingmar Bergman without ever having seen one.
posted by JanetLand at 8:31 AM on September 28 [12 favorites]


Normal in my house, at least, was renewing library books by phone. I had my card number memorized and the automated system would read each book title out loud to me and ask if I wanted to renew it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:39 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


I have two young children (5 and 2) and just yesterday the 5yo wanted to watch a specific movie that was no longer on Netflix, but! it was available for free on Amazon Prime "with limited commercials." Great!

Except we soon realized our precious angels have barely seen a commercial aside from the occasional YouTube ad, because we only ever use streaming. The kids were infuriated every time a commercial break came on and my son kept wailing "oh noooo!!! where is the MOVIE??!" and we kept having to explain to him, it's a commercial, this is so we don't have to pay money. Then a food commercial came on and he shouted "that looks DELICIOUS!" so it was a crash course in advertising. Huge change from when I was a kid and had a steady diet of commercials for everything from toys to breakfast cereal to movies to coffee to carpet stores and you knew all the jingles.

As far as my own childhood, I got an AOL email address age seven in 1992 and just wandered into "Kids Zone!" AOL chat rooms to chat with other kids (or so they claimed they were kids) and my parents did not assume it was risky in any way. I don't remember much of it aside from a lot of "a/s/l?" and everyone practicing emoticons. :-) :-P 8-D

Also I did the usual school fundraiser sales stuff so I'd put on my coat and determinedly hoof it up and down the neighborhood, knocking on doors and asking people if they wanted to buy wrapping paper or candy bars or whatever. Just an eight year old kid on her own. They were all neighbors but if they didn't have kids I knew, they were nearly strangers to me. Sometimes they'd invite me inside so I wouldn't freeze while they wrote a check and so I'd awkwardly stand in their entryway and try not to get knocked over by their dog. Eventually my parents must have watched one too many episodes of America's Most Wanted because at some point my dad started driving me from house to house.
posted by castlebravo at 9:24 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


I was at the age when AM radio was dying for FM.

We had an AM-only car radio, which meant that in Arnhem, when we were visiting my grandparents and several other family members living there, reception went totally to pot because of the overhead trolleybus power lines.

Listening to the radio.

John Peel on Radio Luxemburg.
posted by Stoneshop at 9:28 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


multi-packs of plastic 35mm film canisters

Just a side note, these are still actually pretty collectible with a very specific audience. I still shoot film (I process colour and B&W myself at home) and I regularly save the canisters and sell them in bulk on ebay. Of the people who buy them from me there's a small portion of people who like me spool their own film cartridges who use them but the vast majority go to geocachers who use them for their activities.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:33 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


My mother would drop me off at the beauty shop and I’d have to call her from the shop’s pay phone to pick me up. I’d call collect when I forgot to bring along a quarter. It cost over a dollar on the next month’s phone bill so I only did it a few times before my dad gave me a talking to.

You needed to figure out how to scam the phone company! My mom was a phone operator in Ann Arbor, a college town, from about 1952-1961. College students would place collect calls home from, say, "Miss Blue Shoes," and the parent would refuse the call but know to put the shoes in the mail. That was it was free.
posted by Orlop at 9:40 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


Hilariously, in 1981 I wrote a paper for my high school drama class on the films of Ingmar Bergman without ever having seen one.

Hah, yes. I wrote a term paper on the history of science fiction movies in 1980 without having any way to see 90% of them. I can't imagine what my 15 year old self would think if you told him that you could just watch (almost) anything you wanted whenever you wanted.
posted by octothorpe at 9:49 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]


A 1985 article Education Week article about student school bus drivers. Wild stuff:
At one time, more than 20 states allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to drive school buses, and Wyoming even hired 15-year-olds for a while
(emphasis added)
posted by jedicus at 9:52 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Yeah, all the smoking all the time. Kids These Days will never have experiences like being given money by adults in restaurants to go get them a pack of smokes from the vending machine and being told they could keep the change, which was then immediately spent on coin-operated arcade games.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:54 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


plastic 35mm film canisters

I still use them for two things:

a. loose change (I'm Canadian which means lots of one and two dollar pieces to keep track of)
b. small amounts of marijuana etc (they do a great job of sealing in the smell)
posted by philip-random at 9:55 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]


When I was little, in Illinois, there were no stores open on Sunday except the White Hen

While in university I was living in a town on the German border, and on Saturdays it was invaded by swamped with Germans shopping at the open-air market. In Germany shops closed at noon on Saturday except for once a month, langer Samstag, when they'd close at 4PM. That was the day I'd bike over to shop for photography stuff as that was markedly cheaper even with just three small non-chain shops.
posted by Stoneshop at 10:37 AM on September 28


In the 70s my family was part of a neighborhood babysitting co-op with about 30-40 other families. Everyone was expected to provide a certain number of hours of childcare per month and in exchange got an equal number of hours from other members. What that meant was that kids you might or might not know well got dropped off to play with you and your siblings, and vice versa. You could end up at someone’s house in the presence of any number of things that parents today would (wisely) not allow their children around: smoking adults, unsecured pools, cleaning products stored in easy-to-reach places, uncles in the garage working with soldering irons or chemicals, large ill-behaved dogs, etc. You might hang out and play with other kids or, if the mom—and it was always the moms watching us, never the dads—had to do errands, you might all get piled into the car (possibly without seatbelts, definitely without booster seats) to go to the post office or the bank or something.

Nobody was attempting to enrich or better us beyond basic instructions to share and not hit. Kids had their world that intersected with the adult world but the adults were very much not involved in our games or concerned that we develop a stronger theory of mind through dramatic play. They had their own lives and did not apologize for that.
posted by corey flood at 10:57 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


the teachers always rented (?) a Disney movie

Yah, schools can get discounts on film rentals. (I think there's one or two companies that handle this as brokers, but they may also be able to deal direct with the studios.)

The relevance to this thread being that they can also often get access to films before their official home viewing/streaming/purchase date. One of our common gigs is running "movie nights" for local colleges, with a big 10 foot screen and a projector and whatever.

So for a brief period in the early '00s, as DVD started to take over the home video market, we actually had to keep a functioning VCR in our inventory, because that was the format of these "special release" movies sent to the schools. (One assumes to discourage high-quality piracy.)
posted by soundguy99 at 11:03 AM on September 28


My father worked in research, so we got computer stuff reasonably early (my first computer "game" was trying to draw pictures using ASCII on a VT101 that had been disconnected from the mainframe), and I distinctly recall the changeover from using an acoustic coupler to a 1200bps Hayes -- at 300bps I could read faster than the computer could display text, so I could just PgDn forever. At 1200 I couldn't keep up.

It was oddly jarring.

Also, dialing random BBS'es you found listed in the index of other BBS'es, many of which kept strange hours (like, only online after 8pm on weekdays) and the creepy weird sort of feeling when you encountered one that had multiple lines and thus could have more than one person signed on at a time.
posted by aramaic at 11:03 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


(Oh, and holy shit, discovering ASCII porn on the University Amdahl. Like "am I gonna get arrested now?")
posted by aramaic at 11:06 AM on September 28 [3 favorites]


Back in the early/mid 80s when my brother and I were... both under 10, perhaps as young as 5, my mom had League Night at the bowling alley once a week. We were too young to leave at home alone and could my dad be bothered to come home from work 2 hours early once a week? HAHAHAHAHA no he could NOT. So my mom took us with her to the bowling alley, where she had us go sit in the bowling alley bar, unsupervised, to get us out of her hair for 90 minutes.

We were pleased as punch because they had a huge TV in there (one of the old front-projection ones, does anybody remember those? It must have cost like $3 grand in 80s money given what nice projectors still cost now), but (1) it was a bar, (2) we were under 10 years old and unsupervised, and (3) it was incredibly smoky. Like if I ever get lung cancer, it's from those 2 hours a week in the smoky-ass bowling ally during my childhood. Yeesh.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:06 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


My parents divorced when I was two and starting at age four, several times a year, I was put on a plane BY MYSELF to go visit my dad. The stewardess would just keep an eye on me and if it was Eastern Airlines (which it usually was) they would give me a "set of wings" which was a pin with the winged airline logo. I was never the least bit concerned and apparently neither was anyone else.

My contribution to the smoking archive: I and all my other cigarette-smoking teenage friends would give each other cartons of cigarettes for birthdays and Christmas; we did indeed have a senior smoking area in our high school; the parental solution to finding out I was smoking was to let me smoke at home; the liner of my dad's Mercedes was absolutely brown with cigarette tar; and airplanes--airplanes!!--had "smoking sections," as if by some magic the smoke would stay back there. Once I became a teenager and was still being sent on the above-referenced visitation trips, I asked for seating in the smoking section because I felt like the people there were more fun to talk to.
posted by HotToddy at 11:07 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


and do you know who was in the White Hen buying Diet Coke and potato chips? MICHAEL FUCKING JORDAN. I think it was his second or third year on the Bulls.

My mother ran into Walter Payton at her hair salon and has never recovered from the embarrassment of meeting the Most Famous Bear Ever while she had bleaching foils in her hair.

Also I really miss White Hen.

Spending hours in the video rental store finding something to watch as a part of a sleep over.

The chief content of our weekends with our father, post-divorce, was wandering around the video store (at first a little indie place, later a Blockbuster because the indie place was run by film snobs who went all-DVD like, a solid 5 years before anyone had a DVD player, lol). Everyone got to pick one thing, and dad had veto power but he seldom used it.

As I struggle continually to find anything to do with myself in this stupid pandemic, this is the memory I come back to most often, for reasons I do not fully understand. Somehow my brain thinks that if only there were still Blockbusters about I could absolutely fill my empty evenings that way.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:09 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


As I struggle continually to find anything to do with myself in this stupid pandemic, this is the memory I come back to most often, for reasons I do not fully understand.

Oddly, I've been thinking about this too. I was well into adulthood before video stores became a thing. There was one video store in town, a private store, not a chain. Customer accounts were sequentially numbered and ours was 57. This became kind of a point of pride over the years as the population grew. You'd be in line behind some Johnny-come-lately who would announce their number as 495, then you'd step up and say "Fifty-seven" all old skool. You'd see so many people you knew at the video store on Friday evenings after work. So many little points of social interaction that are gone now. Actually there were a lot of people that I tried to pretend I didn't see, so I'm not sure how much I miss it. But it's different, for sure.
posted by HotToddy at 11:22 AM on September 28 [4 favorites]


I had multiple phone numbers committed to memory. Not bizarre exactly, but completely unnecessary now. I know my phone number, and I know my parents' land-line which I memorized in kindergarten. And I do remember one neighbor's phone number because it includes a nice repeating pattern.

Oh yeah - Just showing up at someone's house because you happened to be in the area. Not calling or texting first.

Previously on the green.
posted by bunderful at 11:44 AM on September 28


starting at age four, several times a year, I was put on a plane BY MYSELF to go visit my dad. The stewardess would just keep an eye on me and if it was Eastern Airlines (which it usually was) they would give me a "set of wings" which was a pin with the winged airline logo. I was never the least bit concerned and apparently neither was anyone else.

Most airlines still have a Unaccompanied Minor service, although it now typically starts at 5 years.
posted by zamboni at 11:55 AM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Speaking of McDonalds and smoking, my better half showed me a picture of one of their ashtrays last weekend, bringing me back to the 80s and early 90s, when people still smoked cigarettes inside restaurants and other places of business. Airplanes, even — which would be unthinkable, now. The smell is awful, but it must have been something a lot of us simply adjusted to and tuned out as kids.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 12:08 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


So much seems bizarre or odd now:
- smoking everywhere, including the Drs office. Our Dr was a smoker, and would smoke in the exam room. When I started smoking, cigarettes were $.25 a pack - same as a gallon oof gasoline
- in 3rd grade our English/ Spanish Teacher turned on the tv (we had one in the room because Spanish had a supplementary program on PBS) and we watched a few innings of the World Series (her nephew was pitching!
- the first music we had at home (other than radio) was a 78 RPM record player that my mother got at a second-hand store. A Beethoven symphony was on 4 records, both sides, so lots of stops/starts
- most of the roadside litter was cans and broken bottles
- The oil embargo of the 70’s, depending on your license plate you could get gas only on certain days. Lines at gas stations could stretch for blocks if someone lowered the price (as a way to get business, or hurt the guy across the street). Gas went to over $1.00/gallon.
- girls couldn’t wear pants to school until I was 17, and then they had to be “pantsuits”. The next year we could wear jeans
- I hitchhiked around town for all of my teen years - but only on one-way streets, so I could walk away from anyone skeevy
- until I was in 3rd grade, I could only check out 3 books at a time from the public library, so I was there at least two times a week.
posted by dbmcd at 12:12 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


My parents would ask if we wanted to come inside a store or stay in the car, whenever we were out with them to run an errand. I imagine that the windows wouldn't last long on any car with an unsupervised kid in it these days.

Smoking smoking smoking.

Milk carton kids.

Flimstrip projectors, and especially being asked by the teacher to run the filmstrip projector for the class.

Mimeographed classwork, tests, etc. Photocopiers weren't yet a thing, or weren't affordable, so any handouts to the class were purple.
posted by emelenjr at 12:32 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


Video stores! Why in the world did we pay $25 to be a member? Did you even get anything, like x number of rentals for no additional fee? I think in the early days you just had to be a member.

As recently as '13 or '14 I frequented a local vid store that became a Dollar General a couple of years ago. (Someday the entire country is going to be nothing but dollar stores.)
posted by NorthernLite at 12:35 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


You needed to figure out how to scam the phone company! Broderick in War Games, outside a phone booth, scanning the ground for a soda can pull tab.

And the post office -- if your friend lived in the same ZIP, you'd address the envelope to yourself, put their info as the return address, and save a stamp.

Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara just named their newborn son after Phoenix's late brother, River [August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993].

