Wednesday, March 6, 2024

How the Times Have Changed Over 75 Years

I woke up today, March 6, a 75-year-old. As I lay in bed recalling all the good, and some bad, things that have happened to me over the years, I contemplated how different the world of today is compared to when I emerged from the womb. So many of the things we take for granted today were not present, or were in their infancy, when I was born.

Broadcast television, for example. Evening national news telecasts had not begun; there was no cable; most cities had three national networks—ABC, CBS, NBC—and, if they were large enough, a few independent stations; many communities had but one national network whose signal could be picked up by rooftop or set-top rabbit-ear antennae. 

The polio vaccine had not yet been developed. Nor had the anti-vaxx movement been formed. The triple dose MMR vaccine to ward off measles, mumps and the rubella virus was approved in 1978, the year Gilda’s and my son was born. 

Jet plane travel would not come till 1951; my first plane ride in January 1958 was on an Eastern Airlines propeller plane to Miami. I was ushered into the cockpit by a stewardess and given wings by the captain. 

The Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants had not yet moved to California. They would do so in 1958. There were just eight teams in the American League, eight in the National. No New York Mets. No Tampa Bat Rays, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Miami Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Denver Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals, Milwaukee Brewers. 

Computers were enormous back then. Full rooms were dedicated to mainframes. Desktop computers would show up in the 1970s. Personal computers did not exist until 1974. 

Music was restricted to in-home consoles and car radios. Transistor radios tuned in in 1954. Boom boxes in 1966. The Sony Walkman in 1979. The Apple iPod in 2001.  

Telephones had rotary analog dialing systems. Most families had but one phone, if any. Handheld mobile phones became widely available in the mid 1980s.  The iPhone debuted in 2007. 

Space was still an unexplored frontier. Uri Gagarin became the first human in outer space in 1961. The first human lunar landing was in 1969. Aliens still have not been discovered. 

Pickleball started in 1965. The first Super Bowl, played in 1967, was called the AFL-NFL World Championship Game. The ultimate game was dubbed the Super Bowl in 1969. 

Schools used chalk and blackboards, not today’s markers and white dry-erase boards. 

There were no MRI machines. Physicians had to make do with X-rays. 

Almost everything families bought was made in America. Goods made in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were considered inferior. The only truly national chains back then were Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, JC Penney, Woolworth. There were no ubiquitous discount stores. Walmart and Target, and Kmart, began in 1962. There were no Best Buys, Crate and Barrels, T.J. Maxx, Costco. Retailing was very much localized. Department stores were landmarks of downtowns, with few if any locations outside the central city. There were no suburban shopping centers, no enclosed malls. Amazon was just the longest river in the western hemisphere, not today’s behemoth of international non-store retailing. 

Full voting rights were not universally enforced throughout the nation, a condition sadly still with us. 

Playboy had yet to appear on newsstands or be delivered through the mail. The sexual revolution did not truly take off until the pill was sanctioned by the Federal Drug Administration in 1960. 

Howard Johnson restaurants dotted the nation’s roadways which, until President Eisenhower started building the interstate highway system in the 1950s, passed right through the central business district of major and minor communities. Woolworth luncheon counters were a dominant foodservice enterprise. McDonald’s was just a single unit in San Bernadino, Calif., run by Richard and Maurice McDonald until Ray Kroc joined them in 1954 and bought them out in 1961. 

The changes in America, in the world, go on and on. Anyone born today and living to their 75th year in 2099 will have witnessed mind-boggling changes during their lifetime, as I have. Let’s hope they are all for the better.