Things I remember but have gone missing now – Pt 2

Here are some more items for thought:

21. The Heath Company of Benton Harbor, MI,  was one company I was really sorry to see close its doors.  They made electronic kits that the common man could put together.  You didn’t have to be an electrical engineer to do it. My first ‘real’ stereo amplifier was a Heathkit.  The Heath Company was in business solely for the electronic hobbyist that wanted to assemble their own equipment.  My first was a tube-type stereo amplifier, and weighed as much as my first car, consumed electricity through a power transformer that hummed mightily, and glowed bright orange in the dark from all the tube filaments.  From the time I bought my first Heathkit to the time they closed down I figure I’ve spent around $10 or $12 thousand dollars.  I bought stereos, televisions, auto repair, test equipment, computers (H-8) and, most of all, an entire amateur radio setup.  I still have the ham equipment: HW-101 transceiver, SB-200 linear and all the auxiliary stuff to run it from soup to nuts; and an automotive emission analyzer.  The Knight Company out in Chicago was another electronics company that closed their doors long ago.  My crystal-controlled Novice transmitter was a Knight T-50; a fifty watt CW transmitter.

22. To go with all the transistorized stereo (and quad) equipment I bought in Japan, I also bought speaker cabinets large enough to use as an end table. I LIKE large cabinets; ones with speakers you can actually see. My cabinets have only 14-inch woofers, but I guarantee that these 350 Watt babies would crack the plaster on your walls. Nowadays, it appears that anyone wanting good-sounding sound has to stick ear buds in their ears and not be able to relax to good sounds from a speaker larger than a cigar box.

23. SERVICE stations with free air and a “what will it be, sir?” attendant.

And:

24. They had rubber hose “dingers” that signaled you needed service when you pulled in.

And:

25. These attendants would ask: “Regular or Ethyl?”

26. I liked the old wooden roller coasters that scared you, not today’s computer-generated, CAD/CAM-produced, welded-pipe coasters that try to dismember you.

27. I had a tree house in our back yard.  Do kids still make tree houses (with Boys or Girls ‘keep out’ signs)?

28. One of the things that attracted me very much during high school was girls that wore skirts with plenty of petticoats.  Poodle skirts lent themselves to this configuration well.  There must be some reason that practice stopped – financial, perhaps?

29. Every teenager around me owned a 45rpm record changer.  It rarely had its own amplifier so it had to be plugged into the auxiliary jack on your stereo (or mono) amplifier. It consisted of a central spindle upon which you could pile at least 8 or 10 records; then, when all of them had played, you’d lift them up flip the stack and play the reverse sides.

30. In conjunction with the playing of vinyl records was the usual controversy between people who liked/used a Sapphire-tipped stylus and those who advocated a diamond-tipped stylus.  Usually, the diamond advocates were richer than the sapphire ones – maybe that’s the reason but no matter now, as the styli have disappeared.

31. As long as we are on a stereo kick – how about reel-to-reel tape recorders? I have three of them: a very nice Akai 10-inch, a Sony quad-channel job, and a Panasonic auto-reverse machine.  Finding a source of tape is getting very difficult; not to mention having to eventually find replacement heads when these wear down – and they will.

32. I mourn the demise of Morse code.  Pretty much every country in the world now has removed the requirement to be proficient in Morse code in their applications for an Amateur Radio license.  I learned it at the tender age of 11 and worked myself up to being able to copy over 45 words per minute while in the Navy.  With the exception of the ham bands, I can’t find it on the airwaves any more.  There were no better operators than those of the defunct Soviet Commercial Shipping fleet.

33. Automobiles with features that made them totally recognizable.  Back in the ‘old’ days, everyone eagerly awaited the appearance (in the fall) of the new models.  There was no one that could confuse a Chevy with a Ford or Buick with a Studebaker.  Nowadays, even up close, there isn’t much difference in models from one manufacturer to the next.  An Urban Assault Vehicle looks pretty much the same and I see no real difference between an Infiniti and a Lexus and a KIA – plenty of plastic and hardly a lick of good, old, steel.

34. I miss gangs of kids from all over the neighborhood gathering in someone’s yard to play some sort of game.  We used to have rousing games of Kick the Can, Run Sheep Run, Hide and Go Seek, and others.  I guess this one’s demise is due mostly to the urban attitude that ‘my house is my castle and keep the hell off my grass.’  Homeowners are now more fearful of litigation if one of the kids gets hurt than any other reason would be my secondary assumption.  Thirdly, there just doesn’t seem to be much stimulation now for kids to gather anymore.  That’s sad, I think, that in-home attractions are more powerful than letting kids just be kids.

35. Streetcars.  I really miss streetcars.  Growing up in Washington DC (and Germany, for that matter) I was able to pedal just a couple of miles to the nearest streetcar circle, park my bike and climb aboard. One would drop a dime into the cool little glass-sided box that let you see your coin work its way down the various traps to the collection box.  If you grabbed a transfer ticket on each car you entered you could travel over the entire system without spending another dime.  DC had a huge system that covered the entire metro and surrounding area.  It was us kids method of getting out to Glen Echo amusement park.

36. Television repairmen.  Nowadays, it seems simpler to just trash your non-functional unit and buy another one.  That goes for virtually any other electronic or electric device we have now.  When’s the last time you’ve taken a broken vacuum cleaner somewhere to have it fixed?  Been a while, hasn’t it?

37.  I used to have a great pair of stilts.  I built them from scratch and wore the tips down quite a bit with use.  They made me just over a foot taller.

T.O.M.

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