Collecting Memories

Can you guys help me? I’m collecting memories.

As I work on my works-in-progress, in the back of my mind is a time travel historical I have started. It basically takes place all throughout the 20th century. Pick a decade. Yup, I have a scene that takes place in that decade.

So what I’m doing is collecting memories. My own grandmother grew up in the 20s, and told me all sort of cool things. Much of it has made it into my story just as little snippets here and there. My dad also has helped with is recollections from the 40s and beyond.

Specifically, I’m looking for road trip memories. What do you remember from road trips in the past that are simply gone today? Part of the reason I like driving up and down US-1 is there are so many old buildings that trigger all these old memories. But my memories only go back as far as the early 70s. Do you have any that go back even further? They don’t have to be your memories; you can get your parents talking about the good old days, and give me a few snippets.

To get you going, here’s a snippet from that time travel story that uses my memories of old hotel rooms:

Adele opened the door and looked around in delight. “Look at that TV! And the phone! Oh, my gosh! Where’s the remote?”

Mike smiled as he kicked the door closed. He noticed with a frown that there was no deadbolt. “Del–they didn’t have remotes back then.”

She peered at the TV. “How do you turn it on?”

He looked at it. No power button. Nothing looked obvious. “I’m not sure.”

“There’s labels on the dials–here’s the volume knob. Oops–here we are!”

The image grew from a dot in the middle. A middle-aged man was reading the news into a microphone with the assistance of some handheld notes.

“Hey, that’s Walter Cronkite,” Mike said.

“Cool! Who’s president, now?”

“Ford, I think–or maybe Nixon.”

“Think they have any discos, now?”

“Del–even if they did, they probably wouldn’t in this small town.”

Adele stood up and looked around some more. “What’s that thing attached to the bed?”

Mike stared at the unfamiliar device. “Is that a coin slot?”

Adele peered at the writing. “Magic Fingers. Sounds indecent. Give me a quarter.”

Mike fished a quarter out of his pocket. Adele put it in the slot. The bed immediately began to vibrate.

“Oh my God,” Adele said. “It is indecent.” She lay down on it.

“Great. Just what I need. To be stuck in a motel room with my sister while she’s feeling indecent.”

I’m not sure if it would have cost a dime or a quarter, but I think I remember it costing a quarter. I got the news description by watching old video clips of Walter Cronkite. As I read this, I realized that I need to describe the phone and other stuff.

Did I trigger any memories for you?

23 Thoughts to “Collecting Memories”

  1. Jessica

    Both my grandparents had rotary dial phones when I was little which I found confusing. Especially after my family got one of the first portable phones. Not only were they big, but we could regularly hear our neighbors who had the same type of phone.

    1. Was it one of those rotary dial phones that had a handset with a long cord, or was it the older rotary dial phones that you had to stand next to in order to speak into it? We had a rotary dial phone with a handset for quite a while in my childhood, but I remember the upgrade to touch-tone!

      Those things took forever to dial. Well, maybe 30 seconds at top speed. Wind, wait. Wind, wait. It counted the pulses.

  2. The house I grew up in was built in the early 1900s. (I think it was 1907, but I’m not sure.) By the time we lived there, all of the light switches had been changed over to modern ones, but the switches in the entry way were the push button kind. There were four buttons on a brass plate, two on top, two on the bottom. The ones on the left controlled the porch light, the ones on the right the inside light in the entry way. You pushed the top button in, and it would make the bottom button pop out, turning on the light. To turn off the light, you would push the bottom button in, and the top one would pop out.

    The house was also a doctor’s home/office. The entry way had two doors. One led to the room where the doctor saw patients (that one was my bedroom), and the other door led to the rest of the house, where the doctor and his family lived. It was such a cool house. I miss living in an old house. New houses are nice and convenient, but they just don’t have that same charm.

    1. I’m going to be scrutinizing Shorpy images for these tonight! I know a wall outlet is similar to today’s thanks to Shorpy, but I don’t recall seeing any light switches.

      That sounds like a fun place to live. Did it have a modern kitchen? Bathroom?

  3. That is such a cool image! Love it!

    The kitchen had those old metal cabinets and a porcelain sink, but I’m not sure if they were original or not (though my mom probably knows). The bathroom had a more modern sink and toilet, but there was a porcelain claw-footed bathtub (which the idiot repairmen cut the feet off of and sank into the floor before we moved in. Grr!). Because of the tub’s shape and it not being tucked into any sort of niche with tiling, there was a shower curtain rod shaped like a giant oval which was suspended above the tub, and we had to use two shower curtains, one for each side of the tub.

    Also, in my mom and dad’s room, there was a small porcelain sink in one corner (it didn’t work when we lived there). The closets in the house were all too shallow to put a hanger in the way you would in a normal closet. There were metal hooks in a board on the closet wall, and you hung your clothes up that way instead, although I’m betting that in the house’s early days, you didn’t use hangers and just slung your clothes up over those hooks. The closet in my mom and dad’s room was really cool, because if you’re skinny enough, you can get into the closet, walk to the right, and end up coming out the left side of the closet in my sister’s room. There was no wall separating them.

  4. Chicory

    Horrah! You’re still working on the time travel story. 🙂

  5. Tia Nevitt

    Katie, you’ve given me some GREAT material!

    Chicory, thank you for cheering me on! I love my time travel story and I have no intention of giving it up!

  6. I LOVE time-travels!! In fact, I’ve written two of them. 🙂 So fun. My road trip memories (also from the 70s)are all of our trailer and sharing a sleeping bag with my sister while trying to keep our large sheep dog off of us. We had a tiny black and white television in the trailer with rabbit ears that never had reliable reception. As a result, we played a LOT of cards. I also remember my dad hated emptying the septic tank. 🙂

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Julie, we would read in the back of the station wagon with all the seats laid flat. I think my parents considered an RV, but it was probably easier to keep the 5 of us contained in a station wagon. We would stop at motels in Fayetteville, NC on the way up to New England. I’m not sure if my mother ever realized that some of those books weren’t exactly appropriate for teenagers …

  7. Yes if they like the TV, they’ll like the phone, too. We had dial phones all the time I was a kid, and so did both grandmas. I thought the wait while dialing was normal. Then, it was. {Amused Smile}

    I don’t remember a bed like that. I suspect they didn’t have them in the hotels my parents took us to. {Smile}

    I’m afraid we didn’t really do road trips. We’d take vacations, but they were very much planned ahead. My parents didn’t believe in flying standby, so we knew where we’d be when we were ready to sleep. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  8. Oh, Mom’s mother had a porcelain sink in her kitchen. It chipped and broke dishes like crazy. It was much harder than my parents’ stainless steel sink. If you bumped the sink at home, you checked the plate/glass/whatever to see if it was damaged. With Grandma’s, you did it more to find out the size and shape of the damage, so you knew what sizes of chips you were looking for. She had quite a few glued-back-together dishes. If it was just chips glued back on, they went back into the daily china (actually semi-china, if you know the term; it was too heavy for good china). If it actually broke thru, it still got reglued, but then it went under one of the potted plants outside. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  9. Tia Nevitt

    Anne, I think the Magic Fingers beds were a staple in the hotels along the interstate highway system! Very cheezy.

    The hard porcelain sink is exactly the sort of detail I’m looking for. Any idea how old the sink was?

  10. The main interstates I met up with were the ones on O’ahu. They didn’t even leave the county, but they were still considered interstates. We did go to California and the Pacific Northwest a few times, but I don’t remember the beds there, either. {spread hands, Smile}

    Mom says the house was built around 1935 or 1936, and the kitchen sink was the original one. It was cast iron with a porcelain covering. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  11. Oh, my parents’ stainless steel sink was probably from 1948, when their house was built. It was distinctly kinder to dishes. We lose some, but not nearly as many. {Smile}

    Dad says that stainless steel sinks like ours became popular after The War (WWII). Before then, there were a few, but they weren’t really stainless. They rusted too much to be popular. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    1. Tia Nevitt

      I never would have thought that steel was “soft” but I guess in comparison, it could be. This could definitely be part of my heroine’s adjustment when she finds her self “keeping house” for her brother in the 20s! Thanks!

      1. I don’t think of steel as soft, either. However, steel sinks are thin enough, they give just a little bit. That little bit makes a big difference when a soapy glass slips out of your hand. {Smile}

        Yes, I imagine that keeping house for her brother could involve quite a few adjustments. {Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  12. Oh, I just thought of another one. Glass doorknobs. I had to go to the old house just the other day (my dad uses it as his office now, and I needed to borrow his printer), and I saw them and remembered that I never mentioned them. I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff I’m forgetting. Will let you know if I come up with anything else.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      I NEVER would have thought to look at the doorknobs on the Shorpy pictures, but I will now. Were they considered posh or ordinary?

      Here are a few questions for you–how did the windows open and close? Was there anything built into the house that would be unusual nowadays, such as in the kitchen?

      1. I know you were asking Chicory for her house. However, I just remembered that Grandma’s house had lots of cabinets on one wall. It also had a built in “breakfast nook,” and a built in ironing board that folded up into the wall when not in use. I was always impressed by that ironing board. {Smile}

        It was what we called a “middle manager’s house.” Grandpa was a sugar boiler at a sugar mill, and the house was provided by the mill. It was considered sufficient for their better-paid employees’ needs. {Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

      2. Eek! Sorry it took me so long to come back to this! I don’t know if glass doorknobs were ordinary or not. I do know that some doorknobs of the same era were brass and had designs on them, but I don’t know which would have been more expensive. If I had to guess, I’d say glass was more expensive. And heavy! Those glass doorknobs are quite a weight in your hand.

        The windows in our house just opened up and down like most windows today. But they’re very thin, and only one layer of glass, so it gets pretty chilly sitting next to them on cold winter days. Also, the windows are very heavy, framed with wood as they are rather than lightweight metals and plastics like today, and when you shoved them up, it had thick white cotton rope down the side of the frame which had something to do with making them go up in the first place. But they didn’t just stay up; you had to prop them open (though I don’t know if this is because they no longer worked properly, or if they always had to be propped open.

        As far as built-ins, there was a china cabinet with glass doors that was built into the dining room. Someone my mom talked to who had a bit of expertise about old houses said that the glass was probably originally leaded glass, but it was just plain old glass when we lived there. There were shelves on top and wooden doors on the bottom, and the cabinet was pretty deep. It made the wall jut out in the kitchen on the other side, which is why the kitchen was so small. It was almost like a galley kitchen, very long and not very wide.

  13. Grandma’s house wasn’t quite old enough for glass doorknobs, tho I’ve seen them in a few older homes. I think Dad’s cardiologist’s office has them. It’s in an old home that was converted into a doctor’s office. I’m pretty sure it has some panes of “puddle glass” too. I know the museum that was a missionary home does, but that’s fromt he 1800’s. That’s glass with ripples in it; it was made by hand, in smaller panes than the flat, machine-made stuff found later, or so the folks at the museum said. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  14. “Was there anything built into the house that would be unusual nowadays, such as in the kitchen?”

    I’ve got a cool answer for this. My kitchen has an old built-in refrigerator or icebox (I’m not sure which)!

    My apartment was built in 1928 or 1929 (the kitchen also has a built-in ironing board).

    The refrigerator/icebox doesn’t work anymore, but it’s this cabinet built in on top of the counter, and it closes very tightly (with a latch). If you get down and look into the cabinet that’s underneath, you can see wires running out of the refrigerator. Inside, in the top of the refrigerator you can see holes where something must have been attached at some point, maybe a fan that sat on top. I wish it still worked!

    I’ve always told people my place didn’t come with a refrigerator (a lot of apts in Los Angeles don’t), but I guess that’s not strictly true!

    Also, the stove has a griddle built into it between the burners (2 burners, then the griddle, then 2 more burners). I’m not sure if the stove is original, but I do know it’s huge.

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