We seniors, who grew up in the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s B.C. (before computers), relied on means of communication other than that we have come to know in the computerized age. They included:
1. Voice: Person-to-person, face-to-face conversations (facial expressions were important). Mothers calling their kids home for supper; dads whistling for same. Neighbors, friends, family communicating daily.
2. Telephone: Crank the phone or pick up receiver; operator answers ... “Hi, Sally, how are you? Number, please.” Caller gives her the number, she gives it 1,2,3 “ringy dingies” (or whatever). The party either answers, or doesn’t. (If it’s a party line, others on your line can listen to the conversation; you could hear them “click” in.)
3. Newspapers: The weekly Litchfield Independent Review, was the best source of the written word; either delivered by paper boys or picked up at the paper’s downtown office.(same location as today) There was something for everyone: latest local news, obituaries, ads for local businesses, high school news, social happenings, news about former Litchfieldites who’d moved away, wedding and birth notices, small amount of political stuff. Stan’s “Back Then” column has newsworthy items from the past; many times, your old friends and family can be found there. If you want to have some fun, go to the Meeker County Historical Society/GAR Hall, pick out an issue from your past, and read the paper. You’ll no doubt find yourself or someone you know in its pages. The Sunday edition of the Minneapolis Star (and Tribune) was our weekly link to the outside world. It had everything: worldwide, national, state, Twin Cities news, comic strips and ads. The best part for us kids were the comic strip pages. Before we could read, our parents would read them to us. My dad, Leonard Shoultz, read them to me. Later, we could read Dick Tracy, Little Orphan Annie, Li’l Abner and all the others, by ourselves.
4. Radio: WCCO, 830, of course. All the latest news starting with Boone and Erickson at 6 a.m., with the farm reports, weather, hilarious banter. Cedric Adams had many roles as news broadcaster and host for special programs.
Then the soap operas, mostly for the ladies of the house: Ma Perkins, Our Gal Sunday. My favorites were the Saturday morning for kids shows: Let’s Pretend (Fairy Tale Theater); the commercials: “Cream of Wheat is so good to eat, that we have it everyday. We sing this song, it will make us strong, and it makes us shout, Hurray! It’s good for growing children and grownups too, to eat. For all the family’s breakfast, you can’t beat Cream of Wheat.” “Wheaties, the Breakfast of Champions”; The Lone Ranger: “Hi Ho, Silver, Away!” Superman: “It’s a bird, it’s a plane. No, it’s Superman!” and so many more.
Saturday afternoons consisted of listening to the U of M Gophers football games. We learned and sang along on the rouser: “Minnesota, hats off to thee. To your colors, true, we will ever be... Firm and strong united are we. Rah, Rah, Rah, for Sky U. Mah; Rah, rah, rah, rah. Rah for the U of M!”
Early evenings we would be scared silly listening to Mystery Theater, Suspense and Inner Sanctum (with the squeaky door).
We were all gathered around the old “tube” radio on Dec. 7, 1941, early afternoon, when the news came of the attack on Pearl Harbor. That event would bring many changes to all of us, as whole families were drawn into the conflict. During the war, we listened to Kate Smith’s Sunday night patriotic program, ending with the most famous World War II song, “God Bless America.” We sing it to this day and remember those years.
5. Comic Books deserve a separate category. They were filled with exciting exploits of our favorite heroes, heroines and characters: Superman, Wonder Woman, Archie, Spider Man, Batman and Robin, and more. We would trade them with friends and that way we could read them all cheaply. Don’t you wish you’d saved all of them? We’d be rich!
6. Movies: Wow! Remember the Saturday afternoon matinee movies at the Unique Theater? Cowboys, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Superman, The Cisco Kid. Black and white “kid movies,” 10 Cents. The Hollywood had great newer movies, a bigger screen and the Schnee brothers to keep us in line. (Both theaters carried news of the war raging across seas.) Friday night “date night” consisted of a movie, treats at Franzeins next door (“mudball sundaes”) or at Janosek’s (Parkview) Cafe with 10 cent burgers, malts, fries. Now, that’s a cheap date!
7.”Real money”: Copper pennies (some Indian head coins), nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, crisp paper bills. You could hold them in your hand, carry in your pocket or a small “coin” purse. For a few pennies you could buy a pocket full of sweets from Axel Johnson’s multi-purpose establishment. He also served burgers and beer(adults only) and had a barbershop, with a red and white barber pole outside.
8. Letters and Cards: Last, but, certainly not least. Handwritten, from the heart, cards and letters to servicemen, relatives, friends far away. Mailed with a 3 cent stamp (or 1 cent postcard) and delivered to your front door “mailbox.”
Praise the Lord, we still enjoy getting our mail from a real live mail carrier. Through rain and shine, snow and storm, the mail “person” delivers (and picks up) letters “to go” from our mailbox by the front door.
So, that’s a bit of what this senior remembers about the BC days. You, no doubt, have your own memories of the Good Old Days.
* Next to come: Senior Communication: 102 AC: After Computers, Cell Phones, Credit Cards, Covid. Someone else will have to write this one, hopefully before they become senior citizens and while the events of the present are fresh in their minds.