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Christmas 1964

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Rotary Phone

Rotary Phone

Let’s go back in time 50 years to December 1964. It is December 1st and it is time to begin your Christmas shopping.  How times have changed in 50 years!  You would first notice the changes when you got in your car you would see that you needed a hand-operated choke on the dashboard to start your cold car.  You would also notice that the old reliable “grocery getter” had a manual transmission and AM radio with a telescopic whip antenna on the front fender. 

After you got the car moving, you would start shopping, not on-line or even to the mall, but some would be done at the new shopping plaza and the rest would be done downtown at the various shops in the shopping district. Since you had your Christmas club account paid out a few weeks ago you would be itching to start the lay away process so you could have all things paid for in time for the big day.  A Christmas club account was a savings account that you would use to make regular (weekly) deposits to prepare yourself for spending big bucks for Christmas.  This was before credit cards were universally given away to anyone who wanted one at age 16.  Lay away was a method to secure a gift by making small payments and when you paid the price in full it was yours to take home.  Lay away has come back in style after the 2008 banking crisis and with the continuing economic doldrums is with us even today.

When you were downtown shopping you would always save up for a lunch at the restaurant located in the department store. A department store of this type was usually on many floors and would have one or more departments on each floor – hence the name.  For example, menswear and sporting goods might be on one floor and ladies wear and house wares on another.  In the basement of these stores the marked down merchandise would reside and that is where the term “bargain basement” comes from.

If you forgot what you were supposed to get for Aunt Martha you would have to dial-up your sister for a reminder. Of course this was as easy as walking down to the street corner to the bank of pay phones.  It was only a nickel for 3 minutes.  Since minimum wage was $1.25 an hour back then, that call would cost you about 30 cents in today’s dollars.  Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you they didn’t have cell phones back in December 1964.  In fact, payphones used the old rotary dial method.  That is why people of a certain age say “dial me up” when they want you to call them.  The push button phone was introduced in late 1963 but was very rare during the Christmas of 1964.  They did not arrive at most homes until much later.  I don’t think my parents ever had a push button phone until they began using the cordless phones that became popular in the late 1980’s. 

After you got home from a long day of shopping you would treat yourself by heating up a TV dinner instead of slaving over the stove top making dinner. A TV dinner was like a hot pocket for the microwave but it took 45 minutes to heat up and was usually Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes with mixed vegetables. Later in the evening, you could heat up some Jiffy Pop Popcorn – it was as much fun to make as it was to eat. 

Have a great week of shopping and be happy you have the modern gadgets to make your life simple.

 

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