[LMB] OT: Generation Change, was Fun

Francis Turner francis.turner at gmail.com
Mon Apr 6 10:20:44 BST 2009

On Sun, Apr 5, 2009 at 2:29 AM, Jelbelser <jelbelser at comcast.net> wrote:
>>> 50 years ago is 1959
>>> Well here's a few that I can think of
> The original 1959 list struck me as European.  I was a kid in
> Washington, DC in 1959.

Since I'm European I think that is likely to be true. However I beg to
quibble with some of your statements

>  >>>Public transport was in far greater use proportionately than it is
> today. So were bikes and walking.<<<
> Public transportation, yes.  Walking, yes, up to the bus stop.  Only
> kids rode bikes for transportation.
>  >>>There were very few multilane motorways.<<<
> Main streets in cities were certainly multilane.  So were many
> intercity roads.  And the interstate system was starting, as Robert
> mentions.
Few does not mean none. What I meant was that the vast majority of
interurban highways (interstates/freeways etc in the US) were built
after 1959. OF course there were some earlier ones but most of today's
network consists of roads first constructed in the 1960s and after
even if they were planned beforehand.

>  >>>Cars needed servicing regularly and still broke down frequently. The
> good news was that you could generally fix them yourself.<<<
> I never knew ANYONE over the age of 25 who fixed their own car.

YMMV I grew up in the 1970s on stories of people fixing their cars.
>  >>>It was not uncommon to have wood as a major part of a goods vehicle
> or
> railway carriage/wagon<<<
> Wood on vehicles was strictly decorative.

Interesting. It shocked me when I saw some old light trucks with
wooden load beds, but that was certainly the case in 1950s Europe. I'm
not sure if the wooden frame on the Morris Minor was structural or
decorative. I certainly recall many British Rail carriages in the
1970s with wooden interior partitions etc. and I think I recall the
same in Germany. I suspect another decade and a halt earlier they were
>  >>>Horses were still in use in certain areas/tasks as transport<<<
> Only rarely in the US.

Rarely elsewhere too for the most part. But rare doesn't mean never.
Rag and Bone men for example
>  >>>The normal way to cross the Atlantic, travel to Asia etc. was by
> ship.<<<
> Not if you were going on business, or had limited time.
People didn't go across the atlantic for limited time. These days
people fly the family to Disneyland for a 2 week vacation from
Germany. In 1959 they did not do this.

Business travel may have been by air but again, it was much less
common and much more expensive. If you were (for example) studying as
a Rhodes sholar you probably took a ship to England at the start of
the academic year and returned on another at the end with no trip back
in between

>  >>>Credit cards,.... did not exist <<<
> My mother had a credit card for each store she shopped at frequently,
> and for gas stations.  The only difference was no "universal" card such
> as Visa.
That was what I meant. And someone else pointed out that they did
exist but were rare.

> Also they were not electronic, but had raised letters and numbers that
> made a purple imprint on the receipts when pressed in the pressing
> device.
>  >>>Supermarkets were rare<<<
> Multi-department grocery stores were around in the 1930s.
>  >>>most people bought from the local shop(s) and made special trips to
> city center department stores for special items.<<<
> Suburban department stores existed.  One drove to them and parked for
> free right there.  Downtown department stores required a bus trip or
> paying to park in a multi-level garage, although stores sometimes
> stamped your ticket so you didn't have to pay.  In small towns affluent
> people would travel to a large city seasonally to update their
> wardrobe. Some still do this today.
>  >>>The alternative was mail order. Delivery was generally 28 days not
> overnight<<<
> Non-local mail went by train, and only took a few more days than local.
>  First class packages could cross the country and be delivered in a
> week or so.

Sure the post was faster than 28 days. But I'm pretty sure that if you
ordered from the Sears(?) Catalog it said that orders would be
delivered in 28 days not 7 days.
>  >>>If you went on holiday then sharing the bathroom/toilet with other
> guests was normal in most hotels.<<<
> Again, not in the US in mainstream hotels and motels.

Interesting. Certainly something that was common in Europe (not at 4*
hotels of course but at the more basic 1* and 2* ones)
>  >>>People still died from diseases like Small Pox or Polio<<<
> Not in the US in 1959.  Smallpox vaccine had been around for close to
> 200 years and the Salk polio vaccine, which had to be updated annually
> or so was in widespread use.

Should have made clear I was looking at the global situation. Small
pox was still a killer in parts of the world in 1959. Polio ditto. The
Salk vaccine was sufficiently new that people in 1959 would almost
certainly know (of) someone who had polio. These days hardly anyone

>  >>>Heart attacks were usually fatal, and if not you generally couldn't
> recover from them because the surgeries and pharmaceuticals we have
> today did not exist.<<<
> Only big ones were fatal.  After little ones you took your digitalis
> and nitroglycerin, cut back on starches, and avoided stress and
> exercise.
>  >>>Telegrams were still in common use<<<
> Telegrams were rare and used for ceremonial situations.
Correction noted. I think it might be better to say Telegrams still
existed. I don't think you can send one today.
>  >>>It was usual to use the operator to connect a phone call<<<
> Only for long distance calls

Again we're getting into semantics. There were a large fraction of
types of phone call were an operator was required to connect the call.
In 2009 the operator is only required for things like reverse charges
>  >>>Party lines were common<<<
> Never knew anyone who had one.  By 1959 they existed only in extremely
> rural areas.
>  >>>It was common to wait months to get a phone line<<<
> Not so in the US
>  >>>There was little or no choice in phone,<<<
> True, the only thing you could choose was color and whether it was
> wall-mounted or on a table/desk.
>  >>>In the US segregation was normal.<<<
> The military had be desegregated earlier by President Truman.  Public
> schools were in the process of integrating.  Bathrooms and water
> fountains were segregated in some parts of the country but not others.
> I remember seeing signs labeling them for white or colored while on a
> trip, and thinking that was very odd.

Again I should have reworded to specify that I meant  in certain
regions of the US and amongst certain classes of people.

Faber's Fourth Law:
  Necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows.

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