Back when I was a kid we didn’t have…


I remember listening to my parents tell my brother and I about what they did and didn’t have as children.  It was fascinating, to say the least.  My parents were both born in the 1920’s.  Things we take for granted, they somehow managed to survive without.

the olden days, modern conveniences

Their freezers didn’t make ice – instead, the “ice guy” {okay that’s not his real name, but you get the picture} would deliver blocks of ice to their house and put them in the “icebox”.  Wow!   So imagine their delight when freezers could make ice with ice cube trays, and eventually with built-in ice makers.   Milk was delivered to your house, and the milkman left your bottles in the milk box.  Actually this doesn’t sound so bad to me!

They didn’t have television sets so as kids they sat around and listened to the radio.   Cars didn’t have keys, but instead they had to “crank” up the car to make it go.  My dad said that motorized cars were just coming in when he was a kid, but that hardly anyone had them.  There weren’t radios in cars either.  What about phones?  When they finally got a phone in their house, it was in the middle of the living room, and it was huge.  They had party lines – families from different houses shared the phone.  If you picked up the phone and heard a beep, or other people talking, you hung up and tried again later.   Or you could just be really nosy and listen in. That sounds brutal to me.  The list goes on and on.  Oh and my dad also walked 15 miles to school {each way}, in the snow. 🙂

What got me thinking about this? The other day I was telling my 14-year old daughter what I did and didn’t have as a child. I never thought I’d see the day when what I did have would someday seem old-fashioned.

When I was a kid… {or as my folks liked to say, “back in my day…”}

The microwave: I remember when we got our first microwave.  This was the best idea to come around since…well…ever!  We were having our kitchen remodeled, and when the microwave was installed we stood around mesmerized as we watched the turntable go around and around while it warmed a cup of water. Woo hoo! Prior to this amazing invention, we had to heat water {and leftovers} in a pan on the stove *gasp*.  I can’t even imagine having to do that just to warm up a cup of coffee.

Percolaters: There was always a pot of coffee percolating on our kitchen counter.  There weren’t automatic drip coffee makers.

Television Sets: When I was a kid, we had a black and white TV for years.  We didn’t have a color television set until I was much older.   Oh, and even when televisions with knob to turn channels we did get a color television set, we only had five channels to choose from – NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS and Channel 2 {I don’t remember the station letters – but I do remember a show called ‘Dialing for Dollars’ that was on it all the time. And Jack Lalaine}.  We had to get up off our bums to change the channel.  The horror!   Nobody did channel surfing back then unless you were sitting within arms length of the television, and you had to do it manually because we didn’t have remotes!  Crazy right?  Don’t even get me started on the rabbit ears.  We were lucky to get a picture at all. These days we have Hi-Def,  Surround Sound, and on and on.

Camcorder & Beta tapes: The huge, bulky camcorders were a huge hit when they first came out, but it was like carrying a suitcase on your shoulder, just to film something.  And the tapes that they recorded on were huge.  They were called Beta videotapes.   At the movie rental stores in later years, you could choose to rent your movie on Beta or VHS.  Those of us who rented VHS tapes felt just a little high and mighty {much like when DVD’s came out and you could rent them or VHS tapes}.  Now we have DVD’s and Blu-Ray and can even watch our movies on our video game consoles.   Speaking of video games…

Pong: Yep – the first video game ever made.  I remember I was at the mall with a friend, and Macy’s had one on display.  We thought it was the neatest thing! Each player had a paddle {a line on the screen} and you hit the virtual ball {a dot on the screen} back and forth.   Nowadays we have Gameboy, Xbox, PS1, PS2, PS3, Game Cube, and Wii.  And PC games.  Man, we sure are spoiled.

8 Track Players and Tapes: If you aren’t familiar with these, well, don’t feel bad.  Though they were pretty “hip” at the time, they are now the butt of many jokes.  They were enormous!  You put this ginormous tape in a humongous player to hear your music.  In the 70’s, even cars were equipped with 8-track tape players.  It was quite an improvement when cassette tapes came into play.  They were small and practical.  Of course, over the years I collected hundreds of them, and then CD’s were invented, and I had to start my collection all over again.

Phones: We had the old, square, rotary phones.  You had to put your finger in the hole of the appropriate number, and bring the hole all the way to the what does a rotary phone look like bar, and wait for it go to all the way back again. For each number. It took forever.  I cringed when I had to dial a number that had a bunch of 9’s or 0’s in it.  I was thrilled when we got the fancy new phones that had the dial on the inside of the handset.  Some of them even had push-buttons!   Cell phones obviously hadn’t even been thought of back then.

Typewriters: I remember my mom used to do a lot of typing for my dad, on her old Royal typewriter.  It was before electric typewriters were available.  I would be downstairs and I would hear this horrible banging sound – it was mom typing.  And she could type like the dickens on that thing. I now know why she had arthritis in her fingers later in life.  Then along came electric typewriters, but she couldn’t adjust to them.  I don’t think anyone uses typewriters anymore, do they?

Some things that were better when I was a child:

Full-service gas stations: I haven’t seen one of these in years, except in Oregon where they have only full-serve stations, and the attendants look at you like you have a third eye if you dare try to pump your own gas.

Woolworth’s: My mom and I used to shop there and I have fond memories of the huge candy stand in the middle of the store.  The colorful pieces behind the glass was enough to make me swoon.  After shopping, we would go to the lunch counter to have grilled cheese sandwiches.  Oh, the good ol’ days.

We went outside to play: We were creative and we used our imaginations.  We weren’t stuck in front of computers and video games all day long.

We have come so far, but those were  simpler times in many ways {and I’m sure my parents said the same thing, and their parents too}.   These days we have the best of everything to ensure our convenience and comfort.  I sometimes think of the future, when my kids are parents, and I wonder what will be invented by then.  I imagine we will shake our heads in disbelief – “how on earth did we live without that?”

What do you remember your parents talking about when they were kids? What is different now for you than when you were a kid?  What types of things/inventions do you think our future generations will enjoy?


About Author

Jennifer Regan is the owner/editor-in-chief of Eighty MPH Mom, a family-friendly blog. She is active in Brand Ambassadorships and campaigns, and is active in social media, helping brands promote!


  1. Mom had a washer with a wringer. And of course, no dryer. You had to hang on the line to dry. We had a 5 digit phone number with a party-line. You were lucky to have 5 TV channels. We only had 3. And a milkman, bread deliveryman. The postman delivered twice a day in December. We not only had a trash man but we also had a garbage man.

    When I started driving, gas was 20 cents a gallon. My first job I made $2.05/hr. And as an RN I made a whopping $4.92/hr.

    Times have certainly changed.

  2. WOW you just brought back a ton of memories.
    I remembered PONG we loved PONG lol FUnny how a ball bonging back and forth on a screen was fun. Atari wooo whoo loved atari. pacman galaga centeriped those where my games

    Gas was 72 cents a gallon when i started driving.

    8 tracks lol now I remember those and BETA’s geez i think we just threw out a box of those not 5 yrs ago lol the things we save.

    loved the type writer n I remember when I first saw a computer I was just amazed. lol

    My daughter always says …..when you were little..did you have…
    the Flintstones were cool then, and Banana splits, Giggle snort hotel LOl
    I have to go to bed. OH I can go on for hours.

    • Yes, yes and yes! Now you just brought back more memories for me – I thought of more stuff LOL. Who can forget The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Zoom & The Electric Company (PBS). I think I need to update my post 🙂

  3. OH OH I thought of another ha I remember when they invented the REMOTE. LOL
    back in the day I always had to get up and change the channel. Remember that. I swore that’s why my mother gave birth to me LOL
    psst I’m going to stumble you

  4. I remember Woolworths!! And I still remember when we had Atari, black and white televisions (ok, I feel offiically old now! haha) and phones with cords! Great list!

  5. Pong! Loved it! lol I totally relate to some of those things. I remember my record player was easily my favorite item as a kid and I collected hundreds. Then like you mentioned, I had to upgrade to Cassette. Then CD. Now I put all the Cds on the iPod (and I worry they’ll get lost somehow instead of taking the few minutes needed to back them up, lol). My mom and grandma had the 8-track players and loved them, but I remember them getting stuck a lot (anyone remember spinning the dial to get the tape back in), and having a big chunk of a song delayed while skipping to the next phase on the tape. They were destined for improvement from the get-go. 🙂

    We had a Woolworth’s but it was the JcPenneys store I remember most, we’d ride the escalator to the second floor and I thought that was big news. The penny candy at the local drug store was a blast and I’d literally take half an hour selecting my precious choices. Mostly I’d get the penny candy…quanity over quality you know…but ever once in awhile I’d splurge and get wax lips or one of those awesome Marathon (chocolate covered caramael braids) candy bars. The chocolate always stuck to the paper. Always. But I loved them.

