Back in the day, the Statler Brothers had a popular song with the same title as this column. Something got me to pondering on things that were common in the 1950s, and the result, by golly, is the column you are now reading. I suspect the expression, “by golly,” was heard more in the 1950s than today.
We called corner groceries “Mom-n-Pops” stores. In 1954-55, according to the City Directory, Mooresville had 39 groceries; only one of them, the A&P, was a chain store. Two neighborhood groceries a couple of blocks from where I grew up on West Park Avenue in Mooresville were Kistler’s and Starnes’.
Today, we have gas stations. Back then, we had service stations. You pulled up to the pumps and a fellow came out and asked if you wanted regular or high-test and if you wanted him check your motor oil level. He also cleaned your windshield for free. Highway maps were also free.
Women wore hats and gloves to church in my youth. Men usually wore an ironed dress shirt with a tie, if not a three-piece suit. At the conclusion of hymns, we sang “A-men.” We stopped doing that some time ago; I don’t know why.
Speaking of church, funeral home fans were found in the backs of the pews during the summer. Funeral homes also furnished ambulances in emergencies.
School yards had bicycle racks, as bikes were a common means of transportation for some of us, at least through junior high. The junior highs of yesteryear have also gone the way of the bicycle rack, replaced by middle schools.
Clothes pins held damp clothes to backyard clotheslines while they dried in the sun and the breeze. Sheets, in particular, smelled better when dried this way than when dried in a modern dryer. Diapers were also washed and dried. They were made of cloth, rather than a paper composite.
When we Boy Scouts wore our uniforms to school during Boy Scout Week, we took our Boy Scout knives to school and no one called the law or alerted the school resource officer. There was a brass hook that came with our Boy Scout belts that was made to hold our Boy Scout knives. We sharpened our pencils with them. I don’t recall anyone ever getting stabbed or even threatened with a Boy Scout knife, or any other knife for that matter, at school.
However, we sometimes brought yo-yos or marbles to play with during recess. I’m not sure my grandsons know what a yo-yo is, or where I might purchase one if I wanted to demonstrate how to “walk the dog” or “rock the baby.” Do the kids still have recess?
Inexpensive toys were often found in breakfast cereal boxes, or one collected a certain number of box-tops, usually three, and sent off for a prize. My brother and I looked forward to these wonderous things in the mail.
Saturday mornings were made for watching cartoons on TV. We watched the antics of cats chasing mice, and dogs chasing cats. The black and white sets sported “rabbit ear” antennas. We followed the adventures Mighty Mouse, the malicious intents of Sylvester the Cat as he tried to ensnare Tweetie Pie, the doings of two magpies named Heckle and Jeckle, and the sinister machinations of Boris and Natasha, both no-goodniks, who were foiled by Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose. We watched the TV, eating our sugar-enriched breakfast cereal with milk which came from glass bottles which had been sealed with circular cardboard bottle tops.
My grandmother, Nell Rhodes, who lived on the corner of Front and Mulberry streets in Statesville, had her milk delivered to her apartment. A milkman put it in an insulated aluminum box on her porch. The box had “Superior Dairies” on it.
If we didn’t get enough sugar (a.k.a. “energy food”) from cereal, a kid could always buy candy cigarettes — pure sugar pressed into the shape of a cigarette with a bit of red dye at one end — at a neighborhood store. These would be very politically incorrect these days, and rightly so.
Do you remember the X-ray machine at the department store (Belk’s in Mooresville had one) where you got new shoes for the beginning of school? Remember the red fire alarm boxes that could be found at most street corners?
Television, which debuted locally with WBTV in the summer of 1949, ran what was called a test pattern before the broadcast day began. How long has it been since you thought of those? At night, before TV stations stopped broadcasting, they played the national anthem.
Things were less expensive back in the 1950s. First-class postage was 3 cents, a gallon of premium gasoline was 33 to 35 cents and Superman and Batman comic books would set you back a whole dime.
Phonograph records came as either 45 rpm, which had a big hole in the center of the disc and one song per side, or as a larger 33 rpm long-play (LP) “album” with perhaps eight to 10 selections per side. There were no CDs as yet.
Telephone books were much fatter than those of today. The Charlotte phone book weighed several pounds. Many people had telephones that were connected to what were called “party lines.” Not that kind of party: You and your neighbors shared a line and therefore you were not supposed to talk for more than a few minutes.
How long has it been since you bought something and got some S&H Green Stamps with your change? Or when was the last time you bought a notebook or lined paper with the Blue Horse logo on it?
Did your parents have a car with the small side vent windows? Remember the cars that had a cloth-covered “rope” across the back of the front bench seat? They have gone the way of running boards, suicide doors and white-walled tires.
I hope you have enjoyed today’s drive down Memory Lane. Some things are better today than “back in the day.” Disposable diapers are a great boon to civilization, and the trained Emergency Medical Service people and first responders have saved more lives than the funeral home ambulances and attendants ever did, by golly.