A time machine

May 6, 2014

I've often wished my kids could see how things were when I was a kid. "'Zat right?" you say. Yeah, it is. I wish they could see how much different daily life was at that time. It's really kind of hard to tell them about it, but if they could go to the high school and see the teachers, and see how everyone was dressed and how much different the hairstyles were, I think they'd understand. It seems like everyone was busy, but it wasn't this mad rush of running, snatching and grabbing that we now have.
Radio was still a big thing, and we also might have had some 78 rpm and 45 rpm records. (I can hear my kids saying, "What's that?") Some people had a television, but I don't even remember when I was first aware of any family having two televisions. (And remember, it was a television set, not a TV.) Then came television lights, lamps that made a low light because the lights in the living room weren't supposed to be on while the television set was turned on. Then we had rabbit ears to bring in a better picture and television trays...for what? Of all things, frozen television dinners! Some of our mothers were truly horrified at this.
The cars were so simple then compared to the way they are now. If you see one of those cars now, or a pickup from back when, they seem small. A radio and heater was pretty much all the standard equipment they had. When it was hot you had to drive with the windows down and holler at one another to be heard. Of course, you had all the dust and bugs, too. Going to town and buying a dollar's worth of gas and driving around was a major deal. Going to the drive-in picture show for fifty cents and having a thirty-cent hamburger and ten-cent coke was a big Saturday night. After all, you got to see a double feature movie!
The stores we had in Sweetwater were the most astounding things, now that we think back on it. Stores were all around the square, with offices or a pool hall upstairs. Stores were all down the side streets, and there were several hotels in town, and we still had the old courthouse. And I remember that there were so many churches, filling stations, and large and small grocery stores. We had department stores, women's stores, men's stores, shoe stores, appliance stores, feed stores, music stores, fabric stores and two icehouse! If we did have a time machine, I wonder what else we'd discover that we'd forgotten when we did look into it, and how many dozen questions our kids would ask us.
I still remember the Starr's Drive-In story. Starr's was a restaurant that was built in 1949 and stayed open all the time. Yes, I said all the time! Until 1963, that is, when Interstate Highway 20 came around Sweetwater on the south side. In 1966, the owner of Starr's thought he might as well start closing from 12:00 at night until 6:00 in the morning. The story goes that when he looked for the front door key, he couldn't find it because the business had never been closed. Now it's not only closed, it's gone along with a lot of other things.
This leads me to wonder--what if we took a trip forward instead of backward in our time machine? Would we see all of downtown Sweetwater out on Interstate 20?

Stan Johnson lives and works in Nolan County. Comments about this column can be emailed to editor@sweetwaterreporter.com.

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