Going, Going… Gone?

As our generation ages, we’ve witnessed many changes, several of which have been documented in these posts. Now let’s turn to household objects. Electronics are truly altering our daily routines in our homes — but more than that, today’s generation does things differently. As a result, objects we saw as a normal, everyday part of our existence are either disappearing or gone altogether. Here are a few notables:

Knobs on TVs
This was something that began disappearing in the ’70s. Now they are nowhere to be seen. The days of getting up to change the channel are over, but that won’t stop you from getting up to try to find batteries for that darn remote.

Mister B has to admit he still owns a portable TV with knobs — as a back up. All it needs is a conversion box to go digital and the thing would be as good as new.

Hand Meat Grinder
Our moms used meat grinders to save money and to express our cultural heritage through food. They made hamburger, other ground meat dishes and various forms of sausages with them. The old metal grinder often had a clamp attachment that could clasp to a kitchen counter or dining room table. Our generation used the things less than our parents, but today’s generation is carrying it further into extinction. Electric versions are still available for mixers and food processors, but most won’t ever use the attachments. It’s probably too much work for today’s busy families.

Jell-O Molds
While some retro trenders will use Jell-O molds today, a great many children of the current generations have never seen one. In our day everyone knew someone in the family who made Jell-O salads with copper, aluminum or plastic molds. A good portion of us will recall visiting aunts who had a collection hanging on the kitchen wall.

Mister B’s mom didn’t make Jell-O salads, but rather made bowls full of the jiggly dessert that the kids could just scoop out. Mister B did have a couple of aunts with the molds on the wall, though.

Shag Carpeting
While still available, the idea of shag carpeting is repellent to many of today’s kids, whether because they view it as something their grandparents had, or as a perceived dirt and bacteria collector. One person’s “modern” is another person’s joke — and that person is usually younger.

Pull-cord lawn mower
Another thing that began disappearing in the late ’70s when electronic ignition was installed on lawn mowers, the hand pull cord is now all but extinct. Kids won’t ever know the joys of repeatedly pulling the cord in an effort to start the mower. It was an ordeal before you could even begin to cut the grass.

Decorative Plaster Statues
Aside from a few religious articles, decorative statues and wall hangings that were all the rage when we were young have disappeared from most homes. If you find a home with these items now, it’s usually an indication that nothing has been updated in a few decades.

Mister B’s mom had various things that sat on the living room end tables, and a set of two dancers that hung on the wall. They were light blue with gold paint highlights.

Telephone Chairs
A great many of us recall the phone mounted on the wall, usually in the kitchen. If you were to have a telephone in the living room or hall, you needed something to set it on. Small tables would suffice, but there was a specialty chair available since the 1920s for the purpose. It usually had a storage shelf below where telephone books could be stored (and those are also disappearing). The chair had a seat for sitting when conversing on the phone. You could only move the phone as far as your cord.

Today even phones (now known as “landlines”) are disappearing. Many members of the under 30 crowd will never own one, preferring their cell phones instead.

Book Shelves
The giant furniture retailer Ikea reported recently that for many years the top selling item in their stores worldwide had been a particular book shelf — until 2012. Book shelves are no longer number one. As tablets and e-readers make further inroads into the market for reading and music, book shelves become an item that switches from a necessity to a luxury.

It’s probably inevitable that as we boomers age, we’ll continue to watch as items we saw as part of everyday life slowly but surely disappear. What household objects from your boomer youth have you noticed are no longer for sale in stores lately?

G’night, Edith — Boomers Say Goodbye to Another Icon

This past week we learned of the death of Jean Stapleton, another iconic figure in the annals of boomer-age TV. Jean was born in New York City in 1923, and began her acting career on the stage in the early 1940s. She appeared in dozens of plays and many famous productions, including the musicals Damn Yankees and Funny Girl, before guest starring in a variety of dramatic and comedic television roles in the early 1960s, including boomer favorites such as Dr. Kildare, My Three Sons, Car 54 Where Are You?, Dennis the Menace and Naked City.

Yet it was her role as the truly better half to Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Conner) in the TV series All in the Family (1971-’79) that seared her memory forever in the minds of boomers. The two actors had previously worked together in 1962 on an episode of The Defenders, when she appeared in a guest role. Norman Lear cast her in his 1971 film, Cold Turkey, and when he was reminded of her appearance in Damn Yankees, knew he had found his Edith Bunker.

Edith Bunker, as portrayed by Jean Stapleton, was dim-witted and submissive to her aggressive, bigoted husband. Yet, like comedic relief in plays of old, she often was the voice of reason, kindness, compassion and open-mindedness. This foil to Archie’s brashness figured large in the show’s ability to take on some of the biggest social issues of the early ’70s, including racism, abortion, homosexuality, menopause, breast cancer, women’s rights and more.

Archie often referred to Edith as a “dingbat” as she shuffled about their Queens, New York house, adjusting doilies or fixing dinner. When Edith voiced an opinion contrary to Archie’s ultra-conservative, bombastic living room speeches, he would often tell her, “Stifle yourself.” Edith took it all in stride. Jean Stapleton once said that Edith was the “soul of justice,” remarking on her innate kindness and fairness. Speaking of how the show addressed bigotry in an interview with the Archive of American Television, she said, “…you know when you make fun of something, it reduces it to nothing.”

Like most households with growing boomers, All in the Family was regularly tuned into Mister Boomer’s family TV. Also like in many boomer households, the issues raised in the show helped many boomers to better understand the changing social environment that they would soon inherit as adults. Yet it was Edith Bunker’s humor and good nature that endeared her to Mister B.

The family so enjoyed the show that Mister Boomer purchased the All in the Family vinyl record when it was released in 1971. The album featured Edith and Archie singing the opening song to the TV show, “Those Were the Days.” It always got a chuckle out of Mister B’s mom when he cued it up on the record player.

As a general rule, issues openly talked about on the show were never discussed in Mister B’s home. Mister B started college the same year as the show’s debut, and it helped him to transition from being surrounded by a small set of mostly like-minded suburbanites to the vast mix of college life, and with it, a variety of opinions and world views.

Jean Stapleton went on after the show ended to appear in many more roles in movies and on TV, but for many boomers, including Mister B, we say “Edith, those were the days!”

What memories of Jean Stapleton do you have, boomers?