(I saw some of the miserable media coverage of River Phoenix's death, which Joaquin witnessed, on a communal TV in the dorm lounge, and came away with a stupidly persistent protective streak where his brother is concerned. If you've followed the younger Phoenix's career, you might understand how that's been inconvenient at times. Still, whenever the word's been out Joaquin's screwing up, I knee-jerk, And just who the fuck are you, to report on that guy's doings?)
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:42 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


Speaking of McDonalds and smoking, my better half showed me a picture of one of their ashtrays last weekend, bringing me back to the 80s and early 90s, when people still smoked cigarettes inside restaurants and other places of business.

I was talking to someone recently about making ashtrays in art class. What do kids taking pottery classes make these days? Trivets? Small bowls?
posted by zamboni at 12:49 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Pinch pots, as of a few years ago at least.
posted by box at 1:05 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


so any handouts to the class were purple

To be clear, it's the ink that's purple in a mimeograph (sample from the Museum of Printing).


How about hitch-hiking? An aspect of how free-range my youth was. By age seven (this was the early 1960s) I was allowed to walk to the library by myself. Of course, that's where I said I was going - more commonly my destination was the new, unenclosed shopping mall. (Once, a busy-body neighbor caught me there, and said she was going to tell my parents, but I don't think she followed through.) By middle school, the distances were too great (and by then, riding my bicycle would've been uncool) so I started hitch-hiking, and riding the bus. By high school, I was taking multi-day journeys this way -- for example, to visit my older brother at his Uni two states away. And into my college, days where even my girlfriend hitched to get around -- I tell you, the early 1970s was a different country. This bubble burst around 1975, when the hippies were fading away and people in the US just stopped picking anybody up -- so in my case, back to the bicycle, and by then riding a ten-speed had become acceptable, even cool.
posted by Rash at 1:22 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


To add on to what you're talking about thivaia, what I think of as the summer of Napster (1996) is one of the peak aesthetic experiences of my life, and can never be repeated.

I'm pretty sure the summer of Napster was later, like 1999, because in 1996 I was sending out bootleg cassette tapes of Tigermilk and later added the EPs to them.

That's something I haven't done since the 20th century, mail a cassette tape to a stranger.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:31 PM on September 28 [8 favorites]


Things I am just about old enough to remember: my mother painting Mercurochrome on my scrapes and cuts; also mercury thermometers (both long gone since people realised that oh hey, mercury is bad for you!); typing school papers on an actual typewriter (in my case an old manual Remington office model that weighed about 50 pounds and had a two-tone ribbon for typing in red or black ink); rotary-dial telephones (my grandparents had a Western Electric model 500 in beige that predated modular jacks, it was hardwired into the wall); analogue cable boxes with a slider for changing channels; leaded gasoline still being a thing (I remember stickers on gas pumps c. 1983-85 or so that said "for use as a motor fuel only: contains lead"); using physical maps (in the form of a spiral-bound Rand McNally road atlas) on road trips; people smoking on planes (I flew unaccompanied from San Francisco to Atlanta when I was 6 or 7 to visit my grandparents during the summer one year).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 1:42 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


I have a small stack of decks of cards from various airplane flights. I loved getting "free" (included) playing cards.

Twirling the phone cord, sitting on the floor in the basement, talking to the boy I liked junior year of high school will never be replicated. For many reasons, not the least of which is that middle aged single men in Toronto do not talk on the phone, in my experience.
posted by wellred at 1:57 PM on September 28 [10 favorites]


Serial killers ruined hitchiking by the mid-70s, and soon we were all Breaking Away.
(Status: currently trying to kid myself that the compression sleeves on my aching calves look like tube socks.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:05 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


My freshman year in high school was the last year they had a senior smoking lounge.

I was in the very last Typing class, the next year was Word Processing (on cutesy old computers). We learned on manual typewriters; we were told that if we learned on manual ones, then typing on an electric one would be a cinch (like driving a stick shift).

Until 1980 obv., homelessness was such an unknown thing that when a man was sitting on the curb in a [now very well-known congregating spot], my mother leaned out the window of our car and asked him if he was ok; we were genuinely shocked that he just snapped back "I'm fine, leave me alone."

My neighborhood growing up was very mixed, on one side was the working class Catholic kids and the other side was the slightly better-off professional class kids. Those EXACT same houses, same sizes, same lawns, down to the same color, are now worth millions of dollars and occupied by rich people. No kids around at all.

I was required once to take a bubble test, I think it was about logic or something, that said copyright 1965, and this was in the mid 80s. We stressed over it, were told that it was important to pass it, worried about it for days. The next year, they had scrapped it completely in favor of something completely unrelated.

Sometimes I get the feeling that we generation Xers are being used as guinea pigs for so, so many things.
posted by Melismata at 2:26 PM on September 28 [6 favorites]


A Weekly Reader with an article about some weird new car safety feature called “airbags.”

Playground equipment that could crack a skull or sever a finger.

Gymnasts vaulting over a “horse” instead of a custom-designed table.

Floppy disk computer games. Everyone else in computer lab class liked Oregon Trail, so I could usually get my preferred Odell Lake.

OF COURSE: Friends’ parents breathing secondhand smoke down your lungs at every sleepover, and it would be rude to say anything about it, because your friend was already making them feel so guilty with her asthma/chronic bronchitis.

Staring at The Weather Channel for at least ten minutes just to see what the weather was in a select list of cities nationwide. (There is an entire YouTube channel devoted to classic, late-20th-Century Local Forecasts. You’re welcome.)

Taping songs off the radio and getting miffed when the (local! live!) DJ babbled over the last few notes. Or, for the unique thrill of delayed gratification, mailing in Pop-Tarts proof-of-purchase plus a $3 cheque for shipping and handling (thanks, Dad) for cassette singles.

Businesses accepting payment by cheque, generally.

Paying for gas after you finished pumping it.

Kissing people goodbye at the airline gate.
posted by armeowda at 3:38 PM on September 28 [7 favorites]


American Bandstand. ...doin' the Stroooll...[How come all those guys wore suits?]
posted by mule98J at 3:52 PM on September 28


Businesses accepting payment by cheque, generally.

YES! I remember my mother writing a check at the grocery store and thinking it was a very official and intimidating process indeed, and also vaguely scandalous as we were definitely never sure to be able to clear it.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:02 PM on September 28


-The "Fairness Doctrine" in broadcasting where TV stations had to give equal time to both ends of the political spectrum or be slapped down hard by the FCC.

-Spurning the "fancy" early Macs at the college computing lab in favor of my personal Timex Sinclair 2068 [N.B. Europeans: this was the American version of the 48K ZX Spectrum] which used a cassette recorder to store programs and documents. (This was an eccentric retro-curmudgeon choice, even at time time.) I had the fancy Aerco interface to allow the use of a parallel printer port, which was connected to an Epson dot-matrix printer. Which brings me to the next thing which would be baffling to the kids- tractor feed printer paper!

-The starting procedure for a carbureted car. Why are you pressing the gas pedal down two times before turning the key?

-The introduction of "Tipper Stickers" (explicit content warning for parents) on records and CDs.

-dial up BBSes.

-A DJ on a rock radio station commenting on how disgusting it was that when Elton John "wrote the words to all those songs, he was thinking about men and just changed the names to women's names later." (Homophobia aside, I guess this guy didn't know that Elton wasn't the one writing the lyrics anyway.)
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:30 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


Typing footnotes on a typewriter - you have to estimate (or type out) how many lines they’ll take, and know how far down the page you are, and woe is you if you hit the marker for a 4 line footnote if there are 3 lines left on the page.

I have watched Microsoft Word jittering back and forth between two failures to fit in a footnote and avoid widows-and-orphans and felt comradely.
posted by clew at 4:33 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


I still very occasionally see people writing checks at the grocery store checkout, which I haven't done myself in...years? decades? Right now, literally the only reason I have a checkbook is because my current landlord doesn't do online payments so I have to write and mail a check every month like a luddite. My last 3 rentals were through management companies that had websites where I could make online payments. And for a few years now I've got direct bill-pay set up through my bank's website for all of my monthly utilities. I hardly ever use cash anymore except for my apartment complex's coin-operated washer and dryer. That wasn't even conceived of when I was a kid/young adult - "debit cards" didn't exist, and credit cards were only ever used for "emergencies" due to the high APR rates (and often, additional fees charged by businesses for the "privilege" of paying for stuff with one).

Oh - and "Saturday morning cartoons" was the ONLY way to see kid's cartoons new and old. That was before cable TV and dedicated kid's channels with cartoons being shown all the time all week. Also, this thread has reminded me of being a young parent in the late 80's and early 90's, trying to slowly build a collection of classic Disney animated movies on VHS for the kids - as with the limited-run movies, the company only made them available very occasionally and for very short times. If you didn't buy one when it was available, you didn't have another chance for months and months.


Why are you pressing the gas pedal down two times before turning the key?

To this day I have to fight the urge to do that. Every damn time.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:38 PM on September 28 [6 favorites]


I still have a hard time holding down the brake pedal during a panic stop rather than pumping it. I know that anti-lock brakes have been around for generations but I can't retrain my foot.
posted by octothorpe at 4:41 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Serial killers ruined hitchiking by the mid-70s

I was hitching into the mid 90s but that's in Canada. I see no one hitching in Southern Ontario these days but I've heard people still do it in other parts of Canada in rural areas.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:22 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


The weird ubiquity of Chris Makepeace, Littlest Hobo, and the Beachcombers.

80% of broadcast TV covered, right there. 90%+ once you add The Price is Right re-broadcast from the US.

No cable, obviously, you think we're made of money?
posted by aramaic at 5:38 PM on September 28 [5 favorites]


I remember before control+shift+T. I remember before tabs!
posted by aniola at 5:53 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


35mm film canisters

For anyone who needs/wants these, diabetes test strips come in pretty much identical plastic canisters, except the interiors are white (not black) and the pop-off lid is usually attached with a teeny bit of a plastic hinge. They're suitable for all of the off-brand uses of film canisters, like gathering coins. ;-)

I still see people writing checks at the grocery store every time I go. (I try to stay out of those lines.)

My high school (early 80s) called the small concrete slab (about 5-feet-square) adjacent to the cafeteria's emergency exit "the smoking lounge." The kids we'd see out there seemed to come from another planet -- we never knew who any of them were and none of them were ever in any of our classes. By my junior year, it went unused.

Some of these things are making me laugh because my life has been at odds with this. I was born in the 60s, and even before we got cable (in 1971), we had 8 or 9 TV stations (five in Buffalo plus a handful from the Canadian side). There were four of us in the house, though my sister went off to college when I was 7, and we always had at least three and usually four TVs in the house, and 7 or 8 telephones (though only one landline). My mom and I watched TV together, but except for one Sabres Stanley Cup playoff, I don't think my family ever watched anything as a group!

When my grandparents flew home after a trip, they always called person-to-person, asking for themselves (or funnily-named people my grandfather would make up) as "code" to let us know they'd arrived home without having to pay long-distance charges. I remember calling the operator (to place a complicated call, or to check if a line was knocked off the hook or actually engaged), and calling to get the exact time and temperature.

I was at college when we bought my mom her first VCR, but I remember being very annoyed that there was no equivalent for recording radio. (Instead, I had to stay up until 2 a.m. on Sunday nights to push the button on my boom box to record Dr. Demento!)

Does anyone remember catalog stores? In Buffalo, we had Brand Names, though I'm sure there were others. You'd get a big catalog for the year, and when you wanted to buy something, you'd go into this store and up to the front desk, fill out a form with the product name, serial number, page number, etc., and they'd send someone to the back to buy it. The storefront itself had a smattering of things on display, but those weren't for purchase. (This place also had the equivalent of green stamps.) It was very boring to wander around, waiting for your item to be ready. My big purchases? A calculator and a tape recorder, the kinds of things you'd just get from Amazon or Target now.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 6:06 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the summer of Napster was later, like 1999, because in 1996 I was sending out bootleg cassette tapes of Tigermilk and later added the EPs to them.

Yeah, it appears you are right. But even in 1999 I still wasn't cool enough to have discovered Tigermilk (that took another five years or so, unfortunately).
posted by skewed at 6:15 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Turning on the radio on a snowy morning and hearing the DJ listing snow closures:

---
Carmel Elementary, 1 hour delay
Carmel Middle School, 1 hour delay
Carmel High School, 2 hour delay
Cisco Central School District, 2 hour delay
Cisco Catholic: 2 hour delay
Davis School District: Closed
Davis Prep: Closed
....

Knowing that your school district started with an A and you had to wait until it wrapped all the way around before you could decided if you were getting dressed for school or not.
posted by madajb at 6:16 PM on September 28 [13 favorites]


The first three vehicles I drove had manual chokes - two cars and a motorcycle. They were all old at the time, though, so my age mates couldn’t manage them.

Also drinking with straws that were actual base-of-grain-plant straw - old fashioned at the time, but it still worked.
posted by clew at 6:21 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


Gas station attendants.
posted by NotLost at 6:45 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


Like, not only did we have to call our friends on our landlines, but we had to know our friends' fathers' names, because that's how they were listed in the phone book.

Lots of times I'd get done with a thing at school - or the bus would get back from a 'team' trip for school - and there wouldn't be a parent waiting, so I'd sit around for awhile, and then eventually walk through town to the pay phone that I knew the location of - a fairly good walk by today's standards - and call home to see if they'd forgotten. Sometimes I'd miss them and they'd get to the school and see that I wasn't there and leave again. We lived 15 minutes out of town, so it was the perfect window of time to miss one another on the way to that pay phone and back.

Would have been nice to have a pay phone AT or NEAR the school, come to think of it.

Right across from my high school, there was a little store only open before school, over noon, and after school. We went over there for food, soda, candy, cigarettes, jukebox, foozball. In fact, the school buses left the high school in the afternoon, went a couple of blocks to the elementary school and picked up the little kids, then came back and stopped at the store for second pickup for the high schoolers.

It was called The Store. :-)
posted by Occula at 6:46 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


BBSes... as an adult I am 100% certain that the BBS I frequented in high school was principally a weed hookup. I had no idea at the time; I thought it was just a bunch of friendly nearby nerds with appealingly inscrutable handles.

In retrospect, white pages seem like kind of a dumb and scary idea, if also a useful one.

TV guides make me nostalgic and all the talk of cigarette smoke makes my lungs cower in misery (I grew up in a house with two heavy smokers).

I think the thing that most amazes me, looking back, is that I was raised in a school district in a liberal county where the explicit teaching was “racism is bad; good thing we’ve totally solved it!” I look back and I’m like — this was the mid eighties; is there any possibility that these people actually believed their own words here?
posted by eirias at 6:55 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


parachute pants; jams; vans. skinny skateboards. lines of cars waiting for gasoline.

playing text-based adventure games on trs-80 with magnetic tape drive. rotary phone.

i didn't make the pipe bombs, but went with the maker a few times to lay/pour out a black powder or gasoline fuse prior to blowing holes in golf courses. that guy - a sometimes bully, sometimes mentor - later had a disfiguring accident during bombmaking. he was a deadly nemesis in the occasional neighborhood-wide rotten-apple fights.

bb gun and bottle-rocket "tag." classmates that didn't come to school on the first day of deer season.

adults who'd have a kid hold their beer while driving; the occasional one who took it back, after placing kid on lap behind steering wheel, saying "now steer."

bench seats. tv news that seemed to have decorum & facts (on one of the three channels).
posted by 20 year lurk at 7:29 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Making and receiving crank calls: ordering pizzas to get sent to strangers; calling up KFC and asking them "How big are your breasts?". On the creepier side - obscene phone calls or just heavy breathing. Call display put a stop to much of that.

Going to the bank and taking out enough money to get you through the weekend prior to ATMs or banks being open on weekends.
posted by biggreenplant at 7:59 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


I don’t think anyone has mentioned this - TV stopped at midnight. Or maybe it was 2 am, I don’t remember, but the last show would play, the National anthem and a waving flag would come on and then, just snow or a test pattern until morning. I don’t even know when TV started being 24/7, the late 80s maybe? One time just after college - 1986? - we heard a pirate radio broadcast or something break in to the TV just after the anthem and it was extremely weird, a man’s staticky voice saying something like, it’s all over. Freaked us right out, but then to be fair we were probably extremely stoned.
posted by mygothlaundry at 8:03 PM on September 28 [11 favorites]


When I was 13 or 14- so around 1995 - I saw a music video for the Smashing Pumpkins' "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" and became obsessed with it. Like, it just spoke deeply to my sad teenage soul. But we didn't have any alternative radio stations that I knew of, and I didn't have enough money to go buy the CD, so instead my solution was...

I would dial the 1-800 number for some CD selling company, enter in the numeric code for the album, then the song, and listen to the maybe 5-second snipped of Billy Corrigan singing "Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage," over and over again. God, what a time to be alive.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 9:06 PM on September 28 [11 favorites]


Fun follow up: a month or so ago, my sister's husband was out of town, and she woke up to my niece, who is 2, crying in the middle of the night. My sister asked her what was wrong, and she said "There's a man sitting on the Whoopdie Ball," which is what they call the exercise ball downstairs. Fully freaked out, my sister said, "What man?" And my niece said..."Billy Corrigan."

(Apparently her Dad had showed her a video of some Smashing Pumpkins song and it had made a big impression on her. Strong feelings about the Pumpkins must run in the family, I guess!)
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 9:10 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


Schools in my city gave away paper book covers with folding instructions for textbooks. They sold ads to pay for them so there would be a blank space in the middle for the book name/your name/class name/period and then ads for local businesses around the edges and on the back. You spent class periods doodling on them.

The first phone number I ever learned was time and temperature. 844-6611. You didn't need the area code since it was local.

My dad let our (always male) dogs roam and also didn't fix them so generally we needed a new dog about every 2 years. I don't miss that.

I remember being excited when the seatbelt law happened and I was very strict at reminding my parents to put theirs on.
posted by emjaybee at 9:25 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


I remember in 1980’s gym class , in middle school — a public middle school in the US — all the boys were asked to strip to their underwear then line up and one by one have their testicles held by some strange man. “Turn your head and cough.” If you wanted to be allowed to play basketball. Something something hernia check something.

Does that still happen these days?
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:03 PM on September 28


Tandem Affinity mentioned the film strip/cassette tape systems of my youth. They were the ur-Power Point presentations and I think I prefer them.

Being a latch-key kid for most of my youth the hover parenting of today is just weird.

Department stores, Sears, Macy's, Nordstrom, et al., they were places of dreams and discovery. Multiple floors of toys, technology, tools, and your parents always seemed to think you needed clothes more than more time fiddling in the fun parts. Amazon now has offices in the old Bon Marché building in Seattle and the irony is too rich for words because someday soon Amazon will no doubt start opening physical locations that will just be department stores redeux but without the style.

The weird rumors of albums, movies, books, etc…that supposedly existed only on the East Coast or in the Mid-West.

How to really be into a conspiracy theory required effort and commitment to the alternative bookstores (which I was going to for my own interests, which were separate from the UFology, black helicopters, HAARP, etc…,) and mail-order services of quack publishers so they become somewhat self-limiting. Fascinating as a side interest, disturbing as an undercurrent but not something I ever had to worry about going too far in the mainstream.

Endlessly editing config.sys and autoexec.bat so that I could get a program to run, or just install. Watching an install bar, waiting to pop in the next disk, and finding the whole experience to be a calming one that let me grab a snack and zone out.

Cassette tapes in a Walkman so I could listen to what I wanted, when I wanted, while riding a bike or later in a car while driving. and always having two or three tapes with me.

Programming a VCR because I worked nights and evenings.

Finding rare and expensive collector's editions of books for cheap in stores whose owners had a bookstore but who never really thought about books as anything other than new or used. In the days of Ebay and Bookfinder this is no longer a thing I get to experience on a regular basis.

Listening to people talk about how much they love a song because the video is great. While the song itself is meh.

I do not miss expecting nuclear war to happen at any moment.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:11 PM on September 28 [8 favorites]


King Biscuit Flower Hour
Weekly
On the radio
(WHJY ... Providence... The HOME of Rock n Roll )
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:19 PM on September 28 [7 favorites]


Smoking sections on airplanes.

If you wanted to see brand-new photos of your favorite celebrities or find out their thoughts about anything, you had to wait for the new issue of 16, Bop, or Tiger Beat. If you wanted to tell your favorite celebrity something, you would have to write and mail an actual letter, which the star may or may not actually see. If you were really, really lucky, you might win a phone call from your favorite star in a contest. (Say what you will about social media, but it’s allowed fans and celebrities to interact basically in real time in ways I never could have imagined when I was a kid.)

The Simpsons was considered extremely controversial when it started. I remember Bart Simpson shirts were banned in my school.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:48 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


and then, just snow or a test pattern until morning.

Ah, no. While in university, on weekends there would often be a local pirate TV transmitter taking over the channel five or ten minutes after the official one shut down. Usually some kung-fu movie first, with sound effects that, as far as we could discern, were made by the actors themselves, first pretending to strike a blow, then each picking up a plank and hitting those together. At least, that was the most plausible explanation for the total lack of sound synchronisation. Then a porn movie. Both from VHS tapes that had seen better days, and on a player that could have done with some head cleaning.

Our antenna for that channel was pointed quite the wrong way and the transmitter wasn't very powerful so the telly was straining to keep locked to the H and V sync, adding an extra layer of hilarity with the image resembling a flag in a moderate breeze.
posted by Stoneshop at 12:12 AM on September 29 [3 favorites]


I don’t think anyone has mentioned this - TV stopped at midnight.

And, “It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your children are?”
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:18 AM on September 29 [5 favorites]


My parents' car was an old Falcon with a bench front seat. When I was very young they would put me in a kiddy seat when we had to drive somewhere. The seat fit in the front and was secured only with a couple of large hooks - just some thin metal piping bent into rough U shapes that went over the back of the bench seat. So I always sat up front between mum and dad with only these flimsy hooks and a nylon belt preventing me from splashing onto the dashboard in the event of a collision. This seemed an unremarkable state of affairs at the time.

My elder siblings did not like that I always sat up front dominating the attention of mum and dad and spoiling their view out the front windshield (the kiddy seat HAD NO HEADREST), so one time ahead of a very long road trip (Melbourne to Brisbane, about 1800 km) they built a little nest for me with a couple of towels and a blanket in the footwell at the back, and somehow convinced me that being curled up down there literally under their feet was far preferable to riding up front. What can I say? I'm easily led. Down there in the near-dark, unable to see out of a window and with my nostrils full of the smell of manky car upholstery, leaded petrol, and dad's chain-smoking, I became horribly car-sick resulting in multiple car stops so I could get out and vomit on the side of the highway. Nothing to be done about it - the kiddy seat had been left at home. Again this was not considered remarkable.
posted by um at 4:51 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


It was 11 where I lived. Then Irv Weinstein would tell us which house was burning in Buffalo.
posted by pracowity at 4:55 AM on September 29 [3 favorites]


I have only 8 letters for you:

AMC Pacer

(super bizarre now, right?)
posted by Namlit at 5:10 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


Smoking sections on airplanes.

When I was in fourth grade my family had the good fortune to take a trip to England. We did not have guaranteed assigned seats and on the return flight they tried to put all five of us in different locations. My mother finally convinced them to move one passenger so she could sit next to my seven year old sister. I spent the flight, as a ten year old, sitting in the third row from the back next to a gentlemen who chain smoked the whole way.
posted by meinvt at 5:34 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


It was entirely normal to be stopped by the army or police in armoured vehicles asking for ID and where you were going. Police stations were surrounded with high walls and mortar cages.
posted by knapah at 5:36 AM on September 29 [3 favorites]


Department stores, Sears, Macy's, Nordstrom, et al., they were places of dreams and discovery.

Getting chased out of Sears mattress section because you and your twelve year old friends will not stop jumping on the test waterbeds/testing out the mattress.

See also: trying to launch people out of easy chairs.
posted by thivaia at 7:52 AM on September 29 [3 favorites]


I think the thing that most amazes me, looking back, is that I was raised in a school district in a liberal county where the explicit teaching was “racism is bad; good thing we’ve totally solved it!” I look back and I’m like — this was the mid eighties; is there any possibility that these people actually believed their own words here?

I think this was mainly because we had just been through the Civil Rights movement, which was huge at the time and fresh in everyone's memory. My liberal schools showed us tons of films repeating the I Have A Dream speech, the water hoses on the protesters, the lunch counter sit ins, the footage of Rosa Parks.

The message was, as you say, "Look! We Overcame! We won! We conquered racism!" which was excellent of course, but it definitely threw me off later, when I was like "wait a minute, I thought we already did this." Ah, the optimism of youth.
posted by Melismata at 9:21 AM on September 29 [6 favorites]


AMC Pacer
(super bizarre now, right?)


Well, you SAY that...
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:28 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Smoking, for sure.
I described what it was like to shower after coming home from a gig to my kid, bruised up, ears ringing, the smell of smoke and sweat, and he couldn't really understand it...he's never seen a place where you can smoke indoors. That shit was disgusting.
I was in Czech for my friend's wedding a few years ago, and the indoor smoking made it feel like a different planet.

Seeing someone ski without a helmet is like seeing someone ride a horse down the street these days. There're still a few here and there, and something always looks faintly wrong with their silhouette until they get close enough and you realise they're a moron.

In a less immediately material way, the level of effort people, myself included, put into making their children happy, and taking their wants and preferences into account blows my mind if I take a second to think about it, in comparison to my perfectly-loving-but-archaic childhood.
posted by Kreiger at 10:12 AM on September 29 [6 favorites]


When did every dog need to be tied up, I get it in downtown traffic but it's just a wacky paranoid world nowdays.

As a person with a dog phobia, this is an improvement for me. I don't long for those days any more than someone with asthma longs for cigarettes everywhere.

I'd be really curious about statistics regarding people getting bitten by dogs and dogs getting hit by cars over the last fifty years. My quick google search found only current numbers.
posted by FencingGal at 12:43 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


This 2001 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dog bites to humans—demography, epidemiology, injury, and risk report has info from the previous decades
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:10 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


I remember being in class and getting a small cup of fluoridated water to swish in my mouth. It was one of those things we never really thought about because it was just part of our daily routine at school like the Pledge of Allegiance.

At the dentist you could get these chewable tablets that showed you where you missed areas of plaque while brushing your teeth.
posted by Roger Pittman at 1:14 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


Riding in the back of pick up trucks as a kid.

My dads stationwagon had a little bench seat in the back facing the back window where two kids could sit. I reminder drives making faces at highway drivers,. Carseatless of course. Probably no seatbelt as well.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:22 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


In 1973 my 4th grade public school teacher, who I guess fell asleep for all of 1962, made us say prayers and read aloud from the Bible every day. She did not get in trouble for this.
posted by JanetLand at 1:39 PM on September 29


When I was a teenager or maybe my early 20s, I was seated in a plane next to the most annoying people of all time (I won’t get into why, but suffice to say that we’re loud chewers, among other things). So I got up and went back to the smoking section, which was pretty much empty, and plunked myself down there and smoked until I had to back to my seat during the landing.

At the dentist you could get these chewable tablets that showed you where you missed areas of plaque while brushing your teeth.

Oh yeah, what were those things called again? Disclosing tablets or something?
posted by holborne at 1:46 PM on September 29


Oh yeah, what were those things called again? Disclosing tablets or something?

