Tag Archives: history


Good morning Everyone!

I finally have relented and allowed Kayla to join Facebook, with the single stipulation that I MUST approve all friends and follows before she either makes or accepts either.  Her first wave of friends includes most of our family (if there’s anyone out there I missed, it’s purely accidental and I apologize!) including my mother.

Last night, I went in Kayla’s room to check on her, and she was very proud to tell me she had just been chatting online with my mother (her Grandma Dottie.)  Kayla was happy and excited.

The conversation led me to think about communications.

Bare foot Girl

Messages By Foot
All Rights Reserved

For millenia, the only means of communication that people possessed was mouth-to-mouth.  Coupled with transportation limited to the use of the foot, it took a very long time for messages to get anywhere farther than maybe the next cave over.

Assyrian War Ship

Relief Carving of an Assyrian Battle Ship from around 800 B.C.

A few brave souls realized that you could travel to certain places quicker if you went by water.  There were unique dangers involved and the range of places you could reach by water were limited, but you could travel farther faster then on foot.

One day during those vast uncharted millennia, some enterprising soul evaluated the risks of falling off a horse trying to break it versus the rewards of being able to get a message three villages over in half the time, and the use of the horse for transportation and communication began.

Ox Cart

Ox Cart
All Rights Reserved

Another incredibly brave family apparently very fond of their possessions and wanting to move elsewhere without having to leave any behind decided to take two or four oxen and attach them to a wagon with their stuff in it.  Big animal + big horns = big problems, but someone persevered long enough to make it work.

Smack dab in the middle of antiquity, the Phoenicians, who were fantastic sailors, decided to invent the alphabet.  Before that, the Babylonians had invented a kind of picture language they inscribed on stones, and the Egyptians invented the hieroglyphics they wrote on papyrus and tomb walls, but while the Babylonians and Egyptians wrote primarily for local purposes, the Phoenicians were salesman, the tradesmen of the Mediterranean, and they need something fast, snappy, easy to adapt and relatively easy to learn.

Roman Road Algeria

Remains of a Roman Road in Algeria

So now, messages could be sent directly to someone else in a fairly far away place preserved in writing rather than dependent on memory and transmitted by ox, horse or foot power.  The Romans, believing that conquering required an excellent road system, aided this process with a series of excellent roads built throughout Europe and the Middle East.  Portions of those roads, some of them built over 2000 years ago, still exist today.

Bear in mind  that it took the world thousands of years to reach this point.  For another couple of millenia, communications’ revolutions were sedate, although people, being people, continued to make better versions of the equipage that animals could pull behind them, the ships that men could sail and the materials used to preserve and transmit messages.

Richard Trevithick

Richard Trevithick’s “Puffing Devil” (Replica)

Then, on February 21, 1804, Richard Trevithick’s “puffing devil” steam locomotive made the first train run on a track from point b to point a.    It took  about a decade for the commercial ramifications of steam engines to come to fruition, but by 1850, there were over 9000 miles of track laid down in the United States, and over 6621 miles laid down in England.

In 1837, inventors in England and in the United States invented separate telegraph systems capable of receiving and transmitting messages across wires in mere minutes.  Communication possibilities exploded.

Bell 1880 telephone

Alexander Bell Talks on a Telephone in 1880

Until now, the driving force behind communication/transportation innovations was to improve commerce, (although train companies were quick to pick up on the possibilities of passenger service).  However, communications began its next evolution in 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone, that is, the first device that was capable of producing a clearly understandable reproduction of a human voice.  By the 1900’s, not only had telephones spread throughout the United States, but their main switchboard facilities had begun to become mechanized.  As part of the effort to improve telephone service, the first digital networks began to be developed starting in the 1940’s, although it wasn’t until 1978 that Motorola developed and sold the world’s first mobile phone.

In the early 1970’s, my family lived overseas in Taiwan for a couple of years.  Even then, we could not talk to people back home by telephone very much or for very long, so we would record stuff on cassette tapes and mail them back home to the states.  I was very moved when, on my grandfather’s death a couple of years ago, I came across a cassette tape he had kept from that time.

1950 Rotary Dial Phone

Rotary Dial Phone from the 1950’s

Even when we came back to the states in the mid-1970’s, people had rotary dialing, not touch tone, and the phone stayed attached to the kitchen wall because cordless phones were either not invented yet or at least not inexpensive enough for normal people.

Now, of course, we take instant communication for granted.

New Model Cell Phone

New Model Cell Phone: HTC One, M9

If I can’t remember something I needed at the grocery store, I stop in the middle of the store and call home to find out what the unknown item was.  In fact, I get miffed if I can’t reach someone right away.

Instead of having to run for the kitchen phone from remote areas of the house when the phone rings, we now get to hunt for the cordless phone all over the house because Kayla and I both seem to be constitutionally incapable of putting the darn thing back in the same place every time.

When one of my bosses went to Germany a few weeks ago, he never missed a beat back here at home.  The speed at which he could obtain his e-mails was only limited by whether they were coming in at a time of the day when he wanted to read them.

Sometimes, (read “almost always” if you are below the age of 25), we don’t even talk on the phone anymore; we text messages back and forth on our cell phones.

Many younger people are beginning to eschew home phone lines altogether, keeping only mobile phones.  I can understand that, but it just seems so unrooted not to have at least one landline connected to your place of residence.

We can chat face to face by Skype to people on the other side of the world and receive news from anywhere in minutes through signals bounced up to and down from satellites orbiting the earth.

And we take it all for granted.

Until the smile on your child’s face after talking to her grandmother lights up your world as well as her’s.

Have a great day!


Just Hangin’ – The History of the Humble Coat Hanger

Good morning Everyone!

Have you ever looked at one of the objects that we use without thinking every day, and wondered who came up with the invention?  I do, and yesterday as I was putting the empty coat hangers from my clothes for the day into my closet (yes, Mark, I do remember to do that occasionally!) I suddenly wondered where coat hangers come from.

Several websites (all of whom, I think, were copying Wikipedia’s entry) say that Thomas Jefferson was believed to have invented a forerunner of the wooden clothes hanger.  However, the foremost authority on all things Thomas Jefferson, the Monticello website, disagrees.  According to the Monticello web site, there is no evidence that Thomas Jefferson invented the individual clothes hangers similar to what we use today, but he did invent the most ingenious closet gadget which allowed him to hang and access over 48 sets of coats, waist coats and other clothing easily.  While the device did not survive the ravages of time, the researchers at Monticello, relying on help from The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia have come up with a conjectural drawing of what this revolving closet might have looked like.

Thomas Jefferson, coat hanger, clothes rack

Thomas Jefferson’s Revolving Closet Rack
From http://www.monticello.org

Apparently, one of the first patents for a device similar to today’s coat hangers was issued in 1869 to O.A. North, from New Britain Connecticut.  unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate that patent or the drawing that should be with the patent – records that old at the United States Patent Office are listed by year, classification and patent number only rather than by key word.  Over 13,000 patents were issued in 1869 alone!

Until 1903, coat hangers were made of wood supported by other materials.  The ubiquitous wire coat hanger was apparently first designed by Albert J. Parkhouse in 1903.  Parkhouse was an employee of the Timberlake Wire and Novelty Company in Jackson, Michigan.  His co-employees were unhappy because the company did not have enough coat hooks, so many of their heavy winter coats would fall to the floor during their work shift.  Mr. Parkhouse grabbed a length of wire, twisted it so that one end had a hook on it, there were two ovals below that, and then the other end of the wire was twisted around the stem of the hook.

Coat Hanger, Patent. Invention

The First Wire Coat Hanger

In keeping with the custom of the day, Parkhouse’s employer, Timberlake, patented the idea and reaped the profits.  After a few years, Albert Parkhouse  (perhaps realizing that it is cold in Michigan in winter and not that cold somewhere else) moved his family to Los Angeles where he started his own wire novelty company.  He died at the age of 48 from a ruptured ulcer.

Over the years, many other patents have been issued for designs that improved the original one, to where today the variety of coat hangers is overwhelming.  However, the wire coat hanger is the champion of them all, beloved by dry cleaners everywhere and collecting in our closets in prolific amounts.

Many  Hangers Photogrpah by:  "Grucce" by A7N8X - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grucce.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Grucce.jpg

Many Hangers
Photograph by:
“Grucce” by A7N8X – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Have a great day!



