June 11, 2024 at 12:05 a.m.
Guest Columnist

Bygone Stuff Makes Me Feel Old

TAMMY WILSON | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

The other day I learned that a women’s group I belong to no longer clips and ships manufacturers’ coupons for military families. Seems only yesterday that ladies would collect envelopes of clipped coupons redeemable for the next several months, to allow time for them to reach an overseas base where the family shoppers could use them at the PX. These days so many are cancelling their paper subscriptions to magazines and such that coupons have faded into oblivion.

I know, call me a heretic for bringing this up in the newspaper. There was a time when thrifty shoppers clamored for Sunday inserts just to clip the coupons. Nowadays, stores offer on-line discounts with an app, if you don’t mind being tracked by marketers.

Remember when trading stamps were a thing? The little paper stamps were given out by merchants to customers in loyalty programs. S&H Green Stamps, Top Value and Plaid Stamps went out with mono record albums, though I remember helping my mother by pasting the stamps into special booklets, careful not to make a crooked mess and keeping the filled booklets stacked with a rubber band around them. Eventually, they were taken to a redemption center for housewares you’d like to have but didn’t want to buy, such as a spare card table or a new set of iced tea glasses, or maybe a croquet set. 

Do people still own croquet sets? Do they even know how to play croquet?

Let’s talk gas wars, shall we? Back in the day, you might happen upon a town where gas was cut from say, 25 cents to 19. And the station across the street was at 18 cents or the one down the block was 17.

The warring gas stations cut their prices to lure in customers. These days you can add $3 to those prices.  As a kid, I was never sure what provoked these wars. It sounded scary, though running upon one was a stroke of luck. You could save several cents a gallon.

I needn’t explain why children are baffled by the gold plastic box in my back hallway. The wall phone dates to 1979, when my husband and I first opened a Centel account after moving to Hickory. The original phone number is still on the center of the dial, in case I ever forget my old phone number. That’s when we were still in the “704” area code. (For the record, our “828” code was put into service in 1998.)

I’d love to hear the calls heard over that old phone—announcements of new babies, new jobs, engagements, job losses, deaths, introducing new pets, losing old pets, selling a car, buying a car, selling the house, buying a house, building a house.

Out of nostalgia, my husband decided to install the old wall phone and its landline in our new house in 2008. Indeed, it was used until cordless phones took over, then cellphones. When the landline became a magnet for telemarketers, I cut the cord, though not literally—the long, curled cord is still draped to the floor—it’s extra-long—ready to tangle up the dog or me.  I don’t pay much attention to it after all these years, but my young granddaughter is intrigued by how the “turnie thing” ever worked and why it was necessary.

Speaking of children, a friend I’ll call Denise recently told me about the neighbor children who are clueless about bars of soap. One had no idea what it was used for, much less how to use it.

OK, when was the last time you saw a “leave a note” boxes at the front door? These little boxes, half the size of a bluebird house, contained a small note pad and a pencil the size of what’s used in golf carts. Back before things got really risky—say the late ‘60s—rural people and small-towners used such a system to know who’d come by when nobody was home.

Today we’d see Leave a Note houses as a burglar’s guest book. Now, I see, Leave a Note is part of the popular Roblox game that kids can’t get enough of.

Speaking of notes, I have a friend who still sends postcards. Every time she leaves town, which is fairly regularly, I can expect a postcard in the mail. You know, the having-a-good-time, wish-you-were-here variety. It’s way to keep the 1960s alive, I think. Back in the day when hotels and motels had free stationery and picture postcards in the desk drawer along with a ball-point pen. Everything but the postage stamp, though they likely sold those at the front desk.

I know I sound like a pioneer lady when I share such anecdotes.

Which reminds me of the time Denise’s granddaughter brought a young friend to visit. The friend spotted Denise’s newspaper lying on the kitchen table.

‘What’s that?” the friend wanted to know.

“A newspaper,” the granddaughter said. “It’s something old people read.”

---Tammy Wilson is a writer who lives near Newton. Contact her at  [email protected] .


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