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Older than dirt

Published October 09. 2010 09:00AM

It's Autumn. And many of us are in the Autumn of our lives, a time where we reflect on how things once were.

Way back when we didn't have anything called "fast food." Microwave ovens weren't even a dream in anyone's mind, except some mad scientist somewhere.

If someone asked me today, "What was your favorite fast food when you were growing up?" I'd tell them, "We didn't have fast food when I was growing up. "All the food was slow."

We ate at home, or if we were lucky, we'd treat ourselves to a hamburger and a milk shake at Buck Cully's restaurant. Or maybe the family would go out Sunday, after Mass, for dinner at the Summit Hill Rod and Gun Club.

But usually we ate at a place called home.

My mother cooked every day and when Dad got home from work, we sat down together at the kitchen table. I can remember large pots, with lids, sitting on the kitchen range, with homemade spaghetti sauce, or bean soup, simmering on the stove all day. Or maybe there was a roast in the oven. It took a good three hours to get it done just right.

We bought food "on tick" at the corner grocery store, and paid off the balance every month. And almost everybody had a "club" at the Brights store, where they put a few dollars in every week, saving up for that special purchase. We also had something called Christmas Clubs, which we paid into the bank every week, and got a nice check every December, just in time to buy presents.

I remember us getting our first television when I was 10 or 12. It was a Philco, and was, of course, black and white, and the station went off the air at midnight, after playing the national anthem and a poem about God. We did have something, however, that the rest of the country didn't have. We had cable television long before the rest of the world, thanks to the genius of some local pioneers in the industry.

I loved pizza when I was young. That was a special treat whenever I spent a weekend staying at my aunt's house on the other side of town. But the pizza wasn't delivered. We had to go and fetch it, at Ernie Sandri's little store up on Third Street. But nothing tasted better. When I bit into it, I burned the roof of my mouth and the cheese slid off, swung down, plastered itself against my chin and burned that, too. It's still the best pizza I ever had.

I never had a telephone in my room. We only had one in the entire house. But I still remember the number 1019J. That phone was in a tiny wall cubicle in the small hall between the kitchen and living room. Our number was only one digit removed from the number of the local bookie. Often we got calls by mistake late in the afternoon from someone wanting "to play the number." It was a harmless pastime, but illegal none-the-less. And it was a lifetime before the state started sponsoring the lottery, or gambling casinos started cropping up all over the state, making gambling legal.

My first job was as a newspaper boy. I began delivering the Tamaqua Courier when I was about 10, which gives me well over 50 years in the newspaper business. I delivered after school every afternoon, and collected the weekly fee from customers on Saturday morning. I also had a Sunday route, which paid better than my daily job.

When I decided playing high school football in the afternoon was more important than earning paper route money, I passed on the route to my younger brother. He kept it in the family for years.

Finally, here's an Older Than Dirt Quiz: Count all the ones that you remember.

1. Blackjack chewing gum

2. Wax Coke-shaped bottles with colored sugar water

3. Candy cigarettes

4. Soda pop machines that dispensed glass bottles

5. Coffee shops or diners with tableside juke boxes

6. Home milk delivery in glass bottles with cardboard stoppers

7. Party lines on the telephone 10 people on a line in the country 4 people on a line in town

8. Newsreels before the movie

9. P.F. Flyers

10. Butch wax

11. TV test patterns that came on at night after the last show and were there until TV shows started again in the morning.

12. Peashooters

13. Howdy Doody

14. 45 RPM records

15. S & H green stamps

16. Hi-fi's

17. Metal ice trays with lever

18. Mimeograph paper

19. Blue flashbulbs

20. Packards

21. Roller skate keys

22. Cork popguns

23. Drive-ins

24. Studebakers

25. Wash tub wringers

If you remembered 0-5 = You're still young

If you remembered 6-10 = You are getting older

If you remembered 11-15 = Don't tell your age,

If you remembered 16-25 = You're older than dirt!

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