You understand you’re getting old when you recall items you or your parents used during your childhood and realize they no longer exist. In a session of reminiscence the other day I remembered these things no longer in regular use ̶
• Clothespin bags. I still occasionally see clotheslines in backyards but I seldom see the clothespin bags which used to hang from nearly every set of clotheslines. Some of those bags were plain; others were made from colorful fabrics to resemble little dresses.
• Sprinkler bottles. In the days before steam irons, a sprinkler bottle was a necessity. In fact, our second-grade class made clothes sprinklers as Christmas gifts for our mothers. The few pop cans available at the time had cone-shaped tops with an opening which resembled the mouth of a pop bottle. After enthusiastically consuming the contents, each student painted a pop can, decorated it with a colorful decal and stuck a sprinkler head in the opening. Mom said she loved it.
• Flash bulbs. While the electronic flash has been valuable to professional and amateur photographers alike many of today’s cameras are equipped to take good photos in low light conditions. I remember having to pop in a flash bulb for each indoor shot and recall as well the unusual aroma the flash bulbs released as they flashed, fried and bubbled.
• Corn cobs. Now that combines shell the kernels from the cob as the corn is harvested, you don’t see many corn cobs outside the corn field. Back when corn was picked and stored on the cob, cobs were often found piled high on a farm yard after a shelling project. Among other things, the cobs provided fuel for heating and cooking and a great nesting place for rodents. I remember both.
• Steering wheel knobs. Also known as spinners, these knobs were attached to a steering wheel to make steering easier. In the days before power steering and seat belts, a young male driver had to keep his right arm around his honey and a spinner made it easier to drive with the left arm.
• TV lamps. In the early days of television, homemakers often placed an attractive (or not) lamp on top of the TV set. The lamp provided soft room lighting which did not reflect in the TV screen or otherwise interfere with what was often a snowy picture. Oma Gelder’s TV lamp featured a color photographic transparency of Holstein cows in a pasture, backlit by an electric bulb. It was beautiful!
• Console radios. These days radios can fit in your pocket but there was a day when radios were pieces of furniture. Those wooden cabinets with their vacuum-tube chassis and massive speakers produced excellent sound in spite of the fidelity limitations and inherent static of the AM band. Before our family acquired a TV set, I laid on the floor in front of the console radio and listened to Archie, The Great Gildersleeve, The Lone Ranger and other shows.
• Salves. When I was a kid our medicine cabinet contained two miracle drugs which helped heal most minor rashes, burns, cuts, scrapes and other “owies” active kids might suffer. Watkins brand cow teat salve came in a big red and black tin. It was a thick, brown ointment with a medicine-like odor. The other, Cloverine brand salve, came in a smaller black and white tin. It was a lighter, translucent ointment with a sweet scent. I’m no doctor but, doggone it, I believe the stuff worked. (I must admit to a prejudice, however. As a youngster, I sold Cloverine salve to friends and relatives to earn money and prizes.)
• Adding machines. There’s a calculator on nearly every desk and in many pockets these days, but you don’t often see an honest-to-goodness adding machine. These bulky, mechanical contraptions could add and subtract ̶ that was it. Even more rarely seen is a non-electric adding machine which required a pull on a handle to make each entry.
These things make good memories but I don’t miss them much. Think of it this way ̶ someday microwave ovens and cell phones may be considered obsolete, too.
(Arvid Huisman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)