Those were the ones. Dark red in color.
posted by Roger Pittman at 1:47 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Those tablets were great. They gave them out at school one time and we had a wonderful time making horrible monster faces wth our gross spotty red teeth.

My kids had to do the fluoride thing when we lived in rural Maryland in the early 90s because everyone had well water. Swish and spit, they called it, I think it was once or twice a week.
posted by mygothlaundry at 2:03 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Yep, disclosing tablets. (CW: dental closeups!)
More sophisticated varieties contain several dyes, which selectively stain plaque of different ages. With the most common variety, immature plaque stains red, mature purple, and pathological acidic plaque blue. This is owing to the blue dye washing off immature plaque, and acid degrading the red dye.
posted by zamboni at 2:17 PM on September 29


In 1973 my 4th grade public school teacher, who I guess fell asleep for all of 1962, made us say prayers and read aloud from the Bible every day. She did not get in trouble for this.

At one public grade school I attended, the Catholic kids were excused after lunch on Wednesdays to go to religious education. The rest of us usually did worksheets or extra library time.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 3:03 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


^yes, "released time," and no one told me I was leaving extra library time on the table
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:14 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


Smoking everywhere, of course. And cars with those little triangle windows to let the air out and also flick your ashes.

My Dad didn't like to shop, so he'd drop me off at the mall to buy Christmas presents for my Mom, and give me his credit card. I used it at all the stores, and no one ever questioned it. I was maybe 13 or 14 at the time. I remember one year, I got her one of those carved candles which were so popular at the time. Oh, and a t-shirt from those mall places that did the heat imprints. I got her name in rainbow colors on a t-shirt, which I thought was cool, but not perhaps great for a woman of her age. Always stopping by the airbrush guy to watch him work.

I think also, malls in general, they were just places to be. You would just go to the mall to hang out, walk around and window shop, maybe buy something, but when Woodfield Mall was built, it was a big thing. Go to see the fountain and the fishes, go to Spencer Gifts and look at all the weird stuff there, hit up Kaybee Toys for last minute Christmas gifts, walk into Waldenbooks to smell the books and get the latest sci-fi novel, think even Kresges was still at the mall at that time.

Going 80+ mph on the highways. We had a huge Buick Century, and one year, the speedometer got stuck at 88, and after that, my Dad just guessed how fast he was going. It wasn't really a big deal. They reduced the speed limit later, to reduce gas consumption.

Not having cellphones. One night, my Mom's car broke down on her way home from work. She called us from a stranger's house, and my Dad told her to stay put. She of course didn't, and he started out walking down the road. She showed up, Dad was gone, and we had to go out and call for him. I don't know how they missed each other, but there was me and my Mom, calling for my Dad in the dark, until he finally answered, "What!?" And I retreated to my bedroom.

Ordering books from the back of a magazine, via a book club. I thought it was so great, I got all these free books! Isaac Asimov, etc. Until my parents came to me and explained that it wasn't all free, but I still kept the books they'd given me and read them.

Going cruising as a way of entertainment. Just get in the car, go cruising around, listening to tunes, 8-track (yes, the click-click). Sitting around playing cards with people as a form of entertainment. Only making recipes from books, not from the internet. I met a lady down the hall from us, one year we lived in an apartment, and I used to go down and help her bake (no stranger danger there, my folks just let me go), and she gave me a book on making cookies, and I used to make cookies, and maybe some iced tea or lemonade, and go sit on a chaise lounge (when we had a lake house) and eat petit four cookies and read Harlequin romance novels. I remember going through that whole book, and being scared of making French lace cookies, but for some reason petit four cookies were okay, LOL. I was only 13 or so.

Going up to the neighbors and helping them call in the cows, when I was about 7 or 8. I'd stand on the fence and yell, "Come, Boss, Come!" and magically, they would come. Then I would go into the barn, and stand on the ladder to the loft, and watch them all come into the barn. I had to watch for cow patties in the barn, but I loved going up to the little calves and scritching their necks, and going into the pasteurizing shed, the big shiny stainless steel milk tank, where the big truck would back up and the driver would get out his hose and take away the milk. The oldest daughter, Pattie, would give me iced coffee and toast made with fresh bread, spread with peanut butter. Their living room had a giant wool braid rug, and she made me feel very adult, sitting at the breakfast bar overlooking the room, serving me up iced coffee.

Then away back home, through the fields, stomping on all the puffer mushrooms, and back home to our kitties. We had 20 or so, living in the house and barn, but they were protected via the ell, and maybe the mothers could come inside when they were having kittens, but after that, they were out. Dad used to shake the box of cat food at night to get them out, but my sister and I used to hide the kittens in our beds. "Any kittens in here?" "No, no!" we would say, tho' they'd be climbing up our legs and scratching us.

It's probably no wonder that I've moved back to this area, not once, but twice. Not that far from the house with the barns and the kittens. We used to go out into the woods, and end up at a stream, which had a flat rock extending to it. Our dog, a farm collie named Rascal, would stand in the middle of the stream and pant (but she wouldn't let us bathe her, which was Mom's requirement to let her into the house, so she was regulated to the ell, unless there was a thunderstorm, so just inside the door was okay). A picnic on the rocks, and maybe climbing pine trees (another no-no, as we'd end up covered in pine pitch).

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we hadn't moved from Maine to the Chicago suburbs. But yet, I've come back here, to the place that I was happiest as a child. It's not as idyllic as an adult, but yet, the area is beautiful, and I can't imagine leaving it. I've seen what the outside world has had to offer, it's a lot of things, and it's great in its own way, but there is too much stress involved.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:44 PM on September 29 [8 favorites]


Those tablets didn’t work on me. They just made my teeth red, my gums red, the sink red ...
posted by Melismata at 3:54 PM on September 29 [2 favorites]


The family slide show.

My dad was a slide man. Regular photos were just too small. Slides could be projected to giant size on the wall. What could be more fun?

Whenever a few weeks had passed after any kind of event or vacation, dad would want us all to sit in the living room and look at the slides. Also a fun thing to do if we had family or guests staying with us.

The slide show was usually ok, but almost always ran just a little too long.
posted by freakazoid at 4:57 PM on September 29 [5 favorites]


I still have a slide projector & a screen. I had the idea to use them for digital transfers, and it almost worked - set up & projected a slide & took a pic with my digital camera, but there was always a spot of glare from the reflactive coating on the screen. I need to try this again with a different flat white surface, because it would actually be a lot faster than scanning them.

Phone books. If you had a land line, you were in it, unless you opted out. Lots of people would list fake names for the fun of it, and it was a thing to know where the fake names were listed. Austin had a Henauder Titzoff listed for about 20 years, thanks to one of the Uranium Savages.

Carburetors. What a pain in the ass- don’t miss them at all. I had one car that would only start on cold mornings with that nitro-spray stuff, which you sprayed right into the carb to get a good blast of high octane fuel. It woulld occasionally start small fires on top of my engine & that was totally normal.

Meeting people at the gate from plane flights. Some of my best memories are of waiting at the ramp for my dad or granny when they came to visit.

Mexico, pre-everything American. In the 1980’s there were no American chain stores, and escaping the U.S. was total and complete. Also, they didn’t have computers, and so long as you had a current tourist visa, it was all good. My girlfriend’s dad lived in Guadalajara for 20 years & every 6 months, he would dive up to Laredo, spend the night in a hotel on the US side & cross back over & get a new tourist visa the next morning. Nobody cared. You really could commit a crime & just go to Mexico forever & get away with it.

Explosives. 9/11 changed all that, but up until then, if you wanted to blow shit up, all you needed was a driver’s license. We used kinepak, det-cord, shaped plastic explosives and home-made gunpowder charges to enlarge small cave passages to human-sized. Lots of big caves were discovered this way & it was a ton of fun.

Manual typewriters. Smack! You had to really drive home the keys if you were making Carbon copies as you typed.

And yeah, the cards inside library books, with everyone’s names & dates on them. You could see the journey the book had been on, & sometimes you’d find the name of someone you knew, and that was special.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:39 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


Does anyone remember catalog stores?

Not in America, but what you describe is exactly what shopping at Argos in the UK was like! (I mean, Argos is still around, I'm just in the US now.) It was delightful and I miss it.

Actually, moving to the UK in 2008 gave me some tastes of childhood, like Woolworth's still being a thing. I gleefully shopped there until it, too, went into administration. I also remember a slightly strange but wonderful linens shop on Albany Rd in Cardiff. I bought handkerchiefs there; unfortunately I don't think I have any anymore.

This may be sort of an I-don't-shop-much-in-real-life bias, but I remember a lot more single-product shops when I was little. I grew up in a very suburb-like neighborhood of Philadelphia (Chestnut Hill, if anyone's a local), and there was Caruso's which was a local grocery store, and the office supply store that was not Staples and was hideously expensive, and the small shop that sold only very fancy children's clothes. My sister and I were taken there every year to buy thin white cardigans, which were required wear with Easter and Christmas dresses. Is that still a thing? (Or lace collars! God almighty, lace collars that were basically a doily you wore around your neck over your solid-coloured dress! I assume no child is put through that any longer. They weren't uncomfortable, just weirdly Victorian.) We'd have to drive to Erdenheim to get shoes from Buster Brown. I clearly remember having some kind of 2-for-1 sale and my mother not letting me get two pairs of hi-top sneakers, because she was convinced the high part would hurt my ankles. We were, as a family, utterly delighted when the Gap carried a children's dress in lime green, which mom referred to as 'wild and crazy', so I guess very bright colours were not a thing for kid's clothes until the 90's? We were, I must admit, a strange family on top of that, so who knows.

It really wasn't until I grew up and moved to Cardiff that I again would just...go to a store to buy one thing. (Well, okay, and Woolworth's for several things.)

I have the strongest sense memory of the smell of the library in summer, when Mom would take us every Wednesday so I could offload my last stack of books and get new ones. Nothing will ever smell that good again. I have been in Carnegie libraries since and they're not the same, somehow. Fewer books for browsing, or I just grew up.

Likewise, there is no better sentence in the English language than "All Philadelphia public and private schools are closed [due to snow]." And of course I can still sing the KYW jingle.

And to add to the smoking section (heh), my dad smoked up until a few years ago, and absolutely through my entire childhood. This coincided with that huge early-90's push to get, I guess, the entire population of the United States to quit smoking, which then led to me making a lot of passive-aggressive signs along the lines of "This is a non-smoking house DAD" to put on my bedroom door. I can only imagine what an utter fucking joy it would have been to live with a tiny narc. (Joke's on me, I now supply him with edibles and actually gave him the 'this is not your 70's ditch weed DO NOT EAT THE WHOLE COOKIE AT ONCE' lecture.)
posted by kalimac at 7:37 PM on September 29 [6 favorites]


I grew up in places with loose dogs, and it was horrible. They would bite kids, kill cats, and get in fights. I’m sure they got run over all the time too, but I don’t remember seeing that. Dogs on leashes is a huge improvement in my eyes.

The smoking everywhere was terrible also. Sure, restaurants and planes had no smoking sections, but there was nothing to stop the smoke other than an imaginary line.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:49 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


cars with those little triangle windows

Oh lord, vent windows! My mom flat-out refused to buy a car that didn't have them, because she HAD to turn them around so the wind blew directly at her. My sister and I spoke to her often over the years of improved vent/fan systems on newer cars that worked just fine, but she wouldn't hear of it. Of course as the car designs of the 60's and 70's gave way to the newer sleeker (vent-window-less) designs of the 80's and 90's her buying choices narrowed significantly, but she persevered in the face of progress.


Having a glovebox full of maps

In the days before GPS my grandfather always availed himself of AAA's "triptiks", which were little booklets of maps they'd assemble for you based on your start and end points. They were roughly the height/width of a folded map and spiral bound at the top, with each page being a successive section of whatever route you needed to follow along with text directions. I remember the little hand-stamped symbols where construction work was happening, and maybe some for other situations (gas stations? I can't remember). Some pages had a fold-out piece that listed significant sightseeing places or worthwhile short side trips that were nearby that portion of the trip.

Once I was an adult and taking car trips of my own I always kept one of those big Rand-McNally road atlases in the car, replaced every few years or so (I still do, Because You Never Know). Both my wife and I got really good at reading them, though since since she preferred being a passenger she became the default navigator. The aforementioned glovebox-full of maps were more detailed fold-up maps of specific cities, and we had a set of those as well to supplement the atlas.

These days I much prefer GPS for actual traveling, but I still love perusing Google Maps on my home computer, planning (i.e. fantasizing, mostly) big trips and zooming in with Satellite View here and there to look at cool stuff.

(When I originally started thinking of moving from the southeast to the west coast, I wanted to ship all my stuff ahead and do a solo, meandering two-week road trip of interesting places and stay in campgrounds or funky little roadside motels along the way - I still have my atlas with my ideal route highlighted. Alas, that didn't come to pass when the time came to actually move, but I still have dreams of doing such a trip with my son One Of These Days, which would be easier with two people trading off driving duty.)


The family slide show

My family avoided those for the most part when I was a kid, but when I was maybe 8 or 10 my grandparents took a big trip "out west" (we lived in the southeastern US), and every year for the next few years we did a big family-gathering show where he set up the screen and projector and showed us slides of everywhere they'd been - I think mainly national parks in Arizona and Utah - and described each location at length. He wasn't a photography enthusiast by any means, but he did a pretty good job of chronicling all the places they'd been. Unfortunately grandma was, shall we say, a less enthusiastic traveler, so they didn't take near as many trips as he'd hoped... I think those gave me a wanderlust that for economic reasons I haven't fully indulged, but I've got a list, oh yes I've got a list. Of course nowadays I can just direct anyone interested to my Flickr page and they can visit or not as they please, so I don't have to dragoon people into sitting through a slide show.


