What my parents did, and what my children don’t

Cardinal Red Tile Polish. There was a time when no self-respecting house-wife would not have the front door-step regularly polished with ‘Cardinal’. Haven’t seen it around for ages, though I think you used to be able to get it in Woolworth’s – and indeed what happened to that too?

It got me thinking a bit about practices of the generation before us, things that we (generally) no longer do; and of some of the things we do, but our children have given up on. I thought I might try and make a list of things that now seem so anachronistic… Do join in, and add more in reply comments.

Cardinal Red, courtesy of Billogs@Flickr

Cardinal Red, via Billogs@Flickr

How about fountain pens and inky fingers? Ball-point pens were anathema at my school; and I remember having to regularly re-fill my pen, using the lever on it’s side, from the Royal Blue Ink bottle on the windowsill of the classroom. Little scratching of the fountain pens heard these days; mainly replaced by the tap-tap sound of fingers on laptop keyboards instead.

Music reproduction has changed enormously. In 1960s rural India, we didn’t have a radio; but we did have a gramophone with some records. Even the old brittle 78rpm shellac ones. (I remember my sister standing on a favorite record, and breaking it; or hearing stories of people –philistines– heating old records to recycle them in to flower pots.) All a long way from the iPod, and higher quality music available for instant download in greater quantities than ever before in history. I suspect Bach and Mozart would have been tempted to give their right ear to have access to the huge catalogue of music we largely ignore.

Items heading towards the local museum:

  • Dress-making patterns
  • Telegrams, and telephone boxes
  • Hand-cranked meat-mincers
  • Shoe polish
  • Update: additions from the ‘Comments‘…

  • twin-tubs
  • ironing underwear (!)
  • old fashioned slideshows with family snaps
  • napkin/serviette rings
  • sugar tongs & sugar cubes
  • paper doilies
  • This is not all about nostalgia not being what it used to be, though. I may need to consider another post on things that grandparents have start to pick up from their grandchildren – surprisingly, to show it’s not all one-way…

    And then there is the list of things we don’t yet have, but really could do with – but I think Dave Gorman already has that one covered.

    In the mean-time, do add (in reply comments) to the what ever happened too… list

    • Catriona Allen

      Interesting thoughts…. Mind you….I claim I was pushed – and it was an accident! Honest! I see I still haven’t lived it down probably almost 40 years later.

      Interestingly, my 16yr old daughter still uses a fountain pen almost all the time as her prefered writing implement.

      And I would love the time to use dress-making patterns…. and I did teach two of my daughters how to use them! If only wish there were more hours in the day!

      By the way, what do you use if not shoe polish?

      To add to your list…. typewriters, twin tubs, and who has time to iron underwear these days???

    • Slide shows – these were great, all sitting around as a family whilst dad put up the screen and mum put all the slides the right way up into the cartridge, the laughter when we turned out upside down. Somehow it’s not quite the same anymore, the gratification is all too instant and there aren’t the same ‘ahhs’ and ‘oohs’ because they are so available, we don’t have the same sense of the forgotten memory resurfacing because slide shows didn’t happen very often in the good old days when it was a real event to have one and enough time has elapsed for memories to become faded.

    • Alastair

      Good additions, both of you.

      Shoe polish? – it seems most shoes these days are not ‘polish’ ones; and people seem to throw them out when they get dirty… Yep, twin-tubs.

      Typewriters, I think, live on evolved as keyboards, so can’t count that. Now if you had said carbon paper; or gestetner wax skins, or pink correction fluid!

      Slide cartridges and carousels? How very modern! What about the side-to-side slide shift?

      And, who irons underwear? I think we know the answer to that…

    • Jill Daniels

      What a great idea! yes we always had napkins in individual napkin rings. Now, at Christmas I always put neatly ironed napkins around the table and they either end up on the floor or remain unused, the children just can’t see the point of them, but for us, as children, they were essential. I now have a collection of (inherited) napkin rings cluttering up a drawer. Charity shop here I come. Oh and talking about unused items, what about sugar tongs? Apparently tea time wasn’t acceptable unless you had a bowl of sugar lumps and some silver tongs to get the sugar safely to the cup. I feel there is a history thesis bumping around in this thought provoking blog.

    • Alastair

      And whilst on dining table finesse: paper doilies. Sugar tongs really don’t work well with the golden granulated, so perhaps that is why we don’t use the so much. But we still have napkins in daily use. I say we – they are on the table, and the parents in this house use them, and some of the children might, sometimes.

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