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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Remember When?

Whenever I have a malted milk shake I remember my first one. I always do. I was with my mother and I must have been around eight or nine then. We were at a soda fountain sitting on tall stools by a white marble counter in an ice cream parlor in the city of Rochester, MN a city 35 miles from our country home. (Mother was on one of her visits to the Mayo Clinic, but that’s another story.) Mother ordered malted milks for the two of us. Nothing else, though it was to be our noon lunch. The whole thing was new to me. I never, and I mean never, went out to eat except for dinners at my cousins’ or grandparents’ homes. Never to public places, even in our small hometown.

“Will that be all?” the young man behind the counter asked.

“Yes, thank you,” Mother replied.

“That’s all?” I said. (Why is it that children's voices carry so loudly?)

I saw Mother in the huge mirror across the bar. She winced, then bent down to say softly to me, “You’ll see, it will be more than you can finish, dear.” 

“No!” Pointing to a sign I insisted, “I want a sandwich too, like the one on that sign!” The answer was no and I thought for a minute she was going to grab my hand and go out.  It was one of my cranky spells. I argued more. Embarrassed her, no doubt. (It’s something I regret and would gladly erase from my story if I could because Mother was not long for the world then.)  

But, as I said, that was my first taste of a real malted milk shake and it was absolutely delicious! A new flavor and one I’d never forget. Not like the malted milks you get today. A tall glass twice the size of today’s version, filled to the brim, and the metal container it had been made in contained an almost equal amount. The waiter set them both down in front of me with a broad smile to Mother. He’d heard our discussion and was no doubt in sympathy with her. Mother was right. Sure enough, I couldn’t finish the milk shake. Afterward, outside, I should have had a scolding but I didn't.

No milk shakes I’ve ever had since can measure up to that first malted milk. I rarely order them because they're always a disappointment. Like today when Katie and I went shopping and stopped to get milk shakes to drink in the car. We found a place to park under a bower of trees in Ralph’s parking lot. It was shady and cool there, a spot next to the tree-lined street and across from a greenbelt. Not strange territory but neither was it a place we’d spent any time in before. Grocery store parking lots mean getting in and out and that’s about it.

“I can almost imagine us on a car trip somewhere,” I said to Katie. “It’s nice here.” The malt was the usual, cold and smooth, but not malty enough, even though I'd asked to double the malt but  it got me to start this blog about things we oldsters remember that you youngsters don't. 

I made a list of things no longer present in today’s world, at least not in this country, save those rare places where time got stuck and hardly any outsiders go. 

Here are some of my remember whens.

Remember when cars needed to be started with a hand crank by the driver or someone standing in front of the front bumper? Occasionally someone's wrist got broken that way or if the driver had left the car in gear he could have run himself over. And whatever happened to rumble seats and running boards?
Remember when gas stations were called “service stations” and that meant someone would come out, greet you and ask how many gallons to put in? He, (never a she,) would also raise the hood and check the oil, the radiator water, check the fan belt and whatever, then close the lid. He’d also wash the windshield, the side windows and the rear window, check your tires and ask if there was anything else you’d like him to do. Then he’d collect your money, give you change from one of those gadgets that hang from the belt, then maybe chat a bit, give you directions, and wave goodbye with a cheery “Good to see you! Come again!” (I know all about that, my dad owned a country gas station and our home was right on the property.)

Remember when little girls were taught to be “ladylike” and carry a handkerchief in a little purse and wear hats and gloves to church? Nowadays even the term "lady" is considered politically incorrect.

Remember when a nickel would buy a candy bar or a bottle of soda pop and you could buy as little as one or two pieces of candy or a licorice stick for a penny?

Remember when little boys were allowed to have paper routes and could do chores for neighbors to collect money? Even girls as young as fourteen could be hired out as live-in house maids and nannies. We had one off and on and she was happy to get the going rate, room and board and $4.00 a week to take home to her parents on her one day off.

Remember when elevators anywhere, not just in high class hotels, had operators who wore smart uniforms? For some time it was my ambition to get a job like that when I grew up. 

Remember when farm kitchens had a daybed for Grandpa to rest on after the noon dinner? (I never saw Grandma on it. The only time Grandma sat down was to darn socks or crochet in her rocking chair.)

Remember when barbers advertised, “Shave and a haircut, six bits?” A bit was 25 cents, so you see that six bits was rather a lot in its day.

Remember when the word Darn! was the worst swear word you ever heard of and even it you were not allowed to say?

I could go on, but if you’re anywhere near my age you’ll no doubt think of other Remember Whens. Younger folks than I might remember when McDonald’s advertised on the Golden Arches that they’d sold 14,000,000 hamburgers! And those burgers were 14 cents! Also, some might remember the Burma Shave signs on highways. My favorite one was this:

“Don’t stick your elbow 
out too far
It might go home
In another car!”

Here’s another:

“Although insured
Remember, brother,
They don’t pay you
They pay your mother.”

Do you think the youngsters of today will look back on us and laugh that we ever had to have pilots to fly airplanes, drivers to drive cars? Well, you can carry on. This blog is over. I keep remembering more, like beating rugs over a clothes line when there was no vacuum cleaner and riding in a buck board wagon with Grandpa to "The Other Place." You heard about that. And now this blog is over! 

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