Burton on the Bay

 Vol. 10, No. 14

April 4 - 10, 2002

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Remember When

Life doesn’t begin at 40. Self-delusions do!
— Comic strip Shoe by Jeff McNelly.

A curious thing about age. Most of us gripe about it, but if we hang in there long enough to rack up the years, we’re more fortunate than those who don’t. The alternative is a rather dismal occurrence.

As one gets older, certain things come to light. We know more people under the ground than atop it. We can tell the day of the week by our pill dispensers, and we visit the pharmacy more than the market. Johnny Hart, creator of the comic strip BC, said sometimes when we’re getting old we forget which glass we left our teeth in.

It becomes apparent that the only thing that comes with age is wrinkles. Also that if at our age every birthday is a gift, it’s one that allows no refunds or exchanges. We love birthdays, but why do so many of them have to be ours?

Ann Landers wrote, “Wisdom does not always come with age. Sometimes, age comes by itself.” Paul Newman admitted being of the age that when he woke up each morning there was a surprised look on his face. I discovered that declining to replace batteries in the clock didn’t keep time from passing.

So whether we like it or not, age keeps piling upon us with its good and bad moments, aches and pains, happiness and worries — and the greater the age, the more we have to look back on.

I remember savvy old Grandma Burton, with a cup of tea in her hands on the New England farm, reminding me that looking back on the good old days doesn’t necessarily mean one is unhappy with the present.

Brother John’s Challenge
That came to mind the other day, when my brother John of Salt Lake City e-mailed me a test to determine not just one’s age but what one has witnessed as years piled on. How times have changed.

Can you remember the days when they’d take your phone out for using the words you hear on TV, radio, the movies and oft-times just plain conversations of today?

I’m the oldest of the five Burton siblings — brother John is the youngest — so I felt justified in adding more remembrances to his test. Check off the following, then I’ll remind you in which age category you can be viewed. Do you remember …

Your Age Is Showing

  1. White sugar-candy cigarettes with a red tip to indicate they were lit? You were really worldly to suck on one of them.

  2. Black licorice candy pipes with red bowls?

  3. Coke bottle-shaped wax containers filled with various colors of sugar water?

  4. Penny waxed paper strips with candied dots on them?

  5. Teenage gathering spots with tableside juke boxes that required a nickel to play each record?

  6. Blackjack chewing gum (in blue, black and white wrapper)?

  7. Milk delivered to the home by dawn in glass bottles with cardboard stopper lids? On days with temperatures far below freezing, the milk would push the lid up and there would be a cylinder of frozen milk sticking an inch or two above the bottle top. Kids loved it: ready-made ice cream.

  8. Telephone party lines in which a series of rings would let you know if the call was for your home? Each on your party line had a different combination of long and short rings. You’re older still if you recall cranking the number.

  9. At the movies, newsreels shown before each feature? During World War II, the audience applauded when President Franklin Roosevelt was shown.

  10. Also when at the movies, The March of Time, prepared by Time magazine, was shown on the screen?

  11. Telephone numbers with a word prefix identifying the exchange — or, even before then, numbers like 246-J?

  12. When many picture tubes of television sets were round? Some sets had amber or other color plates in front of picture tubes to simulate colored TV before such a thing was affordable and readily available.

  13. Pea-shooters? Many were whittled by boys when they were allowed to carry a pocket jackknife in their pockets to school.

  14. The Fuller Brush man — also the Watkins man, the door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman?

  15. Reel-to-reel tape reorders — or even earlier, finicky wire recorders?

  16. Shirley Temple dolls?

  17. Ribbon candy at Christmas?

  18. Tinkertoys or Erector Sets? If you were exceptionally lucky and your parents in good circumstances, your set included a small electric motor.

  19. S&H green stamps — and the little booklets in which the stamps were stuck until filled and exchanged for merchandise?

  20. Mimeograph paper? Usually with blue print, it was a favorite way for teachers to copy tests, a messy, time-consuming job done with a big hand crank. Oftentimes the results were not of good clarity.

  21. Drive-in theaters — which were around even before the days when each auto had its own speaker?

  22. The radio jingle: “Pepsi Cola hits the spot, 12 full ounces that’s a lot, twice as much for a nickel, too, Pepsi Cola is the drink for you”? Pepsi came in much bigger bottles than Coke, which prompted increased sales among kids during the Great Depression.

  23. Pearl Harbor? Via radio the next day, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan, starting his message, “December 7, a date that will live in infamy …”

  24. Pre-WWII days when the most-talked about number was the one associated with one’s draft card — which all men of military age were required to carry at all times?

  25. Lines that sometimes extended for blocks when merchants got in a fresh supply of cigarettes and nylon stockings?

  26. Metal ice cube trays with levers to make it easier to remove the cubes — if your family was lucky enough to have a Frigidaire? If not, the ice man with a big pick to chip off chunks for the family’s wooden icebox?

  27. Blue flash bulbs for the camera — or further back when cameras were referred to as candid Kodaks?

  28. Washtub wringers — and the big copper boilers?

  29. Studebakers — which, after World War II had big rear windows, so unusual that from a distance one couldn’t tell whether they were coming or going? Also, other post-war cars: the Kaiser, Fraiser, Henry J and Tucker?

  30. One-cent packs of bubble gum with Indian chiefs on accompanying cards? They came out before baseball cards.

  31. Rollerskate keys?

  32. A fancy meal on a train?

  33. World War II ration stamps, needed for sugar, meat, butter, cheese, shoes, tires, fuel for homes and vehicles and other hard-to-get staples?

  34. Running boards on cars, some with rack attachments for luggage or spare tires or to accommodate extra passengers when all seats were occupied?

  35. Cork pop guns with strings attached to the corks?

  36. Radio headsets? Early radios didn’t have traditional speakers.

  37. Toy glass fire trucks filled with small round candies?

  38. Long thin wood skis with single-strap leather bindings?

  39. A rabbit’s foot for luck — for all but the bunny?

  40. Coloring white margarine with a small packet of orange something-or-other to give it the shade of butter? The sale of colored oleo wasn’t permitted by law.

  41. When True Story and True Detective were the biggest sellers on magazine racks along with the weeklies Liberty, Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post?

Dating Yourself
Of these 41, if you checked:

  • 10 to 15, you’re a kid;
  • 16 to 25, you’re at an age you might not care to reveal;
  • 26 to 35, you are getting old;
  • 36 to 41, you’re older than dirt.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly