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Column: Let’s not forget the time of vinyl records, landline phones and film cameras
Harris Blackwood
Harris Blackwood

My granddaddy, Papa Stone, did not have running water in his home until the last year or so of his life. 

He had an old well with what was called a windlass, a log with an iron handle on the end. There was a rope and a bucket, which you would lower down into the water.

Papa did have a refrigerator. Regardless of brand, we called it a “Frigidaire.” He had a console black and white TV, but seldom watched it.

Outside, he had a ramshackle barn with a smokehouse on one side and a slot to park Papa’s truck on the other. Like a lot of barns, there were some old tools hanging from the ceiling. I’m not sure what their purpose was, but he had a few.

Outside the smokehouse was a big pile of coal, which Papa used in a cast iron stove to keep warm.

Papa was born in 1898, before the first Model T was made. I have thought about all he saw during his lifetime, such as radio broadcasting, electric appliances and even the arrival of electricity, which didn’t make it to his home until the early 1940s.

Papa had an old mule named Saint John. He could plow well with the old mule and never owned a tractor.

I hope that one day, my grandboys will be interested in all the stuff that came and went during their Pa’s time. That list is getting longer.

Technology is moving at a whirlwind pace. Many items we now take for granted came from the space program at NASA.

I remember when smart boys at school carried a slide rule on their belts. I never owned one. Then, the electronic calculator came along. Not only did it replace the slide rule, but it also eliminated the adding machine, especially the older models with a crank tabulator.

Somebody at NASA also invented the camera phone. If I had a spaceman ray gun, I might use it on him.

Things ranging from baby formula to insulation were given to us courtesy of the space age.

But, what about everyday stuff? Vinyl records have gone away and are now coming back. However, most music is sold by downloading it to some type of digital device. 

I worked at radio stations in the era where you had to pass a test and get a federal license. Now, a computer monitors all the functions and will call you if there is a problem. Many stations run all night without a soul in charge.

How about that microwave oven or a VCR? I remember when a microwave would set you back about $300. You can buy a basic one for $50 or less today.

Rotary phones have gone the way of the dinosaur. Many homes don’t have hard-wired phones anymore. I saw a show on TV where they put a dial phone in front of kids, and they had no idea what it was.

I may one day be expanding to the boys about the internal combustion engine. I’ll do that while I’m waiting for the car batteries to charge.

Gone, too, are the days when pictures were made on film. You took the film to the drug store, and they sent it off to be developed and printed. There was a moment of pure excitement as you opened the envelope and saw your photos. Now, by the time somebody gets back from vacation, we have seen images of every place they stopped, what they had to eat and where they laid their head.

I hope there are still fake mermaids, alligator farms and places that sell cold apple cider before I leave the planet. I also want to see the world’s largest potato chip and a giant fiberglass cow overlooking the highway. Some things should never be changed.


Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the weekend Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com.

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