With the beginning of this new year, I’m remembering products, people and fads that once were popular to my generation, things like eating fish on Fridays, wearing hats in church, and little girls in pink pinafores and frilly dresses.
I miss some of these old-fashioned, customs, products and people.
And, as the decades go flying by, I find myself wondering, whatever happened to …
The milkman cometh: In the 1930s, 40s and 50s, milk and other cream products were delivered to our front door by a friendly milkman. We had only to open our door on cool frosty mornings to find a chilled bottle of milk waiting on our doorstep.
Hat-check girls: During the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, 95 percent of all American men and women wore hats, making it essential for most public businesses to include a hat-check room on the premises. Hatcheck attendants stood inside these rooms receiving and dispensing hundreds of hats during a workday. Women rarely left home with out their trademark hat set firmly on their head.
Elevator operators: Before the “do-it-yourself” push button era of the 1960s came along, uniformed attendants stood like well-mannered soldiers at the elevator controls, waiting to take their riders to a requested floor. They were sometimes called “elevator jockeys.”
The Edsel: Though it may sound like something you’d eat with beer and chips, Edsels weren’t eaten, they were driven. When this innovative car, created and produced by the Ford Company, hit the showroom floors, it caused quite a public stir. Some people loved it, but the majority hated it and the Edsel became Ford’s biggest sales dud.
Door-to-door salesmen: Hard to believe, but there once was a time when products and food were brought to us door-to-door. The Watkins man delivered our cooking and medicinal needs; the Fuller brush man, our household wares; the delivery boy, our groceries; the milkman our fresh cream; the Avon Lady, our cosmetics; the produce man, our vegetables, the fishmonger our sea bass, and the bakery truck, our warm breakfast rolls.
Nylon stockings: Before pantyhose came alone and eliminated the need for a garter belt, the American woman of the 1940s and ’50s covered her legs in stockings made of luxurious nylon. But nylons had one big drawback, their seams always needed straightening. “Are my seams straight?” was the common lament of the fashionable woman.
Elsie, the Borden’s cow: In the 1950s, Borden ice cream needed a new logo for its popular dairy products, and Elsie the Cow was created. Elsie’s famous saying, “If its Borden, it’s got to be good!” became the company’s popular slogan and American’s most popular ad among the baby boomer generation.
House dresses and frilly aprons: Before “wash and wear” and blue jeans came along, American housewives wore feminine cotton dresses with well-starched collars. To protect these dresses, every housewife wore a frilly white apron. A strand of white pearls completed her daily ensemble.
Cigarette holders: Silly as it may seem by today’s standards, smoking cigarettes was once fashionable and considered very sophisticated. A long cigarette holder was considered a stylish accessory to a smoker’s wardrobe. President FDR’s use of a cigarette holder did a lot to promote this style trend.
Shoeshine stands: Before Nike made sneakers fashionable for everyone from the chairman of the board to Granny, a man was judged by the shine on his shoes. A 25-cent shoeshine made a man feel like a million. The shoeshine boy snapped and buffed until he could see his face in the leather’s shine.
Ten-cents’ worth: Not too long ago, a dime could buy you a phone call, a Hershey bar, a double-scoop of ice cream cone, a postage stamp or a cherry cola from the fountain bar.
Hope chests: These wooden chests were made of fine cedar and were used to hold a young girl’s belongings for her future wedding day. It was customary for engaged girls to keep hope chests filled with all the things she’d need some day to set up housekeeping. During her engagement, the cedar chest was traditionally filled with romantic keepsakes, linens, silver and crystals – all the necessary items or for a bride to begin her married life.
The 25-cent “kiddy” matinee: On Saturday afternoons, kids under 12 flocked to their local theaters to enjoy the kiddy matinees. Two mercury head dimes and a buffalo nickel entitled us to see two full-length adventure films, three cartoons and coming attractions. Candy bars were a nickel.
Full service gas stations: Before automation came along, the full-service aisle was the rule and not the exception. Smiling attendants pumped our gas, washed the windows and checked the oil, tires and radiator waterc- all for 40 cents a gallon.
Soupy Sales: No that’s not a brand of sea food or alphabet soup. For those under forty, who don’t remember, “Soupy” with pal “ White Fang,” was a funny, pie throwing comic from TV’s early days. Others of his ilk include Time for Beanie; Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and Howdy Doody.
Eight Track tapes: Just after LPs and before cassettes and CDs came along, the eight-track tape was all the rage. The bulky eight tracks were cumbersome and low in quality when compared to the super sound of today’s paper-thin CDs.
Phonograph records: Remember those? – Round black vinyl things with a hole in the center? They came in 45, 78 and 33 1/3 rpms. They’re gathering dust now in closets and trunks, but the music they produced was once as important to us as the CD is to today’s generation.
Accordion music: The accordion wasn’t always a hated instrument. It was once beloved by the public during the 1930s 40s and 50s. The serenade of a strolling concertina set the mood for a romantic evening. The popular sounds of accordionist Dick Continuo and polka maestro Lawrence Welk had everybody playing and dancing to the strains of the musical “Squeeze box.”
Movie musicals: Whatever happened to those wonderful extravaganzas known as the movie musical? The kind that made us leave the theater humming a tune. And how long has it been since we’ve watched the extraordinary footwork of a dancer with the talents of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly or swooned to the voice of a romantic crooner like Sinatra and Dean Martin?
Blue Chip stamps: Blue chip stamps replaced green stamps of the 1940s. And just as we did in previous years, we faithfully pasted these stamps inside our booklets, redeeming them for a variety of free gifts. Wouldn’t it be nice today to get more than just a bill at the checkout stands? It sure would help to soothe the escalating food bills.
The three-cent stamp: Yes, in the 1940s, I can remember when it took only three cents to mail a letter. A post card could be mailed for a penny. Everybody could afford to send long lists of Christmas cards at holiday time. Unfortunately, due to the high price of postage, Christmas card lists keep getting shorter and shorter.