Bibliophilic Friday: The Miracle at Belleau Wood

Good Morning Everyone!

World War I, Alan Axelrod, Maines, belleau wood

The Miracle At Belleau Wood by Alan Axelrod

 Currrent and former members of the United States Marine Corps as well as history buffs interested in World War I or military history will enjoy The Miracle at Belleau Wood by Alan Axelrod.  As a rule, I find military histories somewhat hard to follow – I get lost in a maze of place names and general’s names and dates and lose track of where I am in both time and space.  This book, focusing on a single battle, is an exception.

The book provides the reader with a good description of trench warfare in World War I at its full maturation. It delivers a hard-hitting, clear view of the reality of terms tossed around in history books such as “the fog of war.”

More than anything else, this book is a coming of age story about the United States Marine Corps.  The author’s contention is that this battle consolidated the position of the USMC in the public eye as the leading edge fighters of the United States military, the all-volunteer force that is proud to be “the first to fight.”  The USMC, of course, needed no such consolidation in its own mind; it has always known who it is.

World War I, Belleau Wood

A Marine Machine Gun Unit after 28 days at Belleau Wood

Alan Axelrod does a good job of presenting the build-up to the battle and the battle itself in an engaging manner, but without glorifying the concept of war itself.  The book is replete with anecdotes from people who were in the battle which highlight not only the bravery but the humor men seem to find in even the grimmest situations.  One of my favorite anecdotes is the Marine officer who received a message from a French officer that the Marines were supposed to retreat as the French were retreating.  The Marine looked up and told the messenger, “Retreat?  Hell, we just got here.”  My second favorite anecdote is the exchange between one officer and another when the first officer, Major Thomas Holcomb, came forward to meet with Major Frederic Wise, whose battalion he was to relieve shortly.  As he arrived, the Germans cut loose with a fierce artillery barrage.  Holcomb looked at Wise and asked, “Is this celebration due to my arrival?”  Dead pan, Wise replied, “No…This is only routine.”

Axelrod does not shield the reader from the horrors of war in the trenches, either.  The casualties in this battle were horrific – over 120 officers and over 5700 men.  As Americans rediscovered in another war a generation  later on the shores of Normandy, in spite of their heavy losses, the Marines at Belleau Wood ultimately succeeded because American commanders and officers explained to their troops their objectives and how they intended to achieve them.  American soldiers then used their ingenuity, experience and gut determination to achieve that objective – if they were cut off from their squad or platoon, if the higher ranking officers were killed, the individual soldiers still strived to forge forward to win the battle.

During the battle, the Marines were commanded by an army general, General Harbord.  By the end of the battle, the Marines voted to make General Harbord an honorary marine, an honor he ranked personally as the highest honor he ever achieved.

One of the reasons the battle of Belleau Wood was important was that it was the first time that United States fighting forces would fight the Germans essentially on their own. FN.  The Germans hoped that they would be able to squelch and demoralize the American marines completely, gaining a psychological edge on the battlefield.  The Germans also were racing against time – the sheer number of men the Americans would be able to field on behalf of the Allies would ultimately overpower Germany, which was reaching exhaustion.  For the Germans to win the war, this last offensive push had to succeed – and at Belleau Wood, only the Marines stood between them and a break in the lines to reach Paris.

The extent to which the German troops were able to “squelch” and “demoralize” the Marines can be judged by the nickname the German soldiers gave to them – the Teufelhunden, which means “Devil Dogs.”

I was very interested to learn that among the forces on the field during the battle, only the Marines emphasized the importance of marksmanship in regular battle as well as for snipers.  Common military practice at the time was to teach troops to simply point in the general direction of the enemy and shoot, the theory being that you would have so many bullets flying at the enemy at one time that he was bound to suffer casualties.  Not so the Marines – each Marine aimed at a target when he shot, and what he aimed at, he hit.

It does take the author several chapters to ease the reader into the battle – about four – and I would have liked to know a little bit more about what happened to various people after the battle throughout the rest of the war.  The first four chapters, however, provide the reader with important background information without which the reader would be unable to appreciate exactly what the Marines did at Belleau Wood and there are references throughout the book to what happens to certain of the Marines as time goes on.