Woolworth's

When my sister and I were young, say 5 and 8 years old, our grandmother sometimes took us shopping at Woolworth's and it was a HUGE TREAT when we occasionally visited the lunch counter. Tuna sandwich, cut on the diagonal and crust removed, big plastic tumbler of 7-up with lots of crushed ice, oh my. I mean, in retrospect the food was pretty pedestrian affair, but to a little small-town kid it seemed swanky and and ever-so-cosmopolitan.

The other big family treat was going to Howard Johnson's on Friday for the Fried Clam Special. We weren't Catholic by any means, but -- FRIED CLAMS! And more 7-up of course.


Manual typewriters

I don't recall my reasoning now - maybe mom suggested it would be a handy skill - but in high school I took a typing class for a semester. Of course it had all the old (probably quite old and in need of a good once-over at the repair shop) manual typewriters; imagine a classroom of those clacking away as we did our lessons! As it turns out it was indeed a very handy skill, since I eventually ended up in IT. After high school I went from manual typewriters to the IBM card-punching machines* when I took a COBOL class at the local junior college - at that time they only had a very few "new-fangled" VT100-style terminals available so only the advanced students got to use them. It wasn't until my first data-entry job in my mid-20s that I got to use a "proper" computer terminal with an electronic keyboard...my WPM rate improved significantly at that point! Then of course came PCs, which were way cooler.

* Ahhh, the joys of cobbling together your little box of cards, submitting them to the folks that manned the mainframe, and having to wait a few hours or a day for your program to go through the queue and get run...only to examine the output, see how many errors it generated, sift through the card stack to retype and replace all the mistakes, then start the process over again...
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:32 PM on September 29 [9 favorites]


Last year an adult employed programmer may have missed a joke I was making because compiling wasn’t ever part of his job. Or I just wasn’t funny, also possible.

It was so hard to find obscure books! Not just that you might not have lived near a bookstore with your interests, but most used bookstores really weren’t catalogued and we didn’t have access to the LoC catalogue, I don’t think, not even at research libraries.
posted by clew at 10:24 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


the food was pretty pedestrian affair fare
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:49 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Phone books.

A couple of years ago, an older coworker and I were both looking for somebody‘s contact information. I looked on a bunch of different websites but wasn’t having any luck. I called over the cubicle wall to my colleague to see how he was doing .

“Well, it’s not under G.”

“Under G where?”

“Under G!”

“Yeah, but where are you looking under G?”

“I’m just looking under G!!”

We went back and forth like this for a while before I realized he was looking in the phone book. An honest-to-goodness printed paper phone book. I have no idea where he even got the thing; it had been years since the company had handed them out. I didn’t even know they were still being produced!

And oh, yes, Woolworth’s. I miss Woolworth’s so much. It just doesn’t seem like Christmas anymore without the annual pilgrimage to Woolworth’s. Meeting up with the family for lunch at the lunch counter, and trying to keep everyone from seeing what was in your shopping bags. They still had the dessert case with the wax models of sundaes inside. Syrupy Coke in those heavy glasses.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:54 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


Hey Larry David Syndrome, I also had a Timex Sinclair with AERCO adaptor and an Okidata COLOR printer. I live in Austin and knew the AERCO guys, two reclusive brothers who lived in a house FILLED with computer and electronics parts. AERCO stands for Acme Electric Robot Company.

My proudest programming achievement was being the co-coder of a program we called Pornography By The Yard which scrambled and recombined absurd pornish phases such as "her ovaries sizzled like grits in a skillet," and "they panted and groaned all night." Got sorta repetitive after a couple yards though cuz we didn't know shit about porn really.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:28 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


Looking things up in the physical copy of the Readers Guide Periodical Literature.

Oh, man. I wrote those things. Parts of them, anyway. Other people had dibs on the good periodicals, so I had to abstract exciting stuff like Aviation Week & Space Technology.
posted by pracowity at 2:35 AM on September 30 [5 favorites]


At one public grade school I attended, the Catholic kids were excused after lunch on Wednesdays to go to religious education. The rest of us usually did worksheets or extra library time.

At ours, it was Baptists or Methodists or something. (I never was clear on that stuff.) So rather than sit and do work, I walked with the Christian kids from the little school to the little white clapboard church a couple blocks away and listened to a woman named Mrs Blood tell stories that she illustrated with felt figures on a felt board. We were supposed to memorize Bible verses, too, but I never did and I didn't care, because the prize was a damned Bible, which presumably the winners did not need unless they were wearing out their copies from memorizing Bible verses. Anyway, it was nice to get out for a walk during the school day and listen to this ancient miniature woman tell us tall tales.
posted by pracowity at 2:53 AM on September 30 [3 favorites]


Does anyone remember catalog stores?

Yes, Service Merchandise operated like that in the US and were around until about twenty years ago.
posted by octothorpe at 4:42 AM on September 30


Service Merchandise commercial from 1978. $60 for a crappy 110 instamatic camera!
posted by octothorpe at 5:49 AM on September 30


Does anyone remember catalog stores?

Consumers Distributing
Go to the store, fill out a piece of paper with what you want, hand it off to an employee who would retreive what you wanted 'from the back'.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 6:22 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


catalog stores

The laminated book of dreams?
posted by zamboni at 6:48 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


Devil's Rancher:I need to try this again with a different flat white surface, because it would actually be a lot faster than scanning them.

I've occasionally used a small portable scanner that basically takes a photo of the slide. Quality is good, not great, but probably better than taking pictures of a projected slide, and it's pretty fast. Otherwise: project onto a piece of matte lexan or something, taking a picture from the back so you can have the camera and the projector exactly in line (and flip the image in software afterwards).
posted by Stoneshop at 7:45 AM on September 30 [1 favorite]


The biggest thing that's hard to imagine now is getting people's phone numbers meant writing them down and if you fucked it up, that was it. I remember this happening not just once but multiple times - clothes would go through the wash, things would get lost, etc, and you'd never be in touch with people again. Cool people! Ones you wanted to know! Now it's all on smartphones so it's just saved.
posted by corb at 9:57 AM on September 30 [3 favorites]


In small towns in Georgia in the early to mid 1980s, many stores closed early on Wednesdays so that people could get ready for "Wednesday night supper" at church.

Wednesday night supper meant a cheap-to-free (if you couldn't pay) dinner provided by the church OR a big potluck, followed by a "program" (everything from a guest speaker to a musician/concert/to a scriptural lecture) and fellowship. Childcare was provided. It was considered a lower-level ask to invite a friend or neighbor to accompany you for Wednesday night rather than Sunday morning. Plus: food! Noms!

I have fond memories of running around with other kids in the churchyard after the program, waiting for all the parents to stop talking and take us home.

Many churches still do Wednesday night supper, but I don't know of stores closing early on Wednesdays anywhere in America these days.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:06 AM on September 30


When I moved to Lawrence, Kansas, in 1979, the Sears was a catalog store. I had never heard of such a thing, and it became my example when talking to friends of what a small town I had moved to.

Speaking of Sears, for those of us of a certain age, the arrival every year of the Sears Wish Book was a huge deal. It came before Christmas, and the kids would obsessively leaf through the pages deciding what we wanted to ask Santa for. Many are available online now beginning with 1937 and continuing to 1996.
posted by FencingGal at 11:15 AM on September 30 [10 favorites]


Re milk delivered in bottles: my grandparents still had that going on in the early '80s! Then it seemed to be consigned to history. Then 30 years later, my husband and I move to the northern Boston inner burbs, and it turns out our downstairs neighbors got milk bottles delivered every Wednesday morning from Crescent Ridge Farm - which, thanks COVID, has "suspended new registrations due to high demand." And they were maybe in their 40s.

Re Napster, I know Napster wasn't around in 1996 because that was when a friend of mine I knew from IRC wanted to send me the song she was listening to at that moment. But this *also* predated MP3s. So she ripped the song from her CD, turned it into five separate .WAV files so they could be sent at all, with a 10 MB file size limit, and DCC sent them to me over IRC. 47 MB total, and I was on a computer running Windows 3.1, with all of a 4 GB hard drive.

I'm pretty sure my high school still had smoking lounges in the 70s based on historical photos, but by the '90s you could be expelled for smoking. Same with hitchhiking - the alumni who came back to campus all had stories about hitchhiking back from the nearby towns; the current students were like, "that's what we have cars for, or at least friends with cars for."

We had to take typing in high school because papers had to be submitted typed. It was a transitional time, though, before home PCs were really ubiquitous or generally affordable. My freshman year, some students were still using typewriters, but the school had invested heavily in the computer lab, so over the four years I was there, computer usage for paper-writing grew. I had an actual Brother Word Processor - orange monochrome monitor, but with a floppy disk drive and a typewriter-style printer.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 11:15 AM on September 30


One thing I do not miss about the days before answering machines and voicemail: the "three-ring phantoms". That is, people who would phone our house, let it ring three times, decide no one was home, and hang up. Annoying if you were in the back yard, heard the phone, and were coming to answer it when the ringing stopped.
posted by Epixonti at 11:22 AM on September 30


I was always taught to let it ring 6 times before hanging up, but there's always some folks ain't got no home-trainin'.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:49 AM on September 30 [3 favorites]


My dad built our TV and our first computer himself from a kit.
posted by umbú at 12:10 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]


Also, to add to all of the smoking comments, I was in St. Paul, Minnesota when the massive tobacco lawsuit happened in 1997. The courtroom was open for visitors, and I went one day out of curiosity. I watched as the defense lawyer argue with a straight face that The Flintstones was a show for adults, not children, at the time that Winston Cigarettes sponsored ads featuring Fred and Barney sneaking around behind their house to smoke.
posted by umbú at 12:37 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]


My dad built our TV and our first computer himself from a kit.

a kid in my class that nobody liked built his first computer from a kit in Grade Six (1971). Last I heard, he was raking in big money in Silicon Valley, mapping the human brain.
posted by philip-random at 12:46 PM on September 30


For a while, you could have a big (like 8 foot across) satellite dish on which you could watch almost everything. It took a while for the media companies to start scrambling the feeds. Before that, you could sit around and watch TV shows from places unknown with a lot of just blank space for the local station to insert commercials. Even early cable boxes (with dials ewww) were easily hackable with a bit of folded paper (index cards and envelopes worked well) to unlock all of the scrambled channels.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:34 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]


After my c-section, I was left to recover from surgery in a semi-private room of the maternity ward with a chain smoking roommate.

This was in 1983, and it was generally agreed that I was overreacting. o_O
posted by Space Kitty at 3:05 PM on September 30 [5 favorites]


I was born in the late 70s. Until my early 20s it was actually illegal for me to personally inquire about my adoption. I could pay someone else to do it, sort of, but everything that could be done to obscure birth family history was still being done as a matter of best practice even then. The 60s scoop didn't end in the 60s.

Watching a brother and some friends have "modern" experiences with adoption (from both sides) was an eye opening experience. I had to see what that was like to actually understand how fucked up the details of mine were.

On another topic: billeting. When I was a kid travelling for sport meant staying with another family in their house. It meant spending time with mom buying shelf stable billet gifts. It meant having no idea where you were sleeping until you got there; hoping this time it wasn't going to be with puking cats or chain smoking grandmas. I could not begin to tell a younger me 2 or 3 decades ago just how much of a nonstarter that would be in 2020.
posted by mce at 4:44 PM on September 30 [3 favorites]


You could have a whole other thread like this about things people now see as totally normal that would have been super bizarre when we were kids. If you had told me 30 years ago that one of the most popular forms of entertainment for kids in 2020 would be watching videos of other people playing video games, I don't think I would have believed you.
posted by Redstart at 6:45 PM on September 30 [11 favorites]


At one public grade school I attended, the Catholic kids were excused after lunch on Wednesdays to go to religious education. The rest of us usually did worksheets or extra library time.
Same for us in Rockville, MN in the early 80s, but we had one large class for the Catholics and one smaller class for all of the Protestants, both held in the Catholic church since it was the only church in town. The Catholic kids had class in an outbuilding next to the church while the Protestant class was in the basement of the actual church building. The nuns would yell at us as we walked past the outbuilding because they thought we were skipping class, but we were just going to the basement. Oh yeah, we walked the mile or so to the church from school, unsupervised as far as we knew. Our apartment building was across the highway from the church, so we must have just walked home from there as well.
posted by soelo at 7:29 PM on September 30


If you had told me 30 years ago that one of the most popular forms of entertainment for kids in 2020 would be watching videos of other people playing video games, I don't think I would have believed you.

I honestly cannot fathom that this is legit entertainment. It just does not compute for me.

You know, I feel the same way about spectator sports. I guess I am vaguely internally consistent.

I have zero interest in watching people do a thing.
posted by medusa at 7:46 PM on September 30 [6 favorites]


Dad getting mom a kitchen implement for her birthday. For xmas. For anniversaries. Mothers Day.

I voluntarily took over the kitchen after we got rid of him and guess what kinds of things started showing up under the tree for me? I was happy and that was mom-laughs-self-off-couch funny. She said I'd make someone a good wife one day and I didn't get that either.

Six years ago the women in this house moved the laundry machines into the old pantry "to make my life easier." They were laughing when they said that. I redid the dryer outlet when they weren't around but so what. I wasn't faking being happy about that either so what was so funny?

Duh. I just got the joke reading this thread. Go ahead and laugh at me stirring the roux with my shiny new whisk. There are 49 socks in the dryer and please stop deforming mine with your mighty little calves kiddo.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:09 PM on September 30 [1 favorite]


Campbell's vegetable soup used to have lima beans in it
posted by Stoof at 3:40 AM on October 1 [4 favorites]


When I was 9-10, my mom had a second job typing papers for grad students. My bed was in the living room and so was her borrowed IBM Selectric. People would bring her their handwritten papers (literally their manuscripts, ha) littered with interlineations, sometimes cut apart and taped back together with insertions or rearranged paragraphs, and I would fall asleep to the sound of her typing them. So these people not only didn't have word processors, they either didn't have access to typewriters or didn't know how to type. I suspect it was mostly men who didn't know how to type. I'll have to ask her.
posted by HotToddy at 7:56 AM on October 1 [2 favorites]


Oh and my dad was an early adopter of the satellite dish, like way early, and it would pick up the broadcast of the news while the anchors were still getting their makeup on. I remember seeing Peter Jennings picking his nose while reading notes.

