Memories of things past

Remembering the little things from a much simpler time

Russell Lee – Boys' sack race, Labor Day celebration, Ridgway, Colorado, 1940

ST. LOUIS, June 3, 2015 – Remember the simple pleasures of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s? Remember the trinkets and treats that shaped our days in those times of stickball and marbles? Sometimes we see an old ad or an old photo and the memories come flooding in.

Remember candy cigarettes? They were shaped like a real cigarette and had red tips that represented the lighted end. Remember leaning against the light post pretending to smoke, candy cigarette to your mouth until the taste of that pure sugar made you eat the whole thing? City residents brought these sweet treats to country relatives, who didn’t have much access to sugary delights. Remember how sticky these candy cigarettes were and the sweet goo they left on your fingers?

And speaking of treats, how about those wax Coke–shaped bottles with colored sugar water inside? No one really never cared for the sugar water, but we enjoyed chewing the wax because it took the place of chewing gum. For those kids today who think that chewing wax instead of gum isn’t appetizing, consider this: another alternative to gum was to pull some loose tar from the black top road and chew it as if it were gum. Can you even imagine that?

Soda pop machines dispensed ice-cold drinks in glass bottles. When you finished drinking your soda, you placed the empty bottle into a wooden soda container.  We drank Nehi orange soda and Royal Crown out of those glass bottles.

Children rode bikes everywhere. They attached baseball cards to the bicycle frame so the spokes hit the card, emulating the sound of a motorcycle. They became very creative by attaching many cards to create the roar of the road.

“Weapons” were different then, at least for most kids. The weapon of choice was the slingshot, followed by the pea shooter. Little kids used a cork pop gun. Noone took a weapon to school, because if a teacher found it, you lost it forever.

One major modern marvel was the metal ice-cube trays with levers to loosen the ice when it was ready. No more chipping away at an ice block to get shavings of ice to make your cold drink. It was great to have the uniform cubes, available with just a pull of the lever. However, if you did not fill the tray correctly you would get all types of distorted cubes.

Fast-food places such as drive-ins were the high school hangouts. Selecting songs from the table-side juke boxes was a deliberate task, because we had limited funds. Food selections included cherry Coke, ice cream soda, a thick malt and an order of fries. If you were splurging, you got a cheeseburger.

Movies at the drive-In theaters were great. Children played on the playground before the movie. The concession stand offered everything from sandwiches to popcorn, but most people brought their own snacks to save money. Wintertime presented a problem due to the number of people in the car, whose breath fogged up the windows, but they were inventive and took care of that problem.

Memories abound, and we could write novels about the things that spark a story. For the younger readers, this again is a little glimpse of what your grandparents and great-grandparents enjoyed in their youth, which was so different from today’s environment.

However, that’s a time and place I am from.

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