Marines, Belleau Woods

Members of the 6th – Marines gather on the edge of Belleau Wood resting after the battle

The author’s assessment of the final result of the battle is interesting, too.  Many historians credit the Marines in this battle with preventing the fall of Paris in Ludendorff’s last offensive to break through the trench lines.  However, most historians also believe that once the Marines had done this, fairly early on in the battle, the rest of the fight to take the wood, which cost so many Marine lives, accomplished little. The author agrees, and yet, as he explains, after listing the terrible tally of the battle – 126 Marine officers and 5057 Marine men killed along with many more Germans:

For the U.S. Marine Corps, this investment in blood has never been subject to question or controversy.  It was a mission.  That in itself is all that really matters.  Beyond this however, it was a test of American military capacity and American character, and the marines felt fortunate that were given the responsibility for taking and passing this test. … The reputation of the marines as America’s fiercest warriors, the nation’s elite fighting force, was forged in this battle.  After Belleau Wood, the marines claimed the right to be regarded as the American vanguard, the first to fight and if necessary, the last to leave.

This book is definitely worth your time.

Have a great day!


FN.  An army unit temporarily “on loan” to the French had acquitted itself well a few weeks earlier as well in stopping a German advance.  As a rule, General Pershing, the overall commander of the American Expeditionary Force, wanted the U.S. troops to fight as their own units rather than interspersed between French and English troops; however, one of the Ludendorff offensives compelled him to loan the artillery unit to the French.


European Overpasses

Good morning Everyone!

Belgian Countryside

Belgian Countryside

One hundred years ago, Europe was enjoying one of the most splendid summers it had ever seen. None of the countries then in Europe could have imagined that in less than four months, they would be involved in the bloodiest slaughter of men ever up until that time, the First World War. Of course, since no-one gave these countries a memo in advance about World War II, at the time they called the war “The Great World War” or “The War to End All Wars.” The Great War began with Germany invading neutral Belgium in order to reach France under what was called the Schlieffen Plan. Because tiny Belgium had the gall to resist this infringement on its sovereignty (and even to hold back the German army for a small period of time), Germany exacted a heavy price from it both during the battle for and the occupation of Belgium. Another country, Poland – which did not then exist, having been apportioned between the Powers That Be – became the main land over which the Eastern Front of the Great War was fought. It too suffered terribly during the war.

Schlieffen Plan

Schlieffen Plan
(Public Domain)

On September 1, 1939, a scant 20 to 21 years after the end of the Great World War, World War II began with Hitler’s Germany’s unprovoked invasion of Poland.  Once again, German occupation caused Poland and its citizens great suffering. On May 10, 1940, tiny Belgium, which in 1936 had officially declared itself neutral in the event of a second general European war, was again overrun by Germany. It was forced to surrender in 18 days. As before, it suffered great loss of life and economic prosperity, and had hundreds of thousands of its citizens drafted into forced labor in Germany.

Polish Cavalry Fighting the Battle of Bzura in World War II (Public Domain)

Polish Cavalry Fighting the Battle of Bzura in World War II (Public Domain)

Now Russia under Putin has started to ease its toe into the waters of expansionism and radical nationalism, starting with Ukraine and possibly Georgia (remember the argument over natural gas/oil no one showed up for?). If I were Poland and Belgium, I’d hire every road builder in the United States and Europe and build a huge overpass across the length of my country suitable for armies to travel over without harming the country below. If the third general war ever breaks out, and against all probability it stays conventional, that’s their best bet for minimal harm.


by chuyu@123rf.com

And on that uncharacteristic note, I still hope that each of you have a good day!


An American Love Story

Hi Everyone!

President Andrew Jackson
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired and/or it is the work of public United States employees.

I have a confession to make:  the first time I “met” Andrew Jackson, I did not like him.  I was first “introduced” to this larger than life figure in a book about the “Trail of Tears,” the forced march of the Cherokees from their homes in Georgia and Alabama out West to the Mississippi I found his decision to relocate the Cherokees and other Indians unconscionable and unjust. 

Unfortunately, human beings are complex, and very few of us are entirely evil or entirely good, so later, as I learned a little bit about the Battle of New Orleans, and when I realized what Andrew Jackson accomplished in that major victory of the War of 1812, with the very limited men and supplies available to him, my attitude changed to include just a little bit of grudging admiration. 