(For the observant, that's right, my parents were divorced and my dad was buying toys like satellite dishes while my poor mom was typing until 2 am and I was sleeping on a mattress in the living room. Never really thought about that before.)
posted by HotToddy at 8:05 AM on October 1 [2 favorites]


I honestly cannot fathom that this is legit entertainment. It just does not compute for me.

You know, I feel the same way about spectator sports. I guess I am vaguely internally consistent.


very consistent. I'm a motor racing fan and, at the height covid when everything was cancelled or postponed, found myself watching a bunch of online race action, often featuring real world drivers. It was fun, intensely competitive, the competitors were highly skilled, the outcome was in doubt -- not much different at all from the real thing, particularly given that I was watching it on the same screen where I'd often watch a real race.
posted by philip-random at 8:09 AM on October 1


I still have enough trouble with the idea of people having YouTube "channels" to subscribe to, so you can just fire up YouTube and have some algorithm serve up content to you. So Twitch is indeed baffling to me as well. Musicians and other stage performers are about the only people I can stand to watch work.
/derail

We were a satellite dish family as well, living in the country, too far away from civilization to make running coaxial cable to our house feasible. My dad would constantly remind us not to move the dish around so often, but what are you gonna do when your favorite channels aren't all bouncing off the same satellite?
posted by emelenjr at 8:30 AM on October 1


I’m 47 and I remember sitting in the smoking section of the airplane on purpose. I grew up on army bases and had to be home when the streetlights came on, my parents had no idea where I was or what I was doing. I got to drink sips of beer at holidays when I was well under 12. I could put $1.00 in gas in my chevette and be able to drive for quite a while. My cars were all stick shifts until I was almost 30. My dad threw me into a lake when I was 4 and told me to swim, I did not magically swim and almost died. I bought cigarettes for my mom with a note when I was in 4th grade. When I was 20 I was trying to call my mom to pick me up from the airport but my sister was online so it was busy for HOURS. I just had to sit there and wait. Some kids died from tampered with Tylenol I think? when I was a kid so things started getting sealed, before that nothing was secure at all. That’s a weird one to think about.
posted by yodelingisfun at 1:59 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


"my mom had a second job typing papers for grad students. My bed was in the living room and so was her borrowed IBM Selectric. ... So these people not only didn't have word processors, they either didn't have access to typewriters or didn't know how to type."

My mom did this too! Throughout college and on into her mid-20s. But honestly the real reason people hired her was that she could type 140 wpm ON A SELECTRIC. Even if you had access to a typewriter, it was just miles and miles faster to hire my mom than to poke it out yourself at 40 wpm plus errors.

I loved the way that machine hummed, and the way it smelled!

"Some kids died from tampered with Tylenol I think? when I was a kid so things started getting sealed, before that nothing was secure at all. That’s a weird one to think about."

Chicago Tylenol Murders, 1982, still unsolved. Fascinating because it's a textbook case in multiple disciplines! It's still taught as a case study for Johnson & Johnson's exemplary PR response to an absolute catastrophe (a blueprint that J&J failed to follow during the 2010 children's product recall, which cost them a lot of consumer loyalty), and in Trusts & Estates textbooks because the order in which the Janus family died (Adam Janus died -- the first death, I think -- and then his brother and sister in law went to his house after the funeral and took Tylenol for their headaches caused by crying at the funeral, and then THEY both died. But there was a lot of family money and some messiness in what the wills said about someone dying "first" so it's now caselaw for "simultaneous" deaths that occur as a result of the same incident but a couple of days apart).

I was a preschooler in the Chicago area at the time. It was on every channel, it was on EVERY radio station, just repeating over and over "DO NOT TAKE TYLENOL. IF YOU HAVE ANY TYLENOL IN THE HOUSE, DISPOSE OF IT IMMEDIATELY," and all the adults around me were completely freaking out. Police cars were driving up and down streets telling people to throw away their Tylenol on bullhorns! It happened in late September/early October.

I didn't really understand what was going on, but it got all mixed up in my head with warnings about razors in Halloween candy, with the result that I was absolutely convinced that swallowing a pill (rather than taking a chewable version) would literally kill me because of razors inside the pill, and I would get so hysterical that I couldn't swallow the pill. Even when I was older and I knew pills were safe, my irrational fear of pills (by then I said I was afraid of "choking" on a pill) made it impossible for me to swallow them. I didn't swallow a pill until I was SIXTEEN and I had literal hysterics for like an hour before I managed it! (Even today, if I feel like a pill gets "stuck" going down, I get kinda panicky.) Early 90s pharmacists reacted with scoffing disbelief when told they needed to compound a liquid antibiotic for an otherwise perfectly healthy a 15-year-old with strep throat because she couldn't swallow a pill.

Anyway, I just thought I was a weirdo about swallowing pills until I'm sitting in Trusts & Estates class my second year of law school and the teacher starts introducing the Tylenol Murders case and I literally said, "HOLY SHIT" out loud, because the whole thing came flooding back to me in an instant and suddenly snapped into focus (as it had not when I was a preschooler). Like, I could suddenly vividly see my mom watching a newscast in our living room and I could see and hear the newscaster and what channel the selector was turned to and our cat and the ugly carpet and everything. And I was like, HOLY SHIT, this is why I was terrified to swallow pills and was convinced swallowing pills would kill me! I HAD A REALLY GOOD REASON! Filtered through a preschooler's understanding of the news + 1980s stranger-danger Halloween candy warnings.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:32 PM on October 1 [15 favorites]


I was a preschooler in the Chicago area at the time. It was on every channel, it was on EVERY radio station, just repeating over and over "DO NOT TAKE TYLENOL. IF YOU HAVE ANY TYLENOL IN THE HOUSE, DISPOSE OF IT IMMEDIATELY," and all the adults around me were completely freaking out.

My mother (we were living on the North Side at that point) remembers getting a call from my grandfather, who was a doctor, in which he frantically ordered her to get rid of all the medicine in the house and to take me or herself to the hospital immediately if we had taken anything that day. She thought he had straight-up lost his mind until she turned on the news.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:38 PM on October 1


I made good spending money the first few years of university because I could type really well (like top 5 in state competition) and had the Unix account and knew Scribe (early markup, not quite LaTeX) and ... *free* laser printing. Many teachers wouldn't accept the dot-matrix fan-fold printing and students had a typewriter or a dedicated word processor thing with a 2 line display and daisy-wheel single sheet printing to make it look like it was actually typed.

At least in my BFE area in the 70's... in a divorce the mother always got custody unless she was a felon or didn't want them for milking child support for as long as possible. No court would take kids away from their mother and let them be raised by their father.

Email, and the social media equivalent (USENET newsgroups) could take days / weeks to get from one side of the world to the other and back. It was always fun to make a post in one of the test.? groups that places usually set up auto-responders on. Like a week later you'd get a random pong back from the middle of Africa or something. If you really wanted to reach someone far away, you had to actually know the names of some of the machines along the path to get to them (bang path) like 'gway!tcol!canty!uoh!bigsite!foovax!barbox!user'

There are a bazillion early internet things that probably people under 50 would never come across now. Some good, some bad.
posted by zengargoyle at 3:19 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Do people still do the new car thing? In the neighborhoods we lived in as a kid a New Car was a big deal. All the neighbors would come look if you had one. My parents, who I always thought of as middle-class, didn't actually own a brand-new car until I was 10, and that was a bottom-of-the-line econobox.

Cars also only lasted a decade, typically, and 100,000 miles was OMG, worn-out.

Kids could not wait to drive, it was a huge deal. I don't have kids, but all of my friend's kids, even in suburbia, are really indifferent to driving.

As for smoking, my mother was a militant non-smoker, and I can remember endless get-up-and-move-tables in Vip's or Denny's when smoke from the smoking section would come wafting over to the non-smoking section.

Graduating from Toughskins jeans to something slightly more stylish was also a rite-of-passage. Shrink-to-fit 501s were $9.97 a pair when I was in high school. And they actually fit.
posted by maxwelton at 3:21 PM on October 1 [2 favorites]


Wow Eyebrows, I had no idea the Tylenol murders were still so up in the air; I thought everybody was pretty satisfied that Laurie Dann had done them.

These days I'm more inclined to believe the account of "pharmaceutical insider Scott Bartz", author of The Tylenol Mafia. I have never taken Tylenol, and never taken any OTC pain reliever since I was 10, when I took some aspirin that tasted so foul I refused to take it ever again.
posted by jamjam at 3:34 PM on October 1


I suspect it was mostly men who didn't know how to type.

My department chair, who is in his late 50s (?) once said to me that when he was in school (a Catholic boys' school) they were told there was no point in learning how to type because "you'll have a secretary to do that."
posted by basalganglia at 3:51 PM on October 1 [2 favorites]


In the early 2000s when I worked at a museum, the director’s secretary would print out his emails for him to read. He would hand write responses, which she would type and print for him to check over before she sent them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:04 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


I have some vague recollection of hearing/reading that female aspiring professionals (maybe lawyers specifically?) of that era either hid the fact that they knew how to type or deliberately never learned, so that they couldn't be assigned to secretarial work.
posted by yeahlikethat at 4:07 PM on October 1


In roughly 1990, my Smith-graduate cousin was applying for a job as a paralegal. When she told my grandfather, he said “Can you type? Then don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”
posted by HotToddy at 4:48 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


(Uh, to clarify, her answer was yes, she could)
posted by HotToddy at 4:49 PM on October 1


I remember the very limited TV options. We watched ABC's Wide World of Sports and just enjoying the heck out of whatever competition they broadcast-- Judo? We'll watch it! Skiing? Sure! Bowling? Of course!!!

I must admit the last few months of finding only Corn Hole Championships on ESPN brought up some good memories of Wide World of Sports!!
--
We watched the Olympic Games in real time--staying up very late or waking up very early to see the prime events/awards.
If you missed the Charlie Brown [insert holiday here] special, well, good luck waiting until next year!
And I remember when TV stations would Sign Off by playing the national anthem and showing the flag.

Oh, and Smog Alerts here in Los Angeles-- we didn't go outside during school and but used recess to lay our head on the desk with the lights off. [no air conditioning in school] And your chest would hurt if you did go outside.
--
posted by calgirl at 6:02 PM on October 1 [2 favorites]


One more smoking entry: I remember applying to college in the mid 1980s and the housing form asking if you preferred a smoking or non-smoking roommate; smoking in the dorms was fine if your roommate was okay with it.

(And Ghidorah, I visited Japan in the mid 1990s when the "nonsmoking" section of a coffee shop was three tables in the back amid a cloud of smoke.)

Growing up in the rural midwest my house didn't have a party line (though several of my farm-dwelling friends did) but we did have a strange six-minute limit to our local calls; after five minutes we'd hear a tone, then a longer tone and a dead line after another minute. It made talking to junior high friends a multi-call ordeal. Oh, and we only needed to dial five numbers to make a local call, though I believe that changed by the 1980s; by then we had a second phone line installed with a listing in the local phone book as "Teen Line."

Also - babysitting for families with coffee tables covered with Playboy, Penthouse, etc. I'm pretty sure that's not common now...
posted by sencha at 6:51 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


The TV remote physically turned the dial on the television. Like the dial would go thunk thunk thunk clockwise when you pressed the button.
posted by HotToddy at 7:13 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


Yes, the smoking, so.much.smoking...everywhere. I got (and still get) horribly motion sick when people are smoking in moving vehicles. Childhood travel was painful. Going on a Greyhound bus trapped with people smoking all around you for hours was just a miserable experience. I begged and begged and begged till my father reluctantly agreed not to smoke in the car (he apologized for being nasty about it 20 years later.) When I first worked in a museum in the early 1980s lots of people smoked, there were no restrictions on it in staff areas, and they smoked around the (often priceless) museum artifacts.

When I was a toddler (and the stereotypical cute little blond kid), my mother would put me in a playpen in the back yard, but I got bored so she switched to leaving me in the playpen in the front yard, pretty much unsupervised. She said I would happily make up to all the people and dogs that went by. Today, she would certainly have been reported, and also would have worried someone would just snatch me.

I was in high school in the early 1970's, when someone moved to our town from Colorado. She was the first person I ever saw who used a backpack to transport her books to and from school. It seemed very exotic at the time. My roommate in college had a boyfriend with a down winter jacket. First time I had ever seen that as well.

My college dorm had a phone booth with a pay phone installed on each floor for making or receiving calls. If you were walking by and it was ringing, you answered, and went to get the person it was for, or took a message for them. A few people with money paid to have a land line in their dorm room, but most of us couldn't afford that. For calling home, I would usually call and let it ring 3 times and then hang up and then they would call me back.

The drinking age was 18 for a while when I was in college, so my college actually had a pub in the student center that served alcohol.

Our small town had no fast food or chain stores of any kind till long after I left home. It was a major deal when they got a McDonald's. Now there is a Starbucks, which still amazes me.

Some typing stories.
I had to type all my college papers on a manual typewriter, which I did myself because I had no money. I would happily have paid someone who typed fast to do it for me if I could, since I type about 25 words a minute. I usually wrote them out and revised by hand and then typed them. Thank god for erasable bond for corrections.

