Sad Anachronism, the List

A dozen things I grew up with that would befuddle my children

1.  Shag carpets – I wouldn’t even know how to describe to our boys why so many homeowners decided that carpet that required raking was a good idea.

2.  Pet rocks – The dumbest or most ingenious fad of all time depending on your perspective. In 1975, for about 6 months, you could buy a Pet Rock for $3.95 that came with its own cardboard carrying case (with air holes and straw bedding) and an owner’s manual entitled, The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock. The man who conceived the idea became a millionaire

3.  Finding silver coins and wheatback pennies in pocket change – My dad was a coin collector, so in his honor, here are a couple of numismatic facts: Quarters and dimes made of 90% silver were minted until 1964. Wheatback pennies were only minted through 1958 but there were tons of them. So when I was a kid, combing through pocket change for silver and wheatbacks (and the occasional steel penny from WWII) was like hunting for treasure.

4.  TV rabbit ears – We got three channels, ABC, NBC, and CBS. And if you managed just the right antenna adjustment, you could sometimes coax PBS out of the fuzz on UHF.

5.  A percolator on every kitchen counter – My dad’s was shiny stainless steel with a glass knob on top. For years, the smell of coffee was linked with the gurgling of that pot in my memory. They were replaced by automatic drip coffee makers in the seventies. Now relegated to the camping supply aisles or kitchen specialty shops.

6.  Walter Cronkite – The man America trusted to bring us the news. When he said “And that’s the way it is,” we believed him because our parents did. He was in our living room every evening throughout most of my childhood.

7.  Movies with lousy special effects – Kids like my boys who have grown up watching movies like the Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings, take computer-generated Hollywood magic for granted. It’s hard to explain to a kid who has never seen an old sci fi B movie why movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the original Star Wars, which still used models and stop motion, were such a sensation in the seventies.

8.  Telephones with dials and curly cords – Our boys will never know what it’s like to try to have a private conversation with a friend on a handset attached to the wall of the kitchen by a long curly cord while Mom cooked dinner and Dad and siblings came and went.

9.  Smoke-filled teachers’ lounges – I don’t know about your schools, but at mine, the teachers’ lounge always smelled of smoke even when clouds of cigarette fumes weren’t actually billowing out. I wonder what teachers now do to calm their nerves between classes.

10.  Chalkboards in classrooms – Another staple of our childhood. My boys’ classrooms have white dry erase boards which are already falling into disuse as their teachers transition to smart boards connected to laptops to display internet content. They have never been asked to bang the erasers.

11.  The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau – The wiry French diver who seemed to me like the last great explorer, traveling the oceans on the Calypso and showing us things that few people had ever seen before. Now with amazing videos of virtually everything under the sea available to them, my boys could hardly imagine how exciting it was to go Scuba diving with Cousteau.

12.  Sets of encyclopedias – Everyone had a set. Ours was the Encyclopedia Britannica, 24 volumes plus an index, full of information that was outdated almost before it was printed. A completely foreign concept to my boys growing up in the information age with much of the sum total of human knowledge available on the internet, just a few keystrokes away.

So what do you think? What else do you think should make the list? What fixture of your childhood is now obsolete or unheard of? What would puzzle your kids? Write a comment and remind us of what we’ve forgotten.

Leave a comment


  1. Casette tapes, walkman and film cameras! And probably the fact that I was 20 when I got my cell phone and had to use dial-up internet when I was 14!

  2. Milk being delivered to the door in glass bottles with the cream on top.


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