That grudging admiration increased even more when I learned about his enduring and reciprocated love for his wife, Rachel, who was originally Rachel Donelson.  From all accounts, she was the only woman he ever loved. 

Rachel Jackson
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired and/or it is the work of public United States employees.

He met her at the age of 21, when, just arriving in the frontier town of Nashville as Solicitor (ie., prosecutor) for the Western District of the North Carolina Territory, he was looking to make his own mark.  He first boarded in a boarding house run by Rachel’s mother, which is how the two met.

Prior to meeting Andrew Jackson, Rachel had a brief, but unhappy marriage to Captain Lewis Robards, and the two separated in 1790.  In 1791, believing, due to a false newspaper article Robards caused to have printed in the local paper, that Robards had obtained a divorce from Rachel, Rachel and Andrew Jackson got married. 

In 1794, however, for the first time, Rachel and Andrew Jackson learned that Captain Robards had not, in fact, filed for or obtained a divorce.  Immediately upon learning this, Rachel moved out of Andrew’s house, and filed for divorce herself.  The divorce, the first ever in Kentucky, was granted in 1794, and the couple remarried. 

For the next 35 years, Andrew Jackson and Rachel Jackson stayed happily married.  Since Jackson was always a controversial figure, Andrew Jackson’s political enemies claimed that Rachel was a bigamist as necessary to attempt to defeat him in various political races.  The presidential election in 1828 was particularly brutal.  When Rachel died after the election but before his inauguration in 1829 of a heart attack, Andrew Jackson forever after blamed her death on his political opponents.  FN.

It is in his response to her death that some of the most endearing traits of Andrew Jackson come to life.  When she first died, Andrew Jackson refused to believe that she was dead, and urged his family and servants to put more blankets on the bed in case she woke up and was cold.  Soon after her death, he commissioned an artist to paint two miniatures of Rachel from a portrait done late in her life so that he would always be able to carry her with him.  He said good night to her every night before he went to sleep, and her final portrait hung across from his bed so that she would be the first thing that he saw when he woke up.

In the tomb that he built for her at their beloved home in Tennessee is etched the epitaph that he wrote for her.  In these words you hear the love and grief echo back through centuries:

Here lie the remains of Mrs. Rachel Jackson, wife of President Jackson, who died December 22nd 1828, aged 61. Her face was fair, her person pleasing, her temper amiable, and her heart kind. She delighted in relieving the wants of her fellow-creatures,and cultivated that divine pleasure by the most liberal and unpretending methods. To the poor she was a benefactress; to the rich she was an example; to the wretched a comforter; to the prosperous an ornament. Her pity went hand in hand with her benevolence; and she thanked her Creator for being able to do good. A being so gentle and so virtuous, slander might wound but could not dishonor. Even death, when he tore her from the arms of her husband, could but transplant her to the bosom of her God.

Through one of those occasional miracles that occur in the preservation of history, the Hermitage, the Jackson home in Tennessee, has been remarkably preserved.  You can go see the Jackson tomb, now with both Andrew and Rachel Jackson buried there, surrounded by a garden that is much the same as it was when Rachel tended it.  The house itself is open for tours, and contains the furniture that Andrew and Rachel Jackson owned.  The entire presentation does not gloss over the less savory aspects of Andrew Jackson’s career; instead it presents, unapologetically, a full portrait of a complex, gifted man- and his tender relationship with the woman he loved until the day he died.

Photograph of Andrew Jackson just months before his death by Matthew Brady;  Jackson told Brady that Brady had made him “look like a monkey.” 
This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.

Have a great day everyone!


FN.  I am sure the tactics on the Jackson side of the election were equally brutal, but that is not the point of this post.

Pickles and The Melting Pot

Good morning Everyone!

Consider, for a minute, the humble pickle.  How did a transmogrified cucumber come to be one of the standard items in most American refrigerators?

A dill pickle

A Dill Pickle

In our house, the word “pickle” means only one thing – kosher dill pickles, preferably made by Vlasic although we will settle for Mount Olive.  We have at least one family member (Kayla) who loves pickles just a bit too much.  The child actually drinks (when she can get away with it; both parents forbid her from doing it whenever we can catch her at it) the juice from the pickle bottle and would willingly include a pickle as a staple at breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I know this because I caught her eating two large kosher dill pickles for breakfast the other day.

