In the hallway of a house where we lived when I was a kid, a shelf was built into the wall for the telephone with a place for the phone and a little space underneath for the phone book. I doubt anyone has included that feature in a house built anytime recently.
Sometimes, I am amazed at the number of things that have become obsolete in my lifetime.
My parents’ first television set was a big piece of furniture, but it had a screen about 8 inches wide. The tubes inside were large and glowed when the set was turned on. I never saw it work well, but it was quite impressive when they bought it in the 1950s.
The next set was a black-and-white console with a built-in high-fidelity record player and an AM-FM radio. The cabinet was nice dark wood and it was treated like a fine piece of furniture.
The Game Show Network used to run old episodes of “Let’s Make a Deal.” I remember the excitement in the announcer’s voice when the curtain was pulled back to reveal a console color TV. For the contestant, it was quite the prize. A console color TV in the ’70s cost $500 or more. According to the Consumer Price Index, it would be $3,000 today.
Home phones with a wire attached and console color TVs will be the kinds of things we can only describe to generations to come.
There are other things that have virtually disappeared in my time.
I can remember when every end table in our living room contained an ashtray. It was just common courtesy to have a place for smokers to drop their ashes. Our house is now 5 years old and no one has ever lit a cigarette inside.
I can remember when we made things out of clay in art class. I made an ashtray for my mama. I doubt most kids around age 8 even know what that is.
From time to time, I watch “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS. I saw a woman once with a little container that turned out to be something for rich folks to hold their snuff. We had a cousin, who I thought had a speech impediment, but she was just having a dip of “Dental Sweet Snuff” that came in a little container. There was no fancy snuff holder for her. She spit the residue in a coffee can lined with newspaper.
I don’t know if they still make coffee cans, but if they do, they are certainly not a full pound. And ice cream doesn’t come in a half-gallon size anymore.
We’ll have a generation of folks who think TV’s hang on walls and phones go in pockets. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but so it is.
We are leaving our impressions on this world, but we won’t do it in writing, at least not the kind that requires pen to paper.
I found something my mama wrote the other day and I immediately recognized her penmanship with big curvy letters. I took my finger and traced the path of her pen. It felt good for a moment.
You just can’t do that with an email.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.