Monday, May 7, 2012

I'm So Old That....Continued

I'm so old I remember when telephones were big wooden boxes that hung on walls. On our farm, the phone hung in the kitchen. As I recall, that's where most phones were because that's where the family generally hung out. In those days, nobody had more than one phone. It was always a big box with a handle on the right side that you turned round and round and round in order to get the operator's attention that you wanted to make a phone call. When the operator (always a lady in those days) said, "Number, please" you answered with the number and hoped it wasn't busy because whoever else was on the same line, might be using it. When I was a kid, there were no private phone lines. Everyone shared a phone line, generally two different homes, thought sometimes as many as four. The thing was, if you picked up your phone to make a call and heard someone already talking, it was easy to just listen in and get all the gossip from around the area. Mom absolutely forbid eavesdropping. Bummer. I could have learned some good stuff to spread around.

I'm so old I remember when getting a permanent hair wave was an all day affair. Everyday, on my way to school, I passed by the town beauty shop and there, right in the big window, was the most horrible contraption I'd ever seen. I always thought it looked like some kind of torture machine and one day I asked mom what on earth it was and did it hurt the person sitting under it. "It's an electric permanent wave machine," she said. And it doesn't hurt. I asked if she'd ever gotten one and she told me "no." I understood. I wouldn't have sat under that machine for all the fudge sundaes in the world. And brother, did I ever love fudge sundaes.

I'm so old I remember when gasoline pumps had glass globes.  Dad always went to Finny's Gas Station on the outskirts of our small farm community. Finny was lucky. He had two pumps and gas cost 12 cents a gallon. Dad always sat in the car with us because Finny pumped the gas himself. No self serve back in those days. I liked to watch the glass globe atop the pump because the liquid in it gurgled and burped as it emptied itself into our car. But mostly I just liked the smell of the gasoline. I found out that many people liked that smell. I always thought it would make a nice perfume. But, hey, what do kids know?

I'm so old I remember when a horse-drawn wagon delivered the milk. Mom had a regular delivery schedule. I don't recall how many bottles she got at a time, but I do remember the milk man came three days a week. Mom always put the empty bottles outside the door on milk day so they could be picked up, sterilized, and used again. If she wanted to change her order or add cream or butter, she left a note for the milkman and stuck it into one of the empty bottles. Back then, milk came in one quart clear glass bottles with a cardboard stopper on the top. The first couple inches was cream, which mom always poured off to use for something else. She always told us the cream was too rich for us. I always suspected she wanted it for herself because I don't ever remember one time getting to put it on my cereal.

I'm so old I remember when women wore hair rats. Don't panic. Hair rats weren't vermin; they were small, pliable rolls of enmeshed hair that could be pinned to the head and the hair rolled over them to give height or design to a hairdo. Mom had three hair rats. Two short ones, which she used on her bangs or on the sides of her face and a longer one that she used for the back of her head, right above the neckline. She only used the rats when she and dad were going out to party and I used to lay on the floor and watch in fascination as she transformed her regular plain hairdo into something I thought was magical. She'd use bobby pins to hold the hair rat in place, then comb her hair over the roll and hold it down with at least a dozen hair pins. Sometimes she used all three rats, two atop her head and one at the neckline. It was my favorite hairstyle for her. I thought it made her look like a movie star. The fact that she was good at fixing her hair didn't get passed down to me but to my middle sister, who later became a hairdresser. She never used rats though. By the time she was plying her trade, back combing had been invented and all the rats got tossed in the trash.

Just in case you've never seen a hair rat, I want you to know what you've missed. I distinctly recall the day I found one laying on a table in the living room. I looked it over suspiciously. Then I poked a finger at it. Then I picked it up. No amount of figuring could tell me what it was. So I asked mom. She told me it was a rat. I threw it back on the table, horrified. I was little, but I'd seen a rat in our barn and wanted nothing to do with anything so vile. "Doesn't look like a rat," is what I told her. So she explained. They went out of style sometime during the late 1940s. I thought it was a good thing because I certainly didn't wish to wear anything named after such a scary creature.

That's all for now. I remember other things too. Someday I'll write them down. Till then....