OLD TIMER SEES SOME CHANGES
By Norris Chambers
When an old timer has earned his title by reaching a ripe old age he has witnessed many changes in many things. Cows are now milked by machines instead of milkmaids. Most of the farmer’s basic crops, such as corn, maize, beans, peas, potatoes and peanuts are gathered, and in many cases prepared for market, by mechanical marvels. Plowing and cultivation is taken care of by special cultivators.
Even more changes have occurred in articles of constant use such as automobiles, radios, washing machines, refrigerators, cooking stoves, heating systems, air conditioners, fishing equipment, guns, scales and just about any useful article. So many new items that the old timer didn’t even imagine in his dreams are now realities. Such goodies as televisions, computers, fancy telephone systems, freezers, dish washers, hi-fi music systems, travel by air instead of bus and electric power in virtually every home are now considered necessities.
Modern farmers enjoy the new machines that make it possible for one man to perform the work of dozens of old time laborers in a very short time. This is one of the improvements that Clifton and I would appreciate. In addition to the fun things we did we also managed to do our share of the hard farm work. Instead of walking beside and behind the wagon and cutting the heads off of maize stalks we could be riding on a combine heading and threshing the entire crop in less than a half of a day! We could perform a similar operation on our eighty acres of peanuts or ten acres of potatoes.
Instead of a crystal radio that provided three stations we could enjoy the hundred or more programs on television. I’m sure we could have adapted to the modern automobiles with their beautiful styles and their unbelievable speed, fancy radios, satellite maps and many miles per gallon economy.
The old roads had been modernized for the fancy cars! The few two-lane paved highways that we knew had been widened to four or six lanes and had been assigned numbers. Even the little one lane trails that we called roads had been widened and paved and assigned numbers.
We would probably think that the wages paid for labor were designed to make us rich and we would eagerly look forward to joining the modern work force. There is something we were not aware of when we were told of the high wages. The price of practically everything we were interested in was unbelievable expensive. Who ever heard of a simple gun costing over $200.00? We wouldn’t understand a five cent candy bar costing at least fifty cents and being only half the size it was back in the thirties.
Some of you may have wondered why we have so few pictures of people and scenery from the days when the Old Timer was a lad. Digital cameras were unheard of then. When we wanted to make pictures we had to buy a roll or two of film. Most camera film only made eight pictures. After the pictures were taken the film had to be taken to town or mailed to a laboratory for development and printing. Almost all country families possessed a camera or two but picture taking had a very low priority on the to-do list. With the digital cameras, now available at very low cost, anyone can own a camera and take dozens of pictures on one chip. The pictures on the chip can then be saved and the chip reused.
Probably nothing has changed as much as telephone service. In the old days if a family possessed a telephone it was a large oblong box fastened to the wall. There was a receiver to hold to the ear and a protruding microphone to speak into. Two wires were routed through small holes in the outside wall. One was connected to an iron stake and driven into the ground and the other connected to a one wire phone line that went to the next phone on the line. The phone owners strung their own wire through the trees and along fence rows to the nearest neighbor with a phone. The neighbor connected to another telephone owner. Eventually the last phone on the line connected to what was called a “central office” in the country town. Phone lines from all directions merged here and the operator could connect any two or more together. Different ring patterns were used to alert the desired party. Some rings were a long and a short, two longs, two shorts, two longs and two shorts, etc. All phones between the one being called and the central office rang. Many “snaky” patrons raised the receiver and listened to the conversations!
The modern phone system is much more complex. Automatic answering systems have replaced operators in most offices that receive a large number of calls. If Clifton were here he would say the new system is not user-friendly. I would say, “Automatic answering systems are for the birds!” He would respond, "Yeah, the vultures!"