Before Xbox and IPads…before smartphones and even smarter televisions there was a time when neighbors actually knew each other’s name and children could play outside without supervision while doors were left unlocked at night.
I grew up in an age before technology. When I started to think about it there was a long list of things my own son had access to during his childhood that either wasn’t even invented when I was a kid or only families far wealthier than ours could afford it.
Color TV…not only were all the shows in black and white at our house, there was no such thing as Cable TV. There were only three channels to choose from and aluminum foil wrapped around the rabbit ears of the antennae sitting on top of that small TV helped bring in better reception. Oh yeah, TV shows didn’t run all night long either so if I was lucky enough to be allowed to stay up later then I could watch my favorite channel go off the air while playing “Look Away Dixieland” or some upbeat song I wished I could remember as a horse and buggy trotted off into the sunset.
Refrigerator…there was no such thing as a refrigerator at my house when I was little. We had an icebox where you literally had to place a 50 pound block of ice in the top compartment so things in the bottom compartment could stay cool. Once a week we would ride in the back of an old black truck to the ice plant where a man with huge ice picks would throw that block of ice onto a blanket laid out in the back of the truck and we would rush home to get it in the icebox before it started to melt in the muggy hot summer sun.
Washer & Dryer…nothing electronic there. My poor mother’s hands were rubbed raw as she used an old washtub with scrubbing board for years where she had to squeeze the water out of the clothes herself. We finally graduated to a wringer washing machine. Mother still used the scrubbing board to wash the clothes but she could now push the clothes through the two rollers while I turned the crank and out the clothes came flat as a pancake and ready to hang outside on the clothesline.
Air Conditioner…I never even knew what an air conditioner was growing up. We had one window fan to try and cool the entire house and we had open windows at night to hopefully catch a breeze. I would go to sleep on a muggy summer night fanning myself with a piece of cardboard or a homemade paper fan until either I was too tired to fan myself any more or I finally fell asleep.
Cell Phones…these things weren’t even invented yet when I was little. Every house that could afford a telephone had one large, hard-wired black monstrosity that had a ring on it loud enough to wake the dead. Black was the only color to choose from, and the handle was so heavy you probably could kill somebody with it if you hit them hard enough. You were out of luck if you were away from home and wanted to call somebody if there wasn’t somebody willing to let you use theirs.
FM Radio…the only stations available was AM because FM wasn’t even invented yet. And just like TV, the stations would sign off around midnight and come back on around six the next morning. Song choices were monitored in my house and for the longest time I thought the only singers out there were Buck Owens, Minnie Pearl, Roy Clark, The Oak Ridge Boys, Conway Twitty, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, and Loretta Lynn. In other words, the Grand Ol’ Opry and western music was basically the ONLY music allowed in the house when I was a child. We didn’t even have access to a portable radio until I was in high school when my father brought a small boombox home just so we could hear Charlie Pride on the radio. Oh yeah, eight tracks were the thing to buy and reel to reel tape players…no such thing as CDs or cassette tapes when I was really young…they weren’t invented yet!
Computers…those were things that filled up a room at large college universities or government offices. You would never find one in a private home. Laptops and wireless connections weren’t even invented yet. Nether was the internet so if you wanted to look something up you could grab the Encyclopedia Britannica if you were lucky enough to have a set at your house (we had a really old set) or get yourself down to the local library and ask the librarian to help you out!
Online Games…there was no Atari, no Nintendo, no Xbox, no PlayStation, no GameBoy, or any other gaming systems. I was an older teenager before even the simplest games like PacMan or Joust was even invented and the only place you could find them was in a larger city at an arcade usually near the movie theater. Games were actually played outdoors with the other kids in the neighborhood or was a product of one’s imagination. No batteries required!
Kindle…Tablets and E-Readers like the Kindle or Nook hadn’t been invented yet. Libraries were the place to discover a good book and to a voracious reader like myself, I would blow through at least 100 books every summer beginning at age 5 and quite literally counted the days until the annual summer reading program at my local library. I can’t imagine fostering such a love for the written word without being able to touch, smell, and almost taste a good book held in one’s hands.
Those are just some of the things I did without growing up before the age of technology. I didn’t feel I missed out not having those things around and quite honestly I KNOW my own son didn’t have nearly the strong memories of his own childhood as I have. Without technology I was forced to actively be a part of the world around me instead of passively sitting back and watching the world come to me. I was the master of my own destiny instead of being at the mercy of a battery held device. And I became a better, stronger me because of it.
What things did YOU do without when you were growing up? Share your non-technology stories in the comments…
Amelia Earmouse travels back through time to uncover little known events. You may THINK you know your history, but wait until you see what Amelia uncovers in book three of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES.
Eleven-year-old Emma misses her father who’s serving in Europe during World War II. He leaves behind a treasure box with six compartments to be opened during her birthday week. He also tells her to watch for the gris-gris while he is gone. Looking out for swamp creatures and dealing with wartime rationing is hard enough, but now there’s a British refugee staying at the house! How will Emma enjoy her birthday and keep her decision to hunt the gris-gris a secret with a stranger following her around?
Best-selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of flash fiction, children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection.