The Way We Were (1936)

Recently, Jeff’s Dad who is 96, came to stay with us for a week while Jerry, Jeff’s older brother with whom Dad lives, and his wife Sylvia were doing missionary work in Ecuador. Dad’s new hobby is to sleep, nap, take siestas, rest and go to bed. This is more out of boredom than anything else. After he retired he stayed active – working in his Church in varied capacities, fixing small motors, rewiring anything electrical and helping to build houses. A couple of years ago when his sight and hearing betrayed him, his favorite activities stopped and boredom became his constant companion.

On this visit, Jeff asked Dad to go through a box of pictures, certificates and memorabilia that belonged to Dad’s older brother Albert. In this treasure trove, along with a bible given to Albert in 1935 by his mother was a typed letter entitled “The Way We Were.” We’re not sure if Albert, a former Army Colonel, politician, and humorist, wrote this or copied it from an unknown author. Regardless, it describes a time unknown to many of us but well worth reading. Enjoy.

“We were before television. Before penicillin, the pill, polio shots, antibiotics and Frisbees. Before frozen foods, nylon, Dacron, Xerox and Kinsey. We were before radar, florescent lights, credit cards and ballpoint pens. For us, time-sharing meant togetherness not computers; a chip meant a piece of wood; hardware meant headwear and software wasn’t even a word. In those days bunnies were small rabbits and rabbits were not Volkswagens.

We were before Batman, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Snoopy. Before DDT and vitamin pills, vodka, at least in the US, the white wine craze, disposable diapers, jeeps and the Jefferson nickel. Before Scotch tape, M&M’s, the automatic shift and Lincoln Continentals.

We were in college when pizzas, Cheerios, frozen orange juice, instant coffee and McDonalds were unheard of. We thought fast food was what you ate during Lent.

We were before FM radio, tape recorders, electric typewriters, word processors, Muzak, electronic music and disco dancing. We were before pantyhose and drip-dry clothes. Before ice makers, dish washers, clothes dryers, freezers and electric blankets. Before men wore long hair and earrings and women wore tuxedoes. We got married first and then lived together. How quaint can you be?

In our day cigarette smoking was fashionable, grass was mowed, coke was something you drank and pot was something you cooked in. We were before coin vending machines, jet planes, helicopters and interstate highways. In 1936 “made somewhere other than the USA” meant junk, and the term ‘making out’ referred to how you did on exams.

In our time, there were five and ten cent stores where you could buy things for five and ten cents. For just a nickel you could ride the streetcar, make a phone call, buy a Coke or buy enough stamps to mail one letter and two postcards. You could buy a new Chevy coup for $600, but who could afford that in 1936? Nobody. A pity too because gas was eleven cents a gallon.

We were not before the difference between the sexes was discovered, but we were before sex change. We just made do with what we had.

And so it was in 1936. This is “The Way We Were” and we loved it!”