Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My '70's Nastalega

by Mark Baker

I recently 'misplaced' my cell phone for the better part of a day, the end result of which caused me to reflect on how much things have changed since I was a kid. But, before I get too far ahead of myself, back to the missing cell phone...

I, like millions of other 'Clip-the-Cord' folks today, a couple years back, decided it made little sense to pay both a cell AND land-line bill, so I 'went bare.' That's all good until the day you realize you don't have your cell and have no damn idea what you did with it. Suddenly one begins to miss that good old land-line, because even if it had a 73 foot line (like the one our Mothers had with their kitchen phones), you could always find it by 'reeling it in.'

Yeah, I know, nobody has had a corded land-line (or will admit to it) for years, but even the cordless ones could be found by idiots like myself by simply hitting the 'Ring Alert' button whereupon it would cry out from beneath the pile of clothes you just dumped on the couch.

After searching absolutely everywhere I had been that day, I notified my FaceBook Friends of my predicament so as to apologize to anyone trying to call me and that I'd get back to them as soon as it turned up -this was a slightly disingenuous statement in that I KNEW without any doubt that 'some PUNK' must have stolen my phone at some point (because I'm simply too smart to loose it myself, right)!

Anyway, after completing my near county-wide search, I remembered that I'd put a load of wash in hours before, after getting back home from meeting friends at lunch and that I'd forgotten to transfer them into the dryer. So down into the dungeon I went and what do I discover atop the box of Spartan-Brand Dryer Sheets, next to 'Scraps' the sleeping Cat? Why of course, my missing cell phone! I had to laugh at myself because I didn't remember carrying the thing down there, but really couldn't allow myself to believe that, that same mystery punk, after going to all the trouble of steeling my phone, would then be dumb enough to sneak it into the basement to place next to the sleeping cat. I considered the cat for less then 30 seconds, before my superior intellect told me he couldn't be the culprit as he lacks the necessary opposable thumbs to pull-off such a caper.

It was at that point that I remembered back to loading the washer, where I realized that there was still some 'room' in there for more stuff, so I pulled-out my belt, which caused my cell-phone and holder to fall to the floor, dropped my pants and threw 'em in (they were actually still clean, but what the hell, a guys gotta get his moneys-worth out of the 'Arm & Hammer' Soap People, right)! I STILL do not remember picking-up the phone off the floor or placing it atop the dryer-sheets, but I must have because again, the cat lacks thumbs and really prefers Milk-Jug Rings to cell phones anyway.

That experience caused me to consider how much easier AND how much more complicated our lives have become since we were kids in the 60's and 70's. I mean, it would have been unheard of to 'loose ones phone.' How the hell could that happen when it was mounted TO THE WALL! Likewise, anyone who'd of dared wax-on in public about the need to replace their 'Floopy' with a 'Hard Drive,' MIGHT have found themselves getting a visit by the County Sheriff; and 'Wee' was what we boys did behind trees when we were too busy playing WhiffleBall in the street to run home.

We didn't have 11,872 channels to 'surf,' we had THREE! Oh, excuse me for not being 'Politically Inclusive,' that's TRACE to you Amigo! Three damn channels, 6, 10 and 12; CBS, NBC and ABC (two and a half actually, as 12 was usually foggy, however their commentators, such as Chris Schenkle {RIP} made up for it by always wearing hideous bright-plaid sport coats in yellow or green that allowed you to see 'em through the fuzz). We're talking the high-tech world of VHF baby! Oh sure, if you wanted, you could maybe double the number of channels available by switching over to UHF, but UHF always seemed to feature odd programs put on by odder-looking people with really bad hair.

Back in our day, you didn't compare equipment in terms of Gigs, or Bandwidth, no way. There was no cable, and the only folks with access to satlites were those in NASA or SAC. It was all about Brand and Model-name baby! To tune their tubes, my Aunt & Uncles had the inferior 'Tenna-Rotor U-100's' by Alliance. You'd work 'em by turning that big tanish knob with a red-line. You'd crank that puppy so far and it would go 'CheePonk,' 'CheePonk,' 'CheePonk,' until it reached the stop point. It was loud and it was SLOW! We, on the other-hand, had the fancier 'WhisperJet-5000' by 'ChannelMaster' of course. It was a MONSTER of a unit; came complete with a warning to not place it too close to the edge of the TV console (Console TV's are a subject for a future blog) because if it should topple-off, it's weight would surly break foot bones, or kill a family pet. It had a hand-sized dial that you'd turn so far and the whole thing would 'BUZZ' (not really a whisper, but more like an irritating synthesized gas-leak sound) until it arrived to it's stop.

Regardless of brand, everybody had little pieces of tape or 'magic-marker' marks on their dials for the various 'sweet spots.' The 'WhisperJet' wasn't THAT MUCH faster than the U-100 Tanna Rotor -in fact a Consumer Report comparison actually established that it was SLOWER than the U-100- but who cared because only odd-balls read Consumer Reports, plus, the ChannelMaster 'WhisperJet-5000' looked like something that came right out of the Starship Enterprise, while the U-100 looked like it was pried off the Dash of your Grandpa's old DeSoto FireFlite.

My Dad's side of the family, were 'Curtis Mathis' people ("the most expensive TV, and darn well worth it." {when it wasn't back in the shop for frequent repairs that is}), while my Mothers side tended to be a hodge-podge of Zenith, RCA, and Magnavox folk. We were Magnavox people till RCA came out with 'Instant-On' technology (which really only meant that the damn thing never actually turned-off, but you could buy 43,000 KW of monthly juice from the local power company for between $10-$15 per, so what the heck). The RCA's with 'IO-TECH' never came close to getting as sharp a picture as the Magno's, but you could snap that puppy on/off like 237 times in one minute to beat your little brother's score (I know, because I DID); it's all in the wrist! lol.

Then, Christmas of '72, we became the envy of the tri-county area when Mom & Dad bought us an 'Atari PONG!' What totally sucked was that they played it for like three hours before my little brother and I could get at it, so I ended-up'accidently' shooting-out one of the garage windows with my slick new Crossman 760 Pump. The next day, I donned my little brother's new Yellow Tonka Construction Helmet and had him shoot me in the head with the Crossman (but ONLY 4-Pumps), thinking it would bounce-off (and assuming he didn't miss it altogether and put one into my face. The pellet hit the helmet just above and to the right of the 'Tonka' name.... went right through the plastic and buried itself into my scalp! My 5 year old brother and I dug that little .177 cal slug out of my head and stuffed the hole with 'Bag Balm.' I lived, and we made a pact to never tell Mom or Dad. Years later at a family get-together, 1987 or so, figuring the 'Whup-Ass Statute of Limitations' had expired, we decided it would be safe to tell Mom... We were wrong.

Ahhh, nostalgia...


  1. Scraps, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time!!

  2. I remember our TV/stereo console (hi fi of course). Open the top and put on a record. Us that attachment thingie and play a 45. We had like five channels LOL! Remember quad speaker systems?

    My sister had one of those record players where you lift the lid and it plays. Close the lid and it stopped. Talk about innovation.

    Stephen Tremp