After I waved Kayla off her third helping of pickles that day, I started wondering about their history – how did someone discover how to take a cucumber and transform it into a pickle?  The answer, unfortunately, appears to be lost in the mists of time.  Pickling is an ancient form of food preservation, and as early as 4000 years ago, people in India were soaking cucumbers in a water/salt mixture with spices to make pickles.  The Romans learned about cucumbers and pickling from India, and carried the idea with them as they proceeded to conquer a good bit of the known world.

In most parts of the world, the term “pickle” refers to any food that has been preserved in brine, vinegar or in rare cases, a lye solution.  However, here, in both the United States and Canada, “pickle” most commonly refers to the dill pickle so beloved by my child, which is created by fermenting/soaking cucumbers in a briny mixture that include a lot of dill and some garlic, among other spices.

Julius Caesar, pickles

Julius Caesar, lover of pickles

A number of famous people have either liked or used pickles to their advantage – Julius Caesar is rumored to have liked pickles, while Christopher Columbus fed his sailors pickles to help ward off scurvy.  Pickles are mentioned twice in the Bible at Numbers 11:5 and Isaiah 1:8.

Vlasic kosher dill spears

Vlasic Kosher Dill Spears, Beloved by my Family

Vlasic pickles have been around since before World War II.  The original Vlasic entrepreneur, Frank Vlasic, came to America in 1912 from Poland.  He started a milk and cheese business, which his son, Joe, carried on.  Joe decided to expand the family business from just milk and cheese to include Polish pickles.  Vlasic pickles as a brand though did not truly take off until during World War II, when Joe decided to market his pickles in glass containers.  Now, Vlasic pickles are the top-selling brand of pickles in America.

American Melting Pot

American Mellting Pot

So, in one of those odd twists of fate we often find, a food invented in India,carried by Romans throughout Europe, carried by Europeans to the New World and perfected by a Polish immigrant’s son in the bustling city of Detroit became an All-American food that is a staple at American picnics and barbecues.  A better example of the concept of the American melting pot would be hard to design!

Have a great day!



Good morning everyone! 

Something Kayla did yesterday reminded me of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, which memory led me to consider all of the things that have changed since I was her age.   So, for your edification, and my satisfaction, here are a few things to think about, in no particular order.

1)   Johnny Carson was the host of the Tonight Show before Jay Leno.  He was the host for 30 years, from 1962 to 1992.  If you ever get the chance to own or rent some of his shows, please do.  They’re really funny!

Johnny Carson

2) Imagine a CD expanded to about five times its normal size and made of a dark brown plastic vinyl, and you have a good idea of what an “record” is.  A “record” was used to play music on an instrument called, strangely enough, a “record player.”  It worked by placing a “needle” onto the vinyl and transforming the sound from there.  A record could be played at various speeds, the most prevalent of which during my school years was 33 revolutions per minute.  Most record players had faster speeds too and when you used the faster speed on a 33 record, anything you were playing sounded like it was being sung by the Chipmunks. 

Close-up of Record on Record Player

3)   For those who have never owned a CD, only an IPOD, a CD is a silvery round object, maybe 3 – 4 inches across, put into a CD player to play music.  CD players are found in most cars now, as opposed to cassette tape players, which used to be the musical mobile method of choice. 

4) A cassette tape was a plastic case, about the size of a deck of cards, with a magnetic tape inside it imprinted with sound, usually music, although if you were in the military and stationed overseas, you would buy cassette tapes, record on them by talking into the cassette recorder, and then mail the cassette tapes to your loved ones in the States.

Cassette Tape

5) An 8 track tape….well, it’s pretty hard to describe an 8 track tape.  Just take my word for it that it was very bulky (imagine a small paperback) but also used at one time to play music from a magnetic tape.  Unless you had a technologically advanced 8 track player that allowed you to rewind or forward, you basically listened to the whole album to reach your favorite songs.

8 Track tape and player in car

6)   The typewriter was an instrument somewhat like a keyboard, only much bigger, and without spell check or delete or editing capabilities.  You typed a document by feeding a piece of paper into the typewriter, and hitting the keys, which caused a metallic lever with a letter on it to hit a ribbon of ink and make an imprint on the page.  If you made a mistake on a document while using a typewriter, you would have to re-type the document, unless you were lucky enough to own a typewriter with an erasing ribbon, and even that had its limits. 

