A Blast from the Past: 7 Relics of the Times Gone by That Reveal How We Used to Live

Those were the days. Whether you are old enough to remember or have heard stories from your family, it’s always fascinating to think about how differently we used to live. I, personally, love the looks on my grandchildren’s faces when I tell them about the things that I used to do when I was growing up. And, then they grab a smartphone, and I’m lost. Here are some of my favourite attention getters when I’m talking about the “olden” days.

1. Phones

It seems like phones are glued to everyone’s hand these days. It’s unfathomable for our younger generation to think about the way phones were before smartphones. The wire connecting the base to the phone was always tangled and never long enough. You’d get a crick in your neck from cradling the phone. It was either connected to the wall by a cord or worse, hung on a wall so you had to stand and use it. They are eyes-wide-open when I tell them that you couldn’t walk around the house with a phone back in those days. And, to really get their attention, they have to know that anyone in the house could pick up another phone and hear your conversation without you knowing it!

2. Answering Machines

There was a time, before cell phones and voice mail, when you could leave your house, turn on your answering machine, and be gone all day. You would actually be completely out of touch with anyone. No one could text you. It was glorious. You’d come home, play the messages on your answering machine, and catch up on what might have happened all day. It’s funny how there weren’t nearly as many messages back then as there are texts and emails today.

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3. Radio

The radio was a whole different beast before the television was invented. There were weekly programs that families would gather together and listen to. Advertisers would promote their products just like they do on TV today. Luckily, radio is still around. We just use it a little differently.

4. Television

While most of us have TV’s in every room, they don’t quite operate like they used to. Here’s how we used to watch TV. The kid’s love this stuff!

Black and white screens

Black and white screens: The first ones were tiny, by today’s standards of wall-sized televisions. Measuring nine inches across, the family would huddle around it to see their favourite shows.

Remote controls

Remote controls: Nope, sorry guys, but the kids were the remote controls. There were a couple of knobs on the front of the TV that you had to manually turn to change the channel. And, speaking of channels, you might have had two or three to choose from and all the channels went off the air late at night.


Antennae: This is one that I love to tell. You had an antenna either on your roof or on top of your TV that had to be adjusted to get the best reception on each channel. And again, the kids were the doers. As a child, I’d often find myself hovering over the TV while my father was telling me which way to turn the antennae.

5. Lunchboxes

Do you remember when it was cool to have one of those themed metal lunchboxes that always came with an insulated container where the cup would screw onto the top of it? And, there was a clip inside the box to hold the cup in place. Click this page for a quick trip down memory lane. We didn’t have to worry about ice-packs to keep anything cold. And, you always had a tasty lunch made by your mother’s loving hands. Now, it seems like the school cafeterias have turned into food courts as you would see at the local mall. If you happen to still have your old lunchbox, it’s probably worth a lot of money. They are now collector’s items.

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6. Playing Outside

Everything seems so structured now. Kids are involved in organized school activities and sports and don’t seem to play in the neighbourhood anymore. Back in the day, as soon as we got home from school, we’d change into our play clothes, and out the door, we would go. There was no need to ask for permission. You might tell your mom where you were going, or you might not. It was just understood. There was always some sort of signal for when it was time to come home for dinner. It could have been your parents ringing a bell or when the street lights came on. But, when it was time to come home, you know that you had better get yourself home.

Blast from the Past

7. Washboards

This one gets my older grandchildren who do their own laundry. I always make it sound like it was back in my day, although I actually heard about washboards from my mother. But, there was a time when you actually had to get your water from a well bucket-by-bucket, pour it into a copper kettle, heat it over a fire, and use it to wash your clothes. You’d put a washboard in the water and pick up every single piece of clothing and scrub it on the board. Then, you’d repeat the whole water gathering process to rinse the clothes. And, you’d wring out the water by hand and hang them on a clothesline outside to dry. Whew! Now, we push a button.

I tell the stories, and I wonder if they even believe me. After all, I remember all of the stories that my parents and grandparents told me. I’m still not sure where the whole, “I used to walk ten miles to school in three feet of snow,” came from. But, I do use it from time to time. This makes me wonder what kind of stories my grandchildren will be telling their children.

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