USOFF: I Am Old Enough To Remember When…

Written by Larry Usoff on October 1, 2019

I am old enough to truly understand the saying “the best thing since sliced bread” because I was a kid when the slicing machine came to our neighborhood. Because it WAS such a fascinating thing, several of my friends and I would be at the bakery as soon as it opened. We were not there to buy anything unless our mothers had given us some pennies to buy a sweet roll. We were there to watch, from the sales area of the bakery, the magic of the slicing machine! Remember, prior to this marvel appearing on the scene, all bread was sold in whole loaves, and you did your own slicing at home. The bakery opened early in the morning, probably around 7 AM, and we were ready for it. It was a place of warmth in the winter, and somewhat cool in the summer. I say somewhat cool because air-conditioning had not come down from the mountain as yet. We would buy something if we pooled our pennies and eat it IN the bakery all the while watching the magic that was the slicer! Oh, it was a marvelous time!

I am old enough to have lived through World War II and have vivid memories of it. My father put up a huge wall map of Europe, in our living room, and I made tiny flags on pins. We would chart the gains and losses by both the Allies and the Germans. The war in the Pacific was news also, but not quite as “demanding” of our time as was the war in Europe. My father pointed out places on the map, such as where his parents came from, and some places he’d been in World War I when he was in the Army. Rationing was big in those war days, and things like sugar, coffee, meat, and several other “staples” had to be bought not just with cash, but also with rationing stamps. I know now, because of learning about my father, that we didn’t want for anything because he was “connected”… but at the time I was ignorant of that fact. I just knew that we drove a big car, and had lots of good things to eat, when other people did not.

We, of a certain age, can remember the “start” of television. No, not the experimental stuff at the 1938 World’s Fair, but when the public began to use it…sometime right after World War Two, I believe. Where I lived at the time, we had one channel, and most of the time all it showed was a test pattern. Nevertheless, we watched it on our first TV, a great big THREE INCH picture! The picture tube was round, so the pictures were rounded, and you didn’t get to see what was in the corners. Eventually programs began to show up, and more channels were coming online, so we thought it was the best…never dreamed of what was coming in the years ahead. With the advent of multiple channels came the famous, or infamous, “rabbit ears” TV antennas. With the TV transmitters being in different places you had to adjust the antenna to get the best picture. Many a night I spent more time adjusting the antenna than I did watching the show that it was bringing in!

During the war, and for me “The War” will always be World War Two, kids used to scramble all over the neighborhoods trying to find stuff to give to the war effort. We picked up glass bottles, old pots and pans, and paper, each of us using the baskets on the bikes to hold our treasures. There were exceptions, of course, so the soda bottles we put aside because you got back two cents for each of them. Even in our zeal to help the war effort, we didn’t forget about going to the movies on Saturdays. No, that would have been almost a sin, so we saved and scrimped and got enough to go. Back then, Saturday mornings were precious at the movies…you usually got a double-feature, maybe a serial, a cartoon and the news of the day…all for about 25 cents. If you had collected enough extra money you got a bag of popcorn, a candy bar, and a Coke…that was another 15 cents. When you came out of the theater it was still daylight and you blinked and blinked because it was SO bright!

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Where I lived at the time there was a “hall” that people rented to celebrate some event… a wedding, a graduation, or whatever. We had special clothing that we wore just for these occasions. We had to LOOK like we belonged there, but we really didn’t… it was just another place to get a free meal. We’d walk in, circle the room and figure out the fastest way to the food, and once we had that planned it was time to eat! Most of the time I don’t believe we knew WHAT we were eating, but it didn’t make any difference… if THEY didn’t fall over after eating, we’d try it too. It was, all in all, a pretty good childhood and it’s a shame that kids nowadays won’t have anything like that in their lives.

Parting shot: Old people, like me, talk about the past because we have no future. Young people talk about the future because they have no past.

Larry Usoff
Larry Usoff, US Navy Retired. Articulate. Opinionated. Patriotic. Conservative. Cultured enough so that I can be taken almost anywhere. Makes no excuses for what I say or do, but takes responsibility for them. Duty. Honor. Country. E-mail me at: amafrog@att.net

 

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