Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

June, 2023:

More Things That Are Slowly Vanishing (Or Gone)

Back in January I published a list of things that had once been common and are now fading into the mists of history. It got a lot of attention, so here comes another one. A few of these came from readers and posted in the comments.

  1. Typewriters. Ok, these may already be well and truly vanished, but there are times when I miss them. I kept my IBM Selectric until we left Arizona in 2003. Mostly I used it to type up adhesive labels and addresses on business envelopes. All of that stuff comes out of my laser printer now.
  2. Wing-tip dress shoes for men. I admit, I never had these myself, but I was still seeing them here and there until ten or fifteen years ago.
  3. Pantyhose. Apart from older women who may have been wearing compression stockings, I almost never see sheer hosiery anymore. Weirdly, the last place I saw it regularly was at dog shows, where male handlers wore business suits and female handlers wore skirts and pantyhose. This was true well into the teens, but we haven’t been to a dog show in some years now.
  4. Car keys. Our 2014 Durango was our first car with fobs instead of keys. All the rental cars I’ve driven since then were the same thing: Key fobs without keys. It took some getting used to, but now when I try to drive Carol’s 2001 4Runner, I almost always try punching the (nonexistant) button on the dashboard rather than twisting the (real) car key.
  5. Women wearing hats in (Catholic) church. Back when I was a kid this was a very serious business. I saw teen girls wearing a sheet of Kleenex atop their heads during mass when they forgot their hats. Girls at our Catholic grade school had beanies to wear during mass before school started.
  6. Paper routes. I delivered papers for a little while when I was 13 or so. It was a weird little paper that was ad-supported, but I was asked to ring doorbells and see if people would pay for it. Almost no one did, and it was enough of an embarrassment that I stopped after just a couple of months. (Thanks to Rick Kaumeier for this one.)
  7. Penny (or nickel) toddler rides in supermarkets. Usually by the front windows, usually a horse, though I’ve seen ones where the ride is a stubby little airplane or even a cowbow-style covered wagon. (Again, from Rick Kaumeier.)
  8. Card parties. (Yet again, from Rick Kaumeier.) My father had these now and then with his gang from work. They all smoked so much that the air was mostly unbreatheable on the first floor of our house. My mom slept upstairs with my sister and there were a lot of open windows for a couple of days.
  9. Ash trays. These used to be almost everywhere, because when I was a kid almost everyone smoked. There were even ash trays in my college classrooms, and a few students smoked. (Tthankfully, only a few.) (Thanks to Jim Tubman for this one, which should have been obvious to me.)
  10. Cigars. The last time I saw anyone smoking a cigar it was a couple of people in my writers group in Colorado Springs, circa 2014. Tobacco kills. (It killed my father.) I think maybe we’re finally catching on.
  11. Mercury blood-pressure cuffs. And, for that matter, needle -gauge blood pressure cuffs. It’s all electronic now.
  12. White-wall car tires. I had totally forgotten about these, which were in decline even in the 1950s. (Thanks to reader TRX for the reminder.) It makes me wonder what people who restore classic cars do for white-walls.
  13. Newspaper vending machines. (Thanks to Rich Rostrom.) Not only the machines, but the papers themselves are getting scarce. Now I only see them at the customer service counter in supermarkets.
  14. Neighborhood mailboxes. (Again, thanks to Rich Rostrom.) We had one at the corner of our street, near Edison grade school. Now you only see them in high-traffic areas like in front of supermarkets.
  15. Balsa-wood model airplanes. (Thanks to Spencer Arnold.) We used to get balsa gliders for a quarter at Bud’s Hardware Store in the Sixties, and you could get a balsa plane with a prop and a rubber-band “engine” for 50c. My father built a lot of balsa planes when he was kid, and built a few when I was in grade school. These may still exist, but see the next item:
  16. Hobby shops. There was always one within reasonable biking distance when I was a kid. There was still one in Colorado Springs circa 2012, but that was the last time I saw one. They varied in emphasis; some sold stamp albums and sometimes stamps, others did not. Most sold model airplanes, and the .049 engines that I couldn’t afford. Craft stores absorbed some of that business. The bigger Ace Hardware stores still have small brass & aluminum sheet and tubing. Beyond that, most of the business has moved online.
  17. Reel-type power mowers. These were just like hand-pushed lawnmowers, but they had engines. My grandfather Harry Duntemann had one. Once the rotaries came in around the early 60s, the reel models quickly slipped away. My uncle gave me a rattle-trappy old one about 1966 and my friends and I made a bizarre go kart out of it.
  18. AM radio. (Thanks to Tom Byers.) As a teen in Chicago I listened to AM a lot, especially WLS and WCFL, the rock stations in their time. As rock got harder, I listened more to WIND, which played a gentler kind of music that I preferred. Of course, once I had an FM radio (college) I dropped AM and never looked back.
  19. DJ chatter. DJs were celebrities when I was a kid. They’re now an endangered species, especially those who did a sort of fast standup comedy between songs and commercials. Radio is heavily automated these days, and most announcements are prerecorded. Weather and traffic reports are mostly gone as well.
  20. Cable TV. (Thanks to Bill Beggs.) We still have cable, but internet-only. People are moving their TV viewing to streaming sites in droves. Carol and I don’t watch a lot of TV, with a smidge off the air, and rest from streaming sites.

There are a couple of things that I thought had vanished that are coming back. Whether this is a good thing or not is an open question:

  1. Bell-bottom pants. Yes, they’re coming back. I’m of seventeen minds about this.
  2. Big glasses. And I mean big, mid-late ‘80s big. I had those, and used to joke that my cheeks had 20-20 vision.
  3. Vinyl records. (Thanks to Don Doerres & Rich Rostrom.) The reasons I dumped vinyl were pragmatic: CDs did not wear out and you didn’t have to turn them over. Now Wal-Mart and Target have racks of vinyl. Wow.

There may be more, but 20 is a good round number. Maybe we’ll come up with enough to do a third installment.