Monday, January 6, 2014
Things My Grandchildren Will Never See
Turntables and reel-to-reel recorders: Remember those? Everyone had a turntable with a special fat doohickey you'd put over the other doohickey for playing '45's. Or was it '48's? We would play the album Hair speeded up and pretend the gerbils were giving a rock concert. If you had reel-to-reel, you were a serious audiophile.
Woolworths: Good Lord, how can Woolworths have gone away? Does anyone remember the wonderful smell of the inside of Woolworths? It was the first and only place I ever shoplifted, and I always secretly blamed myself for their eventual demise. They get a mention in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, when someone throws Ulysses McGill out of the "Wool's Worth," but future generations won't even get that joke. "Five and Dimes" have also disappeared but they've been replaced with "Dollar Stores," so that's not extinction, it's inflation.
The Sears Catalog: I could almost weep that the next generation will never know this essential joy of Christmas greed. A fat book, thicker than a telephone directory, packed with stuff you could want. Most of it, granted, seemed to be refrigerators and lawn tools, and a fair amount of the rest was sweaters and junk, but there were pages and pages and pages of toys to gloat over and envy. Sears itself may be on the ropes, another inconceivable loss, but the passing of their Christmas catalog strikes the sharpest pang.
Pay Phones: An entire aspect of the culture was built around these - Clark Kent was always dashing to a phone booth to change into Superman. The sardonic rejoinder, "That and a dime will get you a phone call" doesn't even make sense unless you have the essential referent. The Yellow Pages, have gone with them - though, we still seem to get these periodically.
I've skimmed over the preceding and seen I've overused the word "essential," but I'll let it stand. These things I imagined were essential, such primary parts of my landscape were they, turn out not to be essential. That, I suppose, is the essence, the essential part, if you will, of time: things that we thought were essential - payphones, turntables, catalogs, Woolworths - turn out one by one, not to be.