In 1980, when I was right out of college and could not get a job, I got a temp job as a messenger for a law firm. One day I had to take some papers at the end of the day (actually pretty much after the end of the work day) to a judge's office to get a signature. When I got to the office, the only person still there was an older woman, who threw the paper in a typewriter, added some stuff, and then signed off on it. She was of course the judge, who looked at me and proceeded to tell me that typing was one of the more useful classes she took in high school. I'm a woman too, so she was kind of joking with me about it, since we both knew why women were routed to typing classes.

In general, typing (on typewriters) classes in high school were dominated by girls. Guys were not thought to need that, as they were not going to be clerical workers. Mister gudrun was a hunt and peck typist when I met him in college, and I used to help him with typing his papers. I had a feeling that computers were going to be a thing, and arm twisted him into taking an evening typing class in the early 1980s (they learned on IBM Selectric typewriters). He was later very grateful I did that.
posted by gudrun at 7:27 PM on October 1 [2 favorites]


Also - babysitting for families with coffee tables covered with Playboy, Penthouse, etc. I'm pretty sure that's not common now...

I'm pretty sure that wasn't common then. I did a lot of babysitting in the late 70's and I think I would have found that pretty weird. I do remember finding Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) on a bookshelf in one house where I was babysitting and reading it. At another house I spotted Fear of Flying, which I had read about somewhere, and I took it down and read all the dirty parts. Nowadays I suppose any girl who likes to read has devoured a thousand sexually explicit fanfics by the time she's sixteen.
posted by Redstart at 7:58 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


Redstart, I found it weird too at the time, but I can think of at least three different families (early 1980s) I baby sat for that left their porn mags - like, a stack of them - in their living rooms. Wow, maybe my hometown was weirder than I thought. There was definitely lots of other houses with books (and lots of free time to read after the kids went to bed) like Lady Chatterly's Lover or bodice-ripper romance novels on their bookshelves, so yeah, same.
posted by sencha at 8:43 PM on October 1


"I suspect it was mostly men who didn't know how to type."

My dad was in law school in the 1970s when women were beginning to enter law in larger numbers, and they were literally told by career services, "Don't admit you can type or they'll make you a secretary." And, you know, they did. The women he entered legal practice with in 1975 who could type got secretarized real fast. My dad went into corporate law, and he had his secretary print out all his e-mails until about 2005 so he could write his responses out longhand and she'd type them in. Then he started responding to the short ones with a four-finger hunt-and-peck that amused his children no end. But now he can type like an internet person, and at a reasonable clip. (Although my mom is like six times faster and she does most of his formal documents.)

He did say once in the 1990s that while he was glad women could now go to law school, it made for a real dearth of qualified legal secretaries, because when he started practice the legal secretaries were all women excluded from law school, who wanted to go to law school, and were 100% smart enough to go to law school. But once they could actually go to law school they stopped wanting to be legal secretaries! Which, like, OBVIOUSLY. But it's also notable how much of legal practice depended on super-qualified women doing the baseline work, who couldn't work in their proposed field because sexism!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 10:36 PM on October 1 [9 favorites]


Rural kids could get a driver's license at twelve, to be used only to drive to school and back. My domestic partner didn't get one of those driver's licenses, but he lived in a fishing village and was made to drive his father's truck to the breakwater to meet the fishing boats if the time was inconvenient for his dad to drive there. (The boats went out and came back with the tide so the time the truck was needed could be any time day or night.) He didn't take the truck out and wreck it until he was fourteen though.

Dog dirt everywhere. I lived in a good family neighbourhood in the city and there were lots of dogs roaming around, always friendly ones because if they weren't someone called and the dog would be seized. These dogs left their mark on the grass everywhere, so until I was about eight a trip out to play pretty much inevitably meant that I came home with it caked into my shoe soles.

Old men spitting. Only older men. It had been banned because it spread TB but they still did it. My dad could do because when he grew up it was something men learned.

One old WWI veteran, "Old Reg" who would lurch down the sidewalk talking to himself and if in a state of agitated distress might hit you. We were all carefully warned to stay out of arms range, and the cops were always kind to him because he was like that from shellshock.

House dresses. Very different from what women wore when they went outside, even if they were gardening or going to the store. Apparently you could wear them to hang up laundry in your own yard, but not if you were in the yard for any other reason.

Jokes about women drivers. Everyone knew how bad women were at driving.

Girdles. Older women all wore girdles. You could tell. Their shapes were obvious and if you got a hug the feel was obvious.

Juniors, misses and women's clothing - all adult sized, but styled to make sure everyone knew which group you were in.

The wringer washer: The lid unfortunately could not be used as a shield although it was a big round metal thing because it only had a little wooden knob in the centre which made impossible to hold during combat with one's sisters. The wringer squealed when you fed clothes through it and that meant you were doing it wrong. Sheets of grey water came streaming out back into the washer. If you were a kid you only did sheets if you had to help out, so you wouldn't break either your fingers or the buttons.

Sewing buttons on. Buttonhole twist was a heavier thread used for sewing them on, rather than regular sewing thread like you used for the rest of the mending. After being put through the wringer your buttons had a tendency to go missing. You sewed on buttons a lot. Like every week sometimes. The button box held replacement buttons. If you lost a unique button you had to replace them all.

The clothespin bag. A lot of people made their own out of a coat hanger and some cloth.

Washing your hands before meals. Lining up in the bathroom behind your siblings so you could wash yours because you all had to.

Brutally stiff bristles on your toothbrush. Being taught to brush your bottom teeth upwards and only upwards and your top teeth downwards and only downwards. If you did it side to side that was wrong.

Crayons that had the words non-toxic printed on the box. Previous to that if you ate a crayon they had to call poison control. Black and brown were both bad, but any other colour didn't matter.

Jovial old men with pockets of sweets they would give to random stranger children. They were NEVER child molesters. Those were the ones that chatted you up, and didn't have candy, although they would offer you some, if you agreed to follow them and get into the car. The old guys were the ones who rushed home and called the cops if they saw you with a known child molester.

Stopping strangers to ask them the time, because of course as a kid you didn't have a watch but also you had to be home on time.

Gogo girls and miniskirts being a sign of women's liberation. Unliberated women were uptight and prudish and scared of men and scared of sex.

No helmets except in battle scenes and often not then. No hockey helmets. No football helmets. No bike helmets. No motorcycle helmets. Wait. That's wrong. There were construction worker helmets.

Metal beer bottle caps. Everywhere. Metal soft drink bottle caps. Everywhere. Collecting them. Using them for dolls house pie plates.

"Bombs" on the road when a hole had been dug up. The bombs were extremely heavy, black metal, round and stinky with some dirty chemical smell, and when the construction crew had to go away for the night leaving the hole open they would place these bombs around the hole and light them. They would burn until dawn. They looked just like anarchist's bombs to us. If you got up reaaaally early and went out before people were yet going to church sometimes you could find them still burning with a small reddish flame. They were too heavy to steal. Also too hot. The farthest I ever got one was half a block and it was stone cold.

Matches everywhere. Only people with a gold cigarette lighter that they refilled with a bottle of lighter fluid had cigarette lighters, and that was a pain in the neck to keep refilling so they generally used matches. And matches got dropped everywhere. Often it was just the empty matchbook, but if you ever wanted matches and it hadn't rained that day or the night before you just walked around picking them up out of the grass until you found a matchbook with some still in it. They gave them out at most restaurants and many other places, with advertising printed on them. They were free with the purchase of cigarettes.

Using cigarette lighter fluid as a solvent to clean things. Using nail polish remover as a solvent to clean things. Using creosote. Flammable hairspray. Firm injunctions that you should never smoke in bed as you could fall asleep holding the cigarette, and that was a leading cause of house fires and deaths! My mother resolving to therefore always sit up when she smoked in bed.

The news coming in that smoking was definitely bad for the lungs and that it caused cancer. But it was okay if you used menthol cigarettes because they were cooler and so they didn't have the heat to do damage. A change over from filter cigarettes being rare to being common because if there was a filter in the cigarette you wouldn't get cancer or have to put up with overpowering peppermint.

Strike anywhere matches. Those were wooden and you could strike them anywhere, a brick wall was obvious. It was amusing to light them on your own trouser zipper but really cool people could light them with their thumbnail. Of course some people had an interesting scar on the tip of their thumb where the head of the match had come off and embedded under the nail while lighting. Those people didn't use their thumb nails, not after that.

People smoking cigars in restaurants. Men that is. After the meal. Being able to smell it all the way across the restaurant and while cigarettes were inoffensive cigars smelt appalling. The adults had to have a cigarette after the meal, and the waitress did not bring the bill until they had, so if you didn't actually want a cigarette you had to flag her down.

Pipe tobacco. Some just smelled like cigarettes, some smelled a bit ick and some smelled heavenly. The best pipe tobacco smelt like plum cake.

The transition from shoes to running shoes, generally called tennis shoes or sneakers. Until then the shoes had leather soles and were extremely slippery in some conditions. Also they had wooden heels, so although there was a leather covering on every part of the wooden heel someone walking down a hall or on a street could be heard, "Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap..." Really. That scene in Noir movies is based on real life, not supernatural hearing enhanced by terror. You could hear the teacher coming back down the hall if they had left the classroom.

Galoshes. Overshoes. Your boots went on over your shoes. You had to stomp into them.

Boys sports. There were about thirty of them. Girls sports. There were two.

Playing cards. Everyone had a deck of cards and everyone used them. Every kid above the age of four had their own deck, usually one that the adults had given them which was missing a few cards. Using the jokers to replace the first two lost cards. If you lost three you had to modify the rules. Decks made up out of two unmatched decks so half your cards had a cheeky woman blowing a kiss wearing a halter top and shorts and the other half had a brown and white retriever dog on the backs.

Older women who wore a hat for anything that wasn't totally informal.

The department store credit card application in the catalogues (Sears and Eatons) which had a space for the husband to sign when the wife applied for a card.

Reading the newspaper for information. Wednesday was movie listing day. If you didn't get the Wednesday paper you had no idea what movie was showing where.

Frozen pizza. I knew some kids who had had it. Strange idea. Frozen french fries. I didn't know any kids who had ever had any.

Dessert at the end of supper. Always. Sweets was a food group. Sweets were necessary to provide energy so you had to have them for good health. Daddy had been give glucose to suck on when he was flying during the war. Without that energy during the long flights they might not have made it home. Dessert was probably canned fruit and all canned fruit was canned in heavy syrup. Light syrup came in eventually. If you got to pour cream on it it merged with the cream instantly instead of being thick enough to make a marble effect.

A new fad for a product called yogurt, which now replaced cottage cheese as the stuff that dieting women ate with their salad. It was probably only temporary, but it came in single serving plastic cups with a foil lid, solid and sour, and underneath the white moulded milk product was a layer of jam.

Expensive adult bikes that had these funny levers under the handlebars which had lines that ran back to the pedals. They turned out to be brakes and they caused quite a few accidents because of course if you needed to stop quickly you back peddled instinctively and that no longer worked on those expensive fancy bikes.

Three speed bikes. Huh, apparently that made it easier to go up hills, just like changing gears in a car. Ten speed bike??! Okay, that was ridiculous. And clearly an affectation.

My dad really putting his shoulders into turning the wheel on the car because it had to get turned almost completely around in order to make a sharp turn and that took a lot of strength. (No wonder women were bad drivers. Driving clearly required a labouring man to safely do a sharp turn at speed.)

Firefighters hanging on to the back of speeding fire trucks. They had bars to hang onto. Being told that was why you must NEVER, EVER pull a false alarm. Frequently fire fighters died from falling off the back of a speeding fire truck and it wasn't so bad if it happened on their way to a real fire, but if they died and it was just a false alarm...

Baby dolls. That was the basic toy for little girls. Cars for boys. Dolls for girls. Balls for boy. Dolls for girls. Toy guns for boys. Dolls for girls. Baby dolls that drank and wet, baby doll accessories like strollers, baby carriages, bottles, bonnets and dolls clothes. Toy dishes. Baby dolls. Every little girl will grow up to be a mother, of course. Dunno what the boys will grow up to be, but the girls will all be mothers.

Baby carriages, with babies, left un-watched for a few minutes outside of stores.

Dogs waiting outside of stores.

Sitting on Santa's knee and giving him a kiss. Sitting on the head camp counselor's knee and giving him a kiss. Sitting on the tour guide's knee and giving him a kiss. Sitting on someone's father's knee and giving him a kiss. The worst was if it was a French kiss and the man had been smoking. Ick! Get off THAT knee as soon as you could.

Seagulls arriving and knowing that meant a liner had sailed in to the city from across the Atlantic. The seagulls followed the ocean liners all the way, and would follow it back to Europe when the ship sailed again.

Making our own paper dolls. Making our own dolls houses. Sewing our own dolls clothes. Making our own swords and our own toy boats. Woman over the age of forty often only gave either books or else home made gifts for Christmas, never anything bought except the books. Receiving home made bulletin boards (burlap over corrugated cardboard), bags (knitted out of yarn), slippers (knitted), stuffed toys, dolls clothes, booklets, needle books (construction paper), knitting needle bags, sewing kits, paper flowers, bead jewelry... homemade, all of it.

Women are not supposed to smoke in public. (They do anyway.)

Being reminded how to sit, never, ever with the knees apart. Wearing loose pleated skirts that inevitably resulted in your underpants showing. Wearing short skirts that inevitably resulted in your underpants showing. Being expected to turn somersaults over a bar at school along with all the kids in your class while half the girls are wearing skirts. It was clearly okay for your underpants to show. But never ever sit with your knees apart.

The family doctor doing house calls.

Socks that came in as many sizes as shoes did.

Women mending their nylons.

Making all long distance phone calls after two in the morning when the rates were cheap. Worked fine when calling England because if you set your alarm for four AM and got up then to place the call it's morning in Greenwich when they answer, but not so good when calling Ontario because at two AM it was three AM for them. Relatives chatting happily for a full fifteen minutes after being woken up at three AM and the only reason they reluctantly hung up was to avoid running the phone bill up. Relatives not being panicked when the phone rang at three AM and woke them up ringing insistently because at that hour it's probably long distance.

