One of the advantages we older people have is that we can remember much of the past and compare it with the present. Much of life is better today than in the past and we will offer a few comparisons.
My parents were married in a small Nebraska town in 1923 and decided to leave the farm town they had known since birth, purchase a car and drive to Los Angeles to make a new life for themselves. That was a big move for a young couple then and it still would be today.
Before departing Nebraska they were warned of the many hazards they might encounter on their drive west. One of the rumors was that there were tire lizards in the desert just waiting to take big bites out of your tires as you passed. Nevertheless, Mom and Dad packed the new Ford and headed west. It was spring and the desert was not overly hot, but I guess the automobiles in those days still overheated even in 100-degree heat. They discovered there was no such thing as tire lizards as they passed the desert and entered Southern California. Dad got a job with a battery store in downtown Los Angeles and Mom went to work as a sales clerk with the May Co. department store.
They built and improved their lives by working hard, saving and being thrifty. Dad went on to own auto parts stores and two new car dealerships in Los Angeles. Mom continued her life as a sales clerk and I came along 13 years into their marriage.
There were no credit cards. You had to save to purchase things. Today, life is very different with easy money, credit and much advertising to tempt you to purchase items. Many of these things you really don’t need — Right? But we sure think so at the time.
I was raised in Los Angeles attending public and private schools, had all I wanted and was actually a happy child. Today, I think the young people struggle to have the many toys and electronics that many parents can actually not afford, but manage to purchase the items on credit. I have heard the average credit card holder owes more than $5,000 on each card.
When I was 12 years old I was cast as a regular on a radio soap opera and my life changed in a big way. I was picked up by the studio car at noon each weekday, brought to the studio, fed lunch and began rehearsal for the radio show, which aired later in the day. At this point my life had changed drastically. I enjoyed it all, but I knew it was not an ordinary life. I had friends and we attended Saturday afternoon movies each week. I had a bicycle as did most of my other friends and probably life for young people today is not much different than it was in my time. Except most kids have cell phones, electronic games and so on. In my day, we played cowboys and Indians in vacant lots around our homes.
Let’s not forget television. My dad purchased the first TV on our block. Programming didn’t really begin until around 4 in the afternoon. We had, as I remember, two or three channels. All ran a test pattern until the time programming began. At times, my mother would invite neighbors into the living room to view the test pattern just to see what television was like.
This was in the late 1940s. I can recall channel 2’s call letters were W6XAO.
I entered the television production game in the 1950s after graduation from university with a law degree. Work in law bored me, so I obtained a position to train with KOB-TV in Albuquerque, N.M. You have to start somewhere.
Today, with cable, we can have at our touch hundreds of channels with all sorts of programming from cooking shows, how to improve your home, jewelry auctions to movies, which are uninterrupted. It’s all wonderful.
And now, the revolution in computers. Can you believe what has come our way in just 25 years? It would be hard to live without one today. I know some do not own computers, but they are somewhat detached from today’s society and I feel miss a lot.
Since I write about travel, it is interesting to review how travel modes have changed.
In earlier days we had Greyhound buses to take people all over the United States. Today it is rare to see any kind of bus on the highways.
Trains were a popular mode of transport from city to city. In the mid 1930s the privately owned railroads, in an effort to increase passenger numbers, ordered and placed on tracks streamliners. These were lightweight cars, some painted in bright colors, others made of stainless steel that shined in the sun, and within a few years put railroads back in the black again. Engines passed from steam to modern diesel. Along came another world war in 1941 and the railroads were pressed into duty they had never experienced before.
After the war, more modern light-weight equipment was ordered for the nation’s railroads and all kinds of streamliners were transporting Americans from point to point. I can remember such famous trains as the Daylights on the west coast, the City of Los Angeles and San Francisco with Union Pacific, the Empire Builder in the north country along with the El Captain and Super Chief belonging to Santa Fe. We also enjoyed the services and comfort of the Panama Limited, traveling from Chicago to New Orleans overnight, every night. Then there was the famous Twentieth Century Limited from Chicago to New York. This train catered to the high-end business and show business travelers on its 16-hour run.
There were streamliners in most parts of the U.S. by the end of the 1940s.
Service onboard was usually the best and meals in the dining cars were memorable. You had white linen, silver service and wonderful cuisine.
All this while the countryside passed by your window. What could be more enjoyable?
The sleeping accommodations were the finest. There were the choices of individual roomettes, bedrooms, compartments and drawing rooms. Each was a little larger than the other. You slipped into clean, ironed white sheets with a Pullman blanket covering and slept like a baby while the train sped to your destination overnight. A Pullman porter was at your call. You simply pushed a button for service.
Today, trains continue to operate over selected tracks in America. However, Pullman accommodations are very expensive and do not offer the service we once enjoyed in the past. Government anything is never as good as private operation. Taxpayers lose money on every passenger carried on our trains today.
Ocean travel in the earlier days was quite different than today. Our forbearers came to the New World mostly in steerage class, which looked much like a barracks. Beds were stacked three high and each room probably held over 150 passengers. The facilities were basic. Often there was no hot water, even in the showers. Food was served military style in long rows of tables and benches.
In the 1900s some ships offered first-class accommodations with private staterooms, facilities and a more formal lifestyle than before. Each passenger in first class was treated as if they had a title before their name.
Today, the modern cruise ship is more like a resort or fine hotel. The rooms or apartments are large, offer every convenience and many have private verandas to enjoy the sea. Many ships are not as formal as they once were since most cruisers do not wish to dress formally during a vacation. Service continues to be good while at sea and the food gets better every day.
The automobile has certainly changed over the past 90 years. I remember my grandfather’s car had a rumble seat in the back. It could be opened from the outside and offered a seat for a couple passengers who might enjoy the open air while traveling down the roads. It was a real treat for a young child such as me to sit back there and drink in the cool air.
I can remember crossing the western desert in the summer with my parents in the 1940s. Dad purchased some kind of air conditioner that was fastened to the passenger side window and was filled with water and had a venetian blind arrangement that could be turned to get the air cool within the auto passenger compartment. We thought it was wonderful at the time. But hot is hot, no matter what kind of gimmick you have to temper the heat.
Cars today have all sorts of devices to make driving more pleasant; navigation devices, automatic shifting, plush interiors and auto controls and much more. It’s really a pleasure today to drive almost anywhere in the U.S.A. The only negative is the price of gas. Oh well, not everything can be perfect.
Air travel became somewhat popular in the 1930s. Only the rich could afford the fares. After World War II airlines began purchasing larger and safer airliners and the public took to air travel in a big way. I remember the Constellations, the DC-6’s and DC-7’s as well as Convairs and many others. In the late 1950s the jet engine was introduced and air travel was changed forever. We now zoom through the air at over 500 miles per hour in comfort and safety paying moderate fares. You can travel almost anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours. What a world we live in!