This typewriter has been used by at least four generations of my family! This was Kayla in 2009.

7)   Once upon a time, the distance a telephone could travel was limited to the length of the wire plugged into the wall, so you had to sit at the place where a phone resided in order to either take or receive a call.  Because of this, you had to wait until you were at home or in a building with a phone before you could talk to anyone. 

8)    A payphone was a phone for use by the public, placed at strategic intervals along a road by the phone company or placed, at a business’s request, on the business premises.  To use it, you had to place a coin (at first a dime and then later a quarter) into a slot at the top of the payphone front, and then dial the number.  If you needed to use the payphone to call long distance, or to talk more than 3 minutes, you needed to come prepared with a lot of coins!


9)   There was a time when video games did not exist.  Then, we would either play board games, watch TV, read, practice musical instruments, or find other things to do.  There also was a time when video games could only be played in arcades, usually at the mall, on huge machines.  Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaxa were all the “in-games” at one time.  The arcade video games required quarters, too.

10)    TV used to involve just the TV itself  (not the TV, the surround sound, the DVD player and the cable box) and there were a total of 3 to 4 channels in most places with maybe 5 to 6 in bigger cities which could support an “independent” station.  You had to walk up to the TV and turn a switch in order to change channels.  Almost every city or town had access to the 3 networks, ABC, CBS and NBC.  Many had access to a PBS channel, too.  If there was nothing you wanted to watch on any of the three to five channels available, you had to find something else to do.

11)    To be able to see TV, you had to use an “antenna“.  Imagine something that is a cross between a cell phone tower and a small satellite dish, and you have a sort of idea about an antenna.  Sometimes, if you wanted to see ABC instead of NBC, you would have to turn the antenna to a different direction in order to see the picture on the TV screen clearly.  

TV Aerial Antenna

12) You used to have to roll down windows in your car by using a “window handle.”  It was a lever with a knob on the end that you would wind over and over one way until the window was down, and over and over the other way until the window was up. 

Window Handle

13)  There was no such thing as “Google” or the internet, therefore it was impossible to “google” anything.  If you wanted to know about a particular topic, you had to go to the library and do research.  If you wanted to know about a particular location before you took a trip there, you had to write the Chamber of Commerce or Tourism Bureau in that area well in advance of your trip and ask it to send you materials.  You also could telephone, and take notes while you talked by writing on a piece of paper with either a pencil or pen.

14)   We communicated with each other in person, over the telephone, or by mail.  In other words, no texting, e-mails or cell phones.  If you wanted to send lengthy information to a person who lived far away, you would either write by hand or with a typewriter the information you wanted to share on a piece of paper, put the paper in an envelope and mail it using a stamp.  If you needed to save the information you were sending, you had to find a copy machine you could use.  You used to be able to find a few copy machines at either a public library or a post office.

15)   Overnight mail or Fed Ex?  It didn’t exist for most of us. 

16)   Your only options when it came to shopping were to travel to the stores and look at things, or come into possession of a store’s catalog, leaf through the catalog to find what you want and then phone or mail in your order with a check.

17)   There were credit cards, but no such thing as debit cards. 

18)   No ATM’s, either.  You had to carry your money with you, which meant planning ahead, which meant I was in trouble!

19)   The main way to take and view pictures was to buy rolls of film, place one roll of film in your camera at a time, take enough pictures to use up an entire roll and then drop them off somewhere so they could be sent to another place to be developed.  This meant that normally you had to wait about a week after you finished the roll, if not longer, before you could see your photographs.  If you wanted to send a photograph to someone, you had to mail it in a letter.  

Roll of Film

20)  Some people had a “Polaroid” camera, which would take the picture and spit it out immediately from its front.  Then you would have to wait about two to four minutes to see the picture clearly.  Polaroid pictures were fun, but if you ever wanted a copy of the photograph, it was difficult to obtain.

Polaroid Camera

21)   You used to be able to go see a movie for a dollar per person.  Not to mention gas costing well under a dollar.  And we thought that was a lot at the time!

Have a great day everyone!