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We’ve seen a lot of changes!

Ann Swanson

My generation has seen a myriad of changes. When I think of all the things that have changed through the years it makes me tired – no, I did not say old, but I guess that is probably true as well.

Take the telephone. When I was young, we had one telephone in the house. Grandma’s was in the living room. To dial out you rotated the little dial putting your finger in the hole of the number you wanted. You did that four times to make a connection. Incidentally, I do remember when they changed the numbers to seven digits.

Our telephone was an old model. You had to be careful not to pull it off the table when you dialed or while you were talking. At my great grandfather’s house, they had one of those candlestick phones that you held to speak into. My grandmother who lived in the country had one of those wooden wall phones. She had to call the operator to call out.

When the phone rang you answered it. Those annoying robocalls that plague us all now days were not happening at that time. When you wanted to call out however, you had to listen to see if someone else was using the line. It was called a “party line” because there was more than one phone on each line.

I found out when I moved to the country that when the phone rang you did not always answer it. You had to listen for your ring – mine was one long ring. That was a step-up for them since in the old days the calls went through an operator. Everyone could hear what was being said.

Did I mention that you were tethered to one spot? You could install a long cord so that you were able to move around some, but pretty much you sat or stood still to talk. When my children were dating, we limited the number of calls they could make and the length of the call since both of them had friends they wanted to talk to.

At that time there was no such thing as texting. There were no problems with phone calls at the dinner table.

The only problem I ran into was when my son’s parrot chewed off the long cord. His platform was in the corner by the phone. He reached out at one point and chewed it off! That parrot caused a lot of problems. When I tried to enter my message to my students each night, I had to be sure he was not in a talkative mood or otherwise I had to do the message over.

Of course, you could not talk in your car either so you did not have to stop to text or get a message. When I was traveling to Cleveland there were still no cell phones. I bought cards to use in the payphones to call home.

Enough about the phones. All of you know what is available today. How things have changed!

Another huge change was disposable diapers. In my day we used the cloth kind that needed to be soaked and rinsed before you could wash them. You could not wait too long to wash them or the diaper pail smelled. There was no such thing as disposable diapers. We even had rubber pants to put over the cloth diapers so they did not leak.

When you took a baby out you carried a large supply of diapers and some extra clothes as well. You also took a plastic bag along so you could put the dirty diapers inside to bring them home to wash.

When my children were in diapers, I did not have either a washer or a dryer. Can you imagine telling a bride today that she would be without those “necessities”? I lived beside my in-laws and used grandma’s washing machine. As for drying, the diapers were hung out on the clothesline. They smelled so good when you took them off the line although they were not as soft as those run through a dryer.

The only drawback to this method was the weather. If it rained, I was forced to hang the diapers indoors on a rack in the bathroom. During the winter I also used the rack. I had to plan ahead so as not to run out of diapers.

My children were just a little over a year apart. That meant two in diapers! My days were busy just keeping them in diapers.

They did have laundry service in those days where they collected the dirty diapers and brought back clean ones. I think you sort of rented the diapers. Of course, we could not afford that!

This method was certainly an incentive to have the children potty trained early.

Something that came across my desk recently referred to fast food. Someone was asked, “What was your favorite fast food?”

“We did not have fast food when I was growing up,” they answered.

“Where did you eat?” he asked.

“We ate at home,” I answered. “I explained that mom cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the dining room table and if I didn’t like what she put on my plate I was allowed to sit there until I did like it.”

Now, people eat a lot of their meals out or otherwise they bring home food from restaurants. I do remember when the first fast food place started. They proudly posted a sign at the restaurant that told when they sold the first million burgers!

Just a taste of what life was like back when I was growing up. Few people ate dinner outside of the home. When we went to a restaurant it was a treat. My own children remember eating out when we went Christmas shopping. Other than that, we ate at home and Mom did the cooking. It was lucky that I enjoyed cooking!

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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