Older than dirt stuff

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about items that were commonly used in the 1950s and ‘60s – some you probably wouldn’t recognize today. After it was published, a reader, Bob Whitman, commented to me about the days when he and his brothers would color margarine. Now he had my attention!
He explained that this necessity took place a few years before I was born, but I can remember my parents talking about the days when margarine came on the market. It was white.
Bob said the same thing. It wasn’t really palatable to people as a substitute for butter when it was white goo. He explained there was a little yellow pouch full of coloring included with the margarine and it was the job of him and his brothers (of course there was competition to do the best job) to cut that open and mix it with the margarine. Then they would form it up a bit so that it looked more like butter when they used it.
Oh that seems really crazy now, especially since we know more about the chemical make up of margarine. I learned margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback, so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with the product to get their money back. It became a spread for toast.
Margarine is less expensive than butter, but both have about the same amount of calories. Butter is slightly higher in saturated fat, but eating margarine may increase heart disease in women by 53 percent, according to a Harvard medical study.
I think most would agree that butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavors of other foods. We always used margarine at my house when I was growing up, but when I got married, that was the end of that. Dan’s family was all about butter and that is all we have used since. I can’t even imagine going back to margarine now.
To continue with those wonderful items from the past, let’s talk about metal skates. Everyone I knew in elementary school had the skates that hooked onto your shoes. A key was used to open the toe clamps, which would spread wide. You slid your shoe in and then put the clamps back against your shoe and tightened it with the key again. The rest of the skate buckled around your ankle.
Once hooked up, you could skate all over the neighborhood on the blacktop area. If you fell down, there was not only the scrape on your knee, but also the shoe skate always came loose from the toe of the shoe. My father grew up on a street that was made of bricks and he said skating on those was really tough and bumpy, so there were lots of falls.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, chrome bumpers and white wall tires were signs of a really nice car. We looked forward to the gleam of those wide bumpers, but when a car had an accident, it was quite expensive to fix the chrome. That’s probably why we don’t have those anymore.
Tires were not all black on those cars in the 1960s. They had white walls, which at one point might have been as much as six inches wide around the outside of the tire. We thought they looked beautiful when the car was driving down the street. If a car tire scraped the curb, the white walls would get black marks on them, so it was very common to polish the white walls on your car. As we moved into the ‘70s and ‘80s, the whitewalls became narrower and finally disappeared. Maybe that’s about when steel belted radial tires came in.
When I first came to Marysville in the early 1970s, every gas station had a guy who pumped your gas. It was certainly not permitted to do it yourself. When you pulled into the station, the car would trip a bell and an attendant would come to the car. You told him how much gas to put in and he even washed all the windows. Oh how nice that was. Payment was taken right from the car. There was no getting out, no hassle. Oh my gosh, that was the way it was for so long and now everything is so streamlined. It’s hard to even remember that day.
When I realized I was going to have to pump my own gas, I thought maybe my hands would be all smelly with gasoline, but that hasn’t been a problem. Most modern pumps are made to be user friendly.
The exception to all this is the states of New Jersey and Oregon, where it is illegal to pump your own gas. The lawmakers believe you could blow yourself up. In fact, in Oregon there is a $500 fine if you touch the pump and are not employed by the gas station.
Now we move on to the ridiculously big camcorders of the 1980s. They measured about 18×12 inches and I don’t know how much they weighed, but they were heavy. We splurged and made it a Christmas present for us one year. After all, we had two young boys who had many activities to record. Mostly we used the camcorder to record them as they wrestled in middle school and high school. It was great for them to see the match later at home as we played the tape through our cassette player.
Unfortunately even though I’m smaller than my husband, I had to do the filming because he wanted to watch the match. I was watching the match, too, but through the camera lens. Sometimes there would be tipping and spinning of it because I was trying to help whichever son was wrestling at the time. Also, I had to stop cheering loudly for them since the camcorder recorded the sound. The boys called it screaming into the camera.
Of course, now we have tiny phones in comparison to those big camcorders, and we can record anything we want very easily, wherever we are, and then just email it to someone. Oh how life has changed.
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)



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