I Have Seen Much in the Past Seventy Years

I was chatting with another writer, a friend of mine, about the difficulty I have finding things of interest to blog about. Somehow we got onto the topic of our personal histories. I know that to my younger readers — those under the age of fifty — I must appear to be a fossil. But I clearly remember how things were after the end of World War II. My friend thought that this memory might be of interest to my readers. I am certain that WWII seems like ancient history to many of you — the dark ages.

I was a small child living in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. This was years and years before the invasion of the flower children — a remnant of the Viet Nam War — and civilization was on the cusp of the first technological advances of the twentieth century. Televisions — black and white — had been created but were not common in the average household. Telephones still had wires. Most cars still had manual transmissions.

The refrigerator had also been invented, but my family did not own one. We had an Ice Box. This appliance — I use the term appliance loosely — required that a large block of ice be deposited at regular intervals and then perishable foods could be stored inside to keep them cool.

We lived on the top floor of a three story walk-up. If someone came to call on us, the caller pushed a button which rang a doorbell in our apartment. A member of the family was then required to trudge down the stairs to open the outside door — which was itself at a level eight steps above street level — to admit the visitor. This then, was how we received our twice a week delivery of a fifty pound block of ice.

The ice man arrived driving a horse-drawn wagon, loaded with blocks of ice intended for delivery to the customers along his route. He wore a black rubber garment with a padded segment over his left shoulder. Taking massive steel tongs, he laid the block of ice over his shoulder and lugged it up the long flight of stairs to our third floor walk-up. Thinking of this now I am amazed by his strength and stamina.

But the thing I like most about the visit from the ice man was that I was allowed to pet his horse. We are not talking about a small town in rural America. We are talking about San Francisco, California, one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the twentieth century. It was a big deal for a horse to be on a city street.

I was saddened when the horse was retired in favor of an internal combustion engine. And then eventually the ice box was retired in our household in favor of an electric refrigerator. Eventually we got a black and white television and my father got his first vehicle with an automatic transmission — a two-tone Kaiser Frasier.

It is hard to believe all the changes I have seen in my lifetime — some good, some not so good. I have watched computing go from the ENIAC, the size of a large room, to Michigan Micro Mote which is smaller than the American one cent piece.

Today, we have remote controls to change the TV channel on our color TV’s. There was a time when someone was required to get out of the chair and walk to the black and white television to change the channel (of which there were only three). That was always the job of the youngest member of the household. We have microwave ovens to heat our pre-cooked frozen meals and boil water for our instant coffee. We have electronic devices that can store thousands of books and allow us to read them anytime and anywhere. There are three dimensional printers which can manufacture plastic guns which can escape detection while going through airport security to fly on jumbo jets which can span oceans and whole continents.

Then there are all the little things which have made life easier: Tupper Wear, disposable diapers, cat litter, aerosol paint, barcodes, zipper storage bags, sugar packets, Post-it notes, tilt and roll wheeled luggage. These items just barely scratch the surface of the inventions which have occurred in the past seventy years. We won’t even mention the things that have come and gone like floppy disks and eight track tapes.

I am only sorry I won’t be around for another seventy years to see what’s yet to come.

Reprinted from my author blog www.SharonBurgess.com

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