Boomer Blog: It’s not old, it’s retro!


I regularly see Facebook posts of items from the past with instructions to “Like” or “Share” if we can identify them. Recognition is typically swift; then memories flood the brain – and we are off to the “good old days”!

One such retro photo showed fried bologna. Suddenly, my father was standing over a cast iron skillet tending the bologna he had sliced from a larger hunk and scored three or four times to keep flat. “Served” on Wonder Bread with a melted slab of “cheese” from a block of Chef’s Delight, there was nothing tastier on a Saturday afternoon.

I guess fried bologna sandwiches were not particularly detrimental to my father’s health in his 93 years, and likely the raw cake batter we lapped off the beaters of my mother’s stand mixer was equally harmless. Whoever got to lick the beaters clean savored gingerbread or chocolate cake batter containing raw eggs, a 21st century no-no. I guess the sugar-laden icing beaters were a bit heathier.

I wonder if kids today play any games not connected to some technological gadget. My parents were critical of our “sitting around” in front of the television, but we did play a few games involving the movement of more than our fingers. Occasionally we used the chalk from our blackboard to draw hopscotch spaces on the sidewalk. I googled the hopscotch rules, which I am not sure we followed or even knew. We just tossed our stones, hopped, jumped, turned around in mid-jump – and probably argued. And we were outside in the fresh air.

We also played jacks with the requisite rubber ball and a pile of metal crosspieces. Again, we followed Scott rules; and the game was good exercise for eye-hand coordination, as we alternated bounces with picking up the jacks by ones, by twos, by threes. The floors in the River Road house were covered with linoleum, the perfect surface for those games – accompanied by more arguments.

Somehow my parents survived five heads of girls’ hair. Hot curlers eventually came into vogue; but before our low-tech plastic curlers, open-ended frozen juice cans, and spoolies, we put our hair up in pin curls. A head full of ringlets secured with bobby pins provided body and curl and were much easier to sleep on than rollers.

Many years before today’s array of hand-held hair dryers, it was possible to wake up with damp hair and no remedy – until my college years. I received as a gift a case that held a motor, flexible hose, and large drying bonnet. Several times a week I sat on my dorm bed studying, with the cap ballooned out over my curler-covered head. I could not hear a thing, but I never went to class with wet hair.

Clothing fits right into a discussion of retro things. Although I see slips and petticoats available online, I think few females – especially younger ones – wear such undergarments nowadays. During my girlhood we had to wear dresses to school, always over a slip. One of the most prized and prettiest articles from my junior high wardrobe was a half-slip petticoat featuring tiers of lace-trimmed fabric and a satin bow.

During those adolescent years we also began wearing saddle oxford shoes. With ten feet to keep shod on a slim budget, there was no question that our saddles would have black soles. Oh, how I longed for a pair of Spaldings with their more stylish, more expensive brown soles.

Regardless of the shoe style, we stuck our bobby-socked feet into them. Gone was our little-kid footwear: anklets, those short little socks with lacy frills on the cuffs, the likes of which we seldom see today.

Another Facebook posting reminded me of class rings. As important as it was to me at the time, my Class of 1966 ring is now stashed away with other pieces of yesteryear jewelry.

Couples who decided to “go steady” exchanged class rings. A guy generally wore his girl’s tiny ring on a chain around his neck or shoved partway down his little finger. In a more elaborate display of her honey’s much larger ring, the girl might wrap it with angora to match the day’s outfit and then “groom” the yarn with an old toothbrush. Other girls used adhesive tape painted with nail polish to hold the ring in place.

Kids in my day did all types of paper folding – perhaps the teeny bopper version of origami. The intricate folding of love notes was an art in itself and took almost as long as it did to write the romantic missive. There were also those fortune tellers: sheets of paper folded into trianglish shapes and placed over the thumbs and forefingers of both hands. Opening and closing the shapes revealed some future event. And Facebook reminded me of the braids formed when we folded gum wrappers according to a particular pattern – for reasons unclear to me now.

I checked with a classmate about those gum wrapper chains, and we ended up reminiscing about wringer washers, Ship and Shore blouses, and her husband’s madras plaid jacket. But now, right in the middle of my retro recollections, I am out of space – with no mention of carbon paper, skate keys, car coats, Golden Rod tablets, autograph books, or drinking water straight from the garden hose. I will save those for the next time…

By Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

No posts to display