Last updated 4/4/2023 at 2:08pm
As we move into our late 70s and 80s, one of the few pleasures left for us is memories. I am told that we all have a tendency to remember things in the past as being truly better than they were. There is always a lot of talk of “the good ole’ days” in speaking of the past. In actuality we are living better today than any generation before us. Still, all-in-all, it is pleasurable to scroll through what we call “the good ole’ days.” One good measuring stick of how many things have improved is the developments made in technology.
Telephone is a great example of how things have changed. As a boy visiting my grandparents it was discomforting to me because there was no electricity, running water or plumbing. None of my relatives owned a telephone. Eventually, one of my grandmothers obtained a box made of oak with no dial and was known as a party line. The way my grandmother would recognize that someone was calling her is the ringing made on the side of the box. As I recall, her number was two long rings and a short burst ring. We, in Port Arthur obtained a telephone which had no dials and no buttons and was shared with eight or ten other people who could listen in to whatever conversation you were having. Just look how far we have come just with the telephone. Almost everyone I know has one and are using them for communication, banking, entertainment and who knows what else.
Our family was not exposed to owning a television until I was well into my teenage years. At that time there was one channel out of Houston, Texas. However, in order to receive the Houston channel it required that the antenna be placed on about a ten-foot pole on top of the house. If you really wanted to be high-tech at the time you could obtain a small motor attached to your antenna and remotely change the direction of the antenna to get somewhat better reception. The main program you could always depend on to view was wrestling. Television was one piece of technology developed almost as quickly as the telephone. There are many differences in the way it was and the way it is. Early on we would look forward to such programs as Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk--the polka king, mystery of one of the lead detectives whose signature line was “just the facts, ma’am.” No program contained more than one ad per thirty minutes. My recent count is as many as seven to eight ads in a thirty-minute program.
One great improvement for cities like Port Arthur on the coast producing all sorts of exotic smells and odors from nearby industry was window air conditioning units. Prior of window units was having an attic fan installed which could draw a breeze from a window which gave some measure of relief.
Some folks referencing the family automobile are tempted to say “they just don’t make them like they used to.” My comment about that is “thank God.” I have the experience of basically rebuilding my first vehicle which was a 1940 Ford which I purchased for $80. Automatic transmissions were still in the development stage. Air conditioning of automobiles was unheard of. Tires were designed to last only a short period of time before they needed replacing. If you were poor as I was, you relied a lot on what we described as “may pops”—they may pop any minute because we bought them second hand with most of the rubber worn off the tread. Today, you can easily plan on 50,000 to 60,000 miles for a set of tires.
While I still recommend quiet reflection on the past as a pleasant break in your day-to-day routine, we should be thankful we have lived long enough to see such changes which in fact have made our lives much better.