Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I Refuse to Accept It....

But, the fact is, I am getting older. I admit I still have a couple of t-shirts and vests in my closet from my long ago hippie days and physically, I feel no different than I did at 18 but yes, the signs are there:

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Old Bottles including "Dr. Price's Delicious Flavoring Extract" and "Pertussin"

1. Old Bottles. Ok, so I am not that old! These bottles were not resurrected out of my medicine cabinet. But it used to be that in Montana where no blackberry bushes grow, you would come upon an old abandoned caved-in cabin and not far away you would see something rusty. Some scratching in the dirt with maybe just a stick might reveal medicine and condiment bottles still intact from the gold rush days of the late 1800's. The real prize was finding something purple which meant the glass was even older.

2. Bomb Shelters. I guess there were some people who actually built bomb shelters in their basements to save themselves from the evil U.S.S.R. I always felt safe because the basement of Helena Junior High School was an "official" bomb shelter full of supplies. It even had that yellow and black nuclear sign posted at the entrance. My Dad was a teacher there and later the assistant principal and principal. When we were little, my brother and I would go with my Dad on weekends or in the summers on non-school days when he did catch up work and we would have the run of the place. Having that bomb shelter with my Dad in charge made me feel totally protected from Kruschev.

My husband's family owned the town jewelry store. He remembers that the basement of their store in downtown Helena in a building built in the 1800's also was a designated bomb shelter. Likewise, it was posted with the government's yellow and black sign, too. Water and shelves of goods were designed to help Helenans survive the mushroom cloud. Right!

3. Slide Rules and Adding Machines. Hand held calculators did not exist. We had to learn to use slide rules in school and I remember my Mom did book keeping duties now and then (she finished her college accounting degree after my Dad died) with an adding machine. Remember the big handle you pulled down and magically a column of numbers would be added together?

4. Mimeograph machines, Carbon Paper in Typewriters, and Hand-written Letters. In elementary school, when the teachers handed out our new worksheets or tests, the first thing we would all do is hold them up to our noses. Why did we like that chemical smell? I wonder how toxic it was.

Two things have shocked me about my kids. I had to explain to them what the "cc" means on e-mails---that way back when a letter would be typed on a typewriter on carbon paper with the orignal sent to the primary recipient and the "carbon copy" sent to another. "Cc" indicated on the original who received a copy.

The second thing that surprised me was my daughter has a terrible time reading cursive. When I was little we would receive letters from grandparents and relatives. I can still picture my grandparents' handwriting and my parents'. My father had beautiful writing--my Mom, not so much. I handed old letters to my daughter the other day that my father had written to me 30 years ago and she couldn't read them. Kids are on computers and communicate only that way; if they write notes, they print.

5. Sputnik Gum. In spite of our bomb shelters and great fear of the big bad Russians, we loved Sputnik gum--all blue and winter greenish tasting. It was supposed to look like a little Russian satellite. Maybe the message was supposed to be: "We'll crush you and eat you--even our kids will chew you up!"

6. Cars with No Seat Belts. Remember even after we were old enough to be sitting in the back seat, when our mothers would slam on the brakes, their right arms would flail out to keep the imaginary baby from being tossed onto the floor??

7. Telephone "Numbers". My son had never heard about party lines when I wrote about the 50's on here a while back. At that time our phone numbers which were written in the middle of our black dial phones were not all numbers. The prefix was made up of letters and in Helena it was HI2.

8. Prices. The Sputnik gum cost a penny. Chocolate ice cream cones at the little bait shop on the Salmon River in Idaho were a nickel for one scoop and a dime for two scoops. And the ice cream was better than anything at Baskin Robbins.

9. Movies. At the opulent but shabby Marlowe Theater in downtown Helena, I remember standing in tears on the sidewalk because my three quarters would no longer get me in. Unbeknownst to my Mom, the price had gone up to $1.25.

10. Silver Dollars. Silver dollars were the currency of choice in Montana until I was practically in Junior High. When I was 10, we drove to Arizona to spend Christmas with my Grandparents one year. My Aunt and Uncle gave us money instead of gifts because of the trip. They would not take my silver dollar in the gift shop in Arizona.

Little Janet cried again. "That stupid mean old clerk lady who doesn't even know what real money is!"