Friday, April 17, 2009

Vanishing America

Wallet Pop recently published this year's list of things that are "vanishing" from America. They failed to mention ViewMaster, which Fisher-Price laid to rest this year as well.

How I happened onto this list will be told in a different post, but let's just say a couple on this year's list hit a little close to home. And it wasn't wild salmon.

I will comment on this list FB-style with 25 random facts about me and this list.

25. Typists
Of course, people type more than ever in our society. The list refers to professional Typists, such as the original Caroline herself. I learned on a Royal c.1940s, heavy as an anvil. I took a Brother to college, and had the IBM Selectric on my junior secretary's desk. The senior secretary had a beanbag ashtray.

24. Catholic Schools
My town just lost one this year. That small teacher: student ratio got to be less of a selling point. The Church has a lot of bills to pay.

23. Ka-ching cash registers
Ka-ching (or cha-ching) is the sound for money, as we know, but fewer people will know why. See also that record scratch noise we make to signal an abrupt stop to something. Ask a teenager what that's the sound of.

22. Wild salmon
Steven Colbert will tell you, that's because of bears. Ooops, I meant this. But this is good too.
salmon aren't as interesting.

21. Alleys
In my hometown neighborhood, we called the spaces between backyards "alleys." We had never seen an alley. We always hoped we might meet hobos there, burying their money, as we knew Hobos to do.

20. Charcoal
One more thing made out of trees

19. Hiring neighborhood kids
Cute story a friend told recently about her 12 yr old daughter's first babysitting gig. She went through the class and everything (of course in our day, you went through 6th grade and that's how you became a babysitter), and she didn't know --- she didn't know -- she was going to get paid. Today's parents would not send their kids next door to mow, shovel, feed the dog, rake the leaves, clean out the trunks in the attic. And as a result today's kids are missing out on a great opportunity to go through the neighbors' drawers. shame.

18. The trading pits
It does make you wonder what purpose this absurd approach to trading serves anymore, global market-wise and all. I have no personal story about this except that Pit is a much better card game than Uno, but not as good as Mille Bornes, and no one I ever knew played Rook.

17. Manual transmission
Smurph can back me up on this. He had to have his new car special ordered. Not on the lot. Here's a fan of the even older old school.
And never google "manny tranny." You won't like the cookies it leaves.

16. Homes without cable
I think they are wrong about this one. Homes may have cable, but not everyone is using it. I know 2 households without TV reception at all. I would include mine, but the cable comes with the condo fee. All Netflix, all the time.

15. 401K match
Too soon, Wallet Pop. Too soon....

14. Dental coverage
What's next America? Tissue boxes and coffee cups?? Oh. wait a minute....

13. Butcher shops
I think you've got to live in a pretty big American city to have a Butcher shop. Boston is still one of them, and that live chicken kill place in Cambridge is pretty cool.

12. Working on your own car
I used to change my own oil on my first car. And dump it in the alley for the hobos to find. Then I stopped driving for 13 years, and by the time I lifted another hood, I didn't know what the what I was looking at.

11. No down payment on your mortgage
yeh, well that was a crazy idea anyway

10. 0% balance transfer

9. Customer Service
After they shut off the free soda, the last vestige of the Internet start-up is the bloated call center. See my updated resume at

8. Toxic toys
This was a weird listing, like we should be nostalgic for it. I know my splintery lead-painted Tinker Toys certainly made long division seem less bleak. The point was some new legislation around chemicals used to make toys -- the best thing since we suggested since pajamas that should not be made of kerosene. I didn't get all the facts, because it didn't make for a good joke.

Damn, this is a long list, isn't it.

7. Maple syrup
That will be a loss. But I can confirm that maple syrup lasts indefinitely. It is like butter, which doesn't really ever go bad. So stock up.

6. Sidewalks
I do have to get in my car to drive to another neighborhood to be able to walk on sidewalks. I could walk around the condo-loop, but then I would have to talk to my neighbors.

5. Fax machines

True story: 1990. One of my summer staff had an internship where he was the rock star who knew how to use the fax machine. Not FIX it or anything. Just USE it. My other favorite fax story is sending a 25 page script to a producer faced the wrong way so she got 25 blank pages. And it cost our station a million dollars or some other outrageous figure I needed to be reprimanded over. Screw you, fax machine. good riddance.
4. Your net worth.
Well, see the above. If your retirement hasn't tanked, you can't afford a house either. And your teeth are falling out. But if you wander behind my mother's house, there may be tramp money in an alley.

3. 10pm drama
Honestly, I don't know the TV schedule anymore. But it seems that 10pm is no longer the adult drama timeslot. Personally, I've been watching the Jane Seymour version of East of Eden. I recommend you re-watch all the golden mini-series, and give up contemporary television.

I know a couple of people you can blame for this, but you'll just have to buy my book.

1. Community Banks
I wanted to end on a happy story. so here is one. Tell them Nick sent you.

Now, last year's list has me a little worried, because a lot of these are in my own home.
Last year: outhouses, Yellow pages, Classifieds, movie rental stores, dial up ISP, phone landlines, blue crabs, VCRs, ash trees, ham radio, swimmin' holes, answering machines, camera film, incandescent bulbs, bowling alleys, milkmen, hand-written letters, wild horses, personal checks, drive-ins, mumps & measles, bees, TV news, Analog TV, family farms.


  1. I recently saw a real buther shop near Fee's home and I can assure you there is no big town there!! M.

  2. Great post! We have three (real) butcher shops in this area - go figure. I've been witnessing the whole maple syrup thing though. Living in NH, I recently went to buy NH maple syrup for out of town friends. I could only find VT maple syrup. Pretty soon we will only be able to get Canada maple syrup. You see where this is going...

  3. From last year's list, in your home: phone landline, VCR, answering machine, camera film, incandescent bulbs, hand-written letters, personal checks. Did I get them all? Last I remember, no family farm.

    I loved reading this. I love your blog. I don't comment enough, but all my comments are all "you are a freakin genius, you read my mind, I am so happy we live close enough to visit, I am so happy/lucky to know you, your blog rox"

    -Dr. A., Mistress of A Thousand Typewriters


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