Letting the phone ring for thirty seven minutes straight until they finally wake up.

Boys are smarter than girls. Boys are stronger than girls. Easily provable facts. Well, yes, some girls are smarter than many boys. But only one women ever won the Nobel prize (Madame Curie) and everyone, adult and many children know that for a solid certain fact. Can't argue. Boys are smarter than girls. If doubt is voiced people laugh. It's a similar assertion to saying you believe in fairies. If you bring up the possibility a second time they are deeply amused.

Scholarships are ordinarily only for boys. If you are a girl trying to get a scholarship your parents have to ask, "Are girl's eligible?" and there is a taken aback pause before they tell them no.

People being staggered at the idea that another person in their community DOES NOT BELIEVE IN GOD. Adults losing all expression and then looking worried. Kids being nervous and stepping away and whispering. Kids being scared when they discover you don't believe in God.

Climbing elm trees. If you got a ladder to get up the first eight feet you could keep climbing. A tree house four stories off the ground.(Someone else made it in a vacant lot) Adults repeatedly removing the ladder or taking down the steps that were nailed to the tree. Carrying a ladder five blocks away when the oldest of us was about twelve and I was seven so that this time the adults couldn't take the ladder way and stop us from climbing the tree.

The obligatory all school assembly when someone who attended my elementary school was killed in traffic. Two kids and the traffic guard, Mr. Green died in the space of seven years at my one school and this was not abnormal.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:39 PM on October 1 [20 favorites]


Being taught to brush your bottom teeth upwards and only upwards and your top teeth downwards and only downwards. If you did it side to side that was wrong.

Whoa, wait a second! Did that stop being true? Why am I not getting the memos?
posted by Meatbomb at 4:20 AM on October 2 [1 favorite]


Sweets were necessary to provide energy so you had to have them for good health.

Actual candy bar advertising slogan: "A Milky Way a day helps you work, rest, and play."
posted by Daily Alice at 4:59 AM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Age of Majority cards. Prior to having photo ID for driver's licences this was photo government ID in Ontario that proved you were 19; old enough to drink.

You needed to have an older friend and use your picture/their name. That friend needed to be already using some other friends ID. There was always someone's parent willing to vouch for you on the ID form
posted by biggreenplant at 6:36 AM on October 2 [1 favorite]


One old WWI veteran, "Old Reg" who would lurch down the sidewalk talking to himself and if in a state of agitated distress might hit you. We were all carefully warned to stay out of arms range, and the cops were always kind to him because he was like that from shellshock.

We had one of these in the Noe Valley in SF in the late 60's. He would march around, blowing a whistle, yelling at nobody, and waving a baton.

So I was taught from a very early age that when somebody was yelling at people that weren't there that it meant they were CLEARLY INSANE. Fast forward to the 1990's and ever since, people have been yelling into cell phones, and now bluetooth headsets so that you don't even see the phone, and my first reaction is "warning, insane person" and my mind snaps back to that poor old shell-shocked vet.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:44 AM on October 2 [4 favorites]


"Bombs" on the road when a hole had been dug up. The bombs were extremely heavy, black metal, round and stinky with some dirty chemical smell, and when the construction crew had to go away for the night leaving the hole open they would place these bombs around the hole and light them.

I'm glad to see someone else remembers those. They looked just like the bombs in cartoons, and every time my parents were stopped at a light next to them, I was scared to death.

Speaking of fears, I was seven when the University of Texas tower shooting took place. Life magazine had many pages about it, and the tower in the pictures looked to me just like a tower in our town. I was terrified every time we drove past that tower for a long time and did not understand why my parents were so unconcerned and weren't trying to drive fast to get past it.

(There is a great movie about those shootings called The Tower. Not sure if it's still available on Netflix.)
posted by FencingGal at 12:18 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


I spent from 1956, until 1962 in Blytheville, Arkansas, and they still had Colored water fountains then. My brother couldn't see well and someone chided him for drinking from that fountain, and he looked at them and said, "Sorry, I thought it said colder!" We transferred to Germany just before desegration started. But wonderfully we went into military schools, which were already, completely, desegregated.

Please note, I am not making light of the horrific past, and the still horrific present.
posted by Oyéah at 12:35 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]


Sitting on someone's father's knee and giving him a kiss. The worst was if it was a French kiss and the man had been smoking. Ick! Get off THAT knee as soon as you could.

If we're using the same definition of French kiss, the past is a different and horrifying country.
posted by zamboni at 1:20 PM on October 2 [5 favorites]


"Bombs" on the road when a hole had been dug up. The bombs were extremely heavy, black metal, round and stinky with some dirty chemical smell,

AFAIK they were just filled with kerosene, which is lamp oil before the stinky bits are removed. And the ones I know were not so heavy that you couldn't carry them, 8 or 10 inches diameter. They had a ring so that they could be chained together to prevent theft but the road crew never bothered. There were a few around in my parents' circle of friends, used for garden parties. New ones were painted metallic blue.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:10 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


I once went on a date at an airport. It was a rainy evening and we sat in one of those giant terminals talking and watching the planes come and go. Then we went home. (To be clear it was not a first date, because I am not a monster. We both thought it was a good idea before we went.) You didn't need a plane ticket and getting through security just meant walking through a metal detector.

Apparently people would go out for dinner at the airport, once upon a time. Like it was a family outing where the kids had to dress up.
posted by surlyben at 7:40 PM on October 2 [6 favorites]


I totally forgot about those bomb pot things. Thanks for dredging that one up!
posted by mollweide at 8:26 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


I remember the bombs. They were replaced with the ubiquitous battery-powered flashing-yellow lamps, still in use today.

Do you remember the COLOR and TINT controls on color CRT TVs? The TINT was like a balance between too-pink and too-green. Turning the COLOR all the way down made it into Black & White.

I would love to take a date to dinner at the airport, at Encounter up in the Theme Building at LAX, but it closed. Well, I did, once.
posted by Rash at 8:32 PM on October 2 [7 favorites]


Radar detectors and CB radios. I think the radar detectors were illegal in some states, but eventually the radar guns just became more instantaneous and narrow making the detectors mostly useless. CB wast probably mostly a fad from some of the old trucker movies.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:32 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


I wrote: Sitting on Santa's knee and giving him a kiss. Sitting on the head camp counselor's knee and giving him a kiss. Sitting on the tour guide's knee and giving him a kiss. Sitting on someone's father's knee and giving him a kiss. The worst was if it was a French kiss and the man had been smoking. Ick! Get off THAT knee as soon as you could.

If we're using the same definition of French kiss, the past is a different and horrifying country.
posted by zamboni at 1:20 PM on October 2 [2 favorites]

I'm pretty sure we're using the same definition of a French kiss, with a tongue getting poked into your mouth, and the really horrifying part of it was the fact that other adults were the ones who were instructing us to go sit on the man in question's lap and they stood right there while it happened. Doubt they noticed the tongue though.
posted by Jane the Brown at 10:03 PM on October 2 [3 favorites]


COLOR and TINT controls on color CRT TVs?

Only with the NTSC (Never The Same Color) TV standard as used in the Americas. Europe used PAL, except for France which used SECAM. Those only had Color (saturation) and of course Brightness and Contrast.

Twiddling those controls was of course rather funny if you were a 9-year old on holiday in the US from a place that only had B/W TV.
posted by Stoneshop at 11:56 PM on October 2 [1 favorite]


I had never heard of the “bomb” construction markers and had to do some googling to figure out what they looked like. Interesting! They’re called Smudge Pots or Toledo Torches in case anyone else is curious like I was.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:54 AM on October 3 [5 favorites]


Thanks thorn bushes. I was trying to google to find pictures, but failing miserably.
posted by FencingGal at 6:05 AM on October 3


I had no idea the Tylenol murders were still so up in the air; I thought everybody was pretty satisfied that Laurie Dann had done them.

I had no idea anyone ever thought there was anything conclusive about those murders. They are an enduring mystery, like D.B. Cooper. ...

And that reminds me that plane hijackings used to be a thing. From 1968 to 1986, there were at least 15 plane hijackings every year. From 1987 to 2002, there were at least 10 a year.

Besides the Sept. 11 attacks, another famous incident was in the summer of 1976. Hijackers wanting to get free Palestinian militants and others forced the pilot to fly to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The flight had been planned to go from Tel Aviv to Paris. Commandos from the Israel Defense Forces rescued the hostages on July 4.
posted by NotLost at 10:26 AM on October 3


Oh while we're having this conversation, obviously bomb attacks, kidnappings and killings by the RAF in Western Germany in the 70s. My parents told me to never walk by the lockers at the central station in our town, because they could blow up any time (once, they did).
I guess every time has its weird things...
posted by Namlit at 10:59 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Gotta admit it took me a sec to realize you meant Red Army Faction and not, like, Biggles or Bomber Harris.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:33 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


I got an AM transistor radio for my seventh birthday, and the coolest thing was that you could pick up WLS from Chicago after nine at night. Anywhere. In 1966! I could get it in Colorado, Kansas, and deep in Alabama. I got a paper route at eight so I could buy the incredibly expensive 9-volt batteries to keep it running. I think they were 89 cents and that was twice as expensive as D-cells. They were originally kept next to the tube tester machine at the hardware store, but I guess kids started stealing them for radios, because you had to ask the man at the counter for one.

The gas crisis in 1971-72 was the first time I ever saw grown-ups acting like complete idiots in public. Literally threatening others with guns while they waited in line for 5 gallon gas rations. Six months later, gas price wars would take the prices back down to 29 cents a gallon on competing corners.

Schwinn bike ads in comic books would always say "$29.99 - Prices slightly higher west of the Rockies."
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:48 PM on October 3


I remember the gas lines but no gun play.
I've seen gun play at gas stations.

green stamps.

the sweet whaff of leaded gasoline.
cannabis illegal.
John Belushi.
Chevette with an 8 track player, Tape of Aretha Franklin welded-in.

The Dust Bowl. Howard Hughes.
Orange Aspergum ©
Root beer in a can, a real can.
smoking in theatre and theatre's.
smoking in metal shop, Parking lot, corner, any corner will do.
corperal punishment in school.
playing 'Tomb of Horrors' with Conan on a VCR loop.
real poofy sweaters.
posted by clavdivs at 7:17 PM on October 3 [3 favorites]


Tube tester machines! I'd forgotten those. When I was first getting into "hi-fi" around 13 or 14 years old I obviously didn't have money to buy sound equipment, but a friend of the family donated an old tube stereo amplifier...as in, probably 15 or 20 years old. I spent a lot of time at those testing machines trying to figure out what tube had died this time, causing a loud nasty hum instead of whatever I was trying to play through my flea-market turntable and homemade speakers (made out of scrap plywood and mismatched speakers, but still miles better than the tiny piss-ant mono speaker in my clamshell record player - not my actual model, mine was even more basic, but you get the idea).
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:21 PM on October 3 [2 favorites]


I learned to drive in a Chevette. No fancy bells or whistles, but sturdy, reliable as fuck, and usually easy to fix when anything did go wrong. The manual typewriter of cars.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:37 PM on October 3 [1 favorite]


my parents used to leave my sisters & I alone in the car all the time, unlocked, windows open. once we were in the "back back" of our station wagon, with our bare feet up on the open window ledge. an elderly couple passed by and stop to TICKLE OUR FEET!!!! can you imagine a stranger thinking it was ok to touch a random child??? that would never happen today.
posted by supermedusa at 9:38 AM on October 4 [3 favorites]


MTV used to be really awesome!! it was 24-7 music videos, no shows, no commercials. the original VJs. living in the outer boondocks of northern NJ I had never encountered alternative culture before that. I was 13 the year MTV started and I would come home from school and watch it until dinner time. all that cool European new wave, new romantic etc., all those cheesy dance routines. IT WAS AWESOME!
posted by supermedusa at 9:45 AM on October 4 [8 favorites]


So cheesy, so irresistible.

Something else I haven’t heard in a long time - the chunk chunk noise of a credit card being used as an embossing plate to make the charge slip. My other half just got a new physical card and it looks like a fake to me because the numbers aren’t raised.
posted by clew at 12:59 PM on October 4 [8 favorites]


I'm not even that old, but when I joined the Navy we still got paid by being handed a paper check. ATMs were just starting to be a thing, and you had to know where the few in town were. Just counting on there being one you would notice on your way somewhere, that would accept your card (they weren't all interchangeable), not a high-probability strategy.
posted by ctmf at 8:45 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


I used to have a bank book. It looked something like a passport from what I can remember. The lady at the bank rolled it into her typewriter and typed a new total when I made a deposit or withdrawal.
posted by pracowity at 3:52 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Freshman year of high school say '83 the cheerleaders or some other group did a fundraiser that was basically Tinder. You ponied up a couple of dollars and got a questionnaire that you filled out. They'd type it in to some hokey Apple ][+ program and a week later you would get your top 5 matches. My top match over the next 4 years... I could strangely see as a yep probably maybe?
posted by zengargoyle at 5:42 PM on October 5


Pracowity's bank book reminded me that our local bank still has a "Christmas Club" account, and they actually give you a savings passbook with lines on each of twelve 4" x 4" pages that will pass through their check validator to record your transactions. Can't touch a penny, however, until November 20th, when you receive the whole year's interest in your final deposit transaction. It's charming and ancient and fun to do. I get paid every two weeks, so I tend to max it out ($250) on the "three payroll months," when the third paycheck has no healthcare deductions. It has saved my bacon during a couple of lean years, just by being untouchable.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:19 PM on October 5 [3 favorites]


There was a year there where we weren't supposed to use mail boxes on the street to post our letters but had to take them in to the post office in case the FLQ had put a bomb into the mailbox.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:29 PM on October 13


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