    Going even younger I remember always getting one pair of new shoes for school (yep, just one pair for the whole school year). They were always saddle shoes, and I got to sit on a fake pony to get my feet measured, and the shoe store lady who knew our names, always gave me a dum-dum loli on the way out. I loved getting those shoes. With five of us in the house right now, we probably have fifty pairs of shoes. Even the toddler has six or eight pairs. Amazing, isn’t it? You’re right, we are spoiled. But both our past and our current generations are good…great acutally, and what more than that can we ask for? 🙂

    I loved your post.

    • LOL I DO remember the 8 track tapes doing that. What a nightmare they were! I loved the penny candy too – it sad that those aren’t around anymore really. I used to LOVE Marathon bars! I also remember those hard colored dots that were on wax paper (the paper always stuck to those too). And Now and Laters…remember those?

      I think I only had one pair of shoes per school year too. My kids always had a bunch – sandals, flip flops, slippers, tennis shoes, dress shoes… What a great memory of your shoe store! I went to McPhees Junior Bootery and they always had goodies for me too 🙂

      Thank you so much for commenting!

  6. LOL We didn’t have a microwave for a looooong time. Same with a stereo {I mean with a tape player?} I didn’t have a CD player until I was 16. No joke. It was all vinyl or cassettes in our house. I learned to type on a typewriter and if it weren’t for signing myself up for computer class in school I’d never touch a computer till I had moved out LOL. My mom would literally kick us out on sunny days {er even rainy days}. No tv – get OUT and play. Looking back, I understand why and very much appreciate. That’s one thing that stuck with me as a parent myself, as you very well know 😉

    • Yep – we were outdoors always. We left the house after breakfast and didn’t come home until we heard our moms yelling at us that dinner was ready 🙂 I do appreciate the way you parent!

  7. I do not miss rotary phones one little bit. I remember learning to type on a typewriter. I can’t believe our kids will never know what it means to live without a computer or the internet.

  8. I love this post! I remember when my mom got a type writer and I was so excited and happy because I could make my school work look more “professional” LOL!!!

  9. WOW – I enjoyed reading your post + everyone’s comments… absolute riot!!! Our list could go on and on!
    We had friends over one night and we were naming favorite TV shows from our childhood years. Then..we started singing their corresponding theme songs… you remember the show and/or the theme song/music to:
    Gilligan’s Island, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, That Girl, Green Acres, My Three Sons, The Banana Splits, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Bonanza, Get Smart, Batman……I’m singing along as I type!!
    Great memories – Thanks!!!!

    • OMG yes! “People let me tell you bout my best friend….” Best theme song ever! I remember staying up on Saturday nights with my parents and we’d watch Mary Tyler Moore, The Bob Newhart show then Carol Burnett. Those were the best of times!

  10. Instead of watching TV or playing video games, I remember spending hours playing jacks or making friendship bracelets with yarn. I WISH my kids could be entertained that easily!

  11. greeneyezmpa on

    My family had a system called Magnavox Odyssey (Pong) before Atari was released and grew in popularity. Both of my parents grew up w/ black & white TV, but my father remembers a time without TV. My mom said there was a filter that you could place in front of the TV to make it “color” lol! Brand new cars were only a few thousand dollars, and I remember my mom saying that denim jeans were about $5.

  12. Ohhh, thanks for the article, I had a good laugh. My daughter asked me once what were my favorite games on the internet when I was a kid. I had to explain there wasn’t internet when I was a kid at least not in our homes. I had a green monitor Amstrad which you had to put a cassette tape into and wait about 3 minutes for the games to load. beeeep beeeeeeeeeeeep beeep!!! We had alot of patience back then.
    More recently I was asked how to watch the big square things (VHS) cos they won’t fit into the dvd player. I couldn’t believe my kids didn’t know what a video was!!

    • That would definitely make me feel old! I just found some old boxes the other day and there were a bunch of VHS tapes in there. I couldn’t believe how bulky they were…and that we used to collect them!

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