Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll recalls formerly NEWFANGLED THINGS! She writes:

Remember when “quiche” had its moment in the ’80’s? I really used to like it and was sad to see it leave menus, banished as unhip, uncool, passé. I have gotten into a little retro cooking where I am making quiches and eating an easy-peasy breakfast of microwaved quiche. You got it all – eggs, milk, cheese, spinach, very proteiny. My much-younger Mexican housekeeper had never even heard of quiche, but she loves it now. Anyway, it put me in mind of how long I’ve lived and how many things, culinary and otherwise, have come and gone. This may become an ongoing, periodic theme.

Some newfangled things take a very long time to appear and, after they have, you do wonder why it took so long. Benjamin Franklin was the first U.S. Postmaster. When the first postage stamps appeared in 1847, it was his likeness on the stamp. Of course, they could only be affixed by licking them. But only for roughly 145 years until 1992 when “pressure-sensitive self-adhesive stamps” rolled out nationally! TA DAH! ABOUT TIME, GUYS!

Remember the Seinfeld episode where George’s fiancée, Susan, died from licking cheap glue on wedding invitation envelopes? Who knows how many people died from licking stamps for Christmas cards? That data is probably in the same CDC vault with the Moderna and Pfizer Vaccine Adverse Effects Database, and Obama’s SATs, college grades and courses, and Passport.

Another newfangled thing that took forever to appear was cup holders in cars and movie theaters. Krikey! Nobody thought that would be a nice little feature in a vehicle? Thank God at least someone thought of putting a little makeup mirror on the driver’s side visor so you could put on mascara at 75 mph. What could go wrong? But let’s take a quick gander at just a couple other things that once were exciting newfangled things.


My maternal grandmother and her twin were the babies of their large family. The twins were born in the blizzard of 1888. That was just a little over 20 years from the Civil War when her family had had to free the slaves and do all the backbreaking work themselves. Oh wait, that’s wrong. They lived on a hard-scrabble farm in South Dakota and, like every other white person for hundreds of miles in every direction, they had no slaves of any color. Unless you counted Daisy, the “hired girl” from Ireland who got board and room and ten cents a week. Grandma told me once that with drought, locusts, flooding, and what not, they harvested 3 crops in 10 years in her childhood. There’s your White Privilege right there.

Anyway, Grandma’s name was Eva and in 1888, she and her twin, Iva, were laid on the open oven door of the woodstove in lieu of an incubator. I doubt that her mother was particularly fazed by the newborns. It wasn’t her first rodeo. She already had seven kids.

Anyway, Grandma lived almost 91 years, but to the best of my knowledge, she was never in an airplane. Widowed in the early 50’s, she was an enthusiastic Road Tripper traveling with her middle daughter and family by station wagon to many historic sites. She made scrapbooks of her trips to Washington, D.C., to Disneyland, and to the Grand Canyon. She taught me scrapbooking. Some day our son will inherit some 15 or 20 humungous books filled with pictures of people he doesn’t know and postcards and ticket stubs from things like the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, the Eiffel Tower, The Western Wall, and the Eagles corner in Winslow, Arizona. He is probably saving up for a dump-truck even as we speak or perhaps a backhoe.

I was born in 1946, the first year of the mammoth Baby Boom Generation, the demographic “pig in the Python.” Air travel for most people still was rare and glamorous when I was a kid and young adult, but I did not take my first flight – from Minneapolis to Boston – until 1970. Age 24 is pretty late but, besides poverty, another reason for not flying was I was a big scaredy-cat wussie-pants. Still am. Many of my peers, of course, had flown to and from college years earlier, had been to Disneyland on a plane, had even flown to Europe!

When our son, born in 1973, was a three-month-old infant, he flew with me from San Francisco to Minneapolis for my brother’s wedding. He has flown his whole life; it is no more remarkable to him than getting on a Greyhound. It would never occur to him to drive if he could fly! Nowadays, air travel is every bit as comfy as a Greyhound. Especially in a middle seat. And that’s if you get there at all. Southwest’s motto: “Go ahead. TRY to get to your final destination! We double-dog dare ya.”


Sadly I cannot remember which comic claimed that the first phone call was NOT from Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant, Watson. It was to Bell during dinnertime, from someone asking if he was happy with his Long Distance Service.

Phone service started with Grandma’s wall phone that you only answered if the ring was “two short, one long.” If you wanted to make an outgoing call, you picked it up and asked Ethel the operator to connect you with so-and-so. They were all party lines. If a fella was hoping to arrange some illicit assignation with Hildy from two farms over, he best do it by carrier pigeon, because Ethel the phone lady would listen in on any call she pleased as would everybody else on the party line, including many giggling children, and professional busy-bodies who might tell Hildy’s large husband, Ezekiel, who, in addition to farming, served as the regional blacksmith.

We went from wall phones with an operator, to black dial phones, to the wretched Princess phone model, to cordless phones on a base, to the current cellphones which mean you will never make eye contact with your teenager again. Watching the football game the other Sunday, there was a commercial proudly advertising some cellphone as “$1,000 off!” OFF? There’s a phone that costs MORE than $1,000? Well, I don’t want it.

How well I remember my first primitive answering machine in the mid-’80’s. I was running a women’s show at a popular Minneapolis theater and it was great to be able to just leave a message instead of calling 15 times to reach all my cast members. It took my dear mother many years to get used to the machine. She became instantly flummoxed if she got the machine instead of me. How do I know that? Because this would be a typical “message” left on the machine after the tape finally ran out.

“Oh, Dad, I got her machine again. I never know what to say…now I’ve forgotten what I was going to tell her. Well, honey, I will try you again when I think you are home. I don’t know why you can’t work during the day like a normal person…you are probably sleeping because you got home after midnight from your show…I certainly hope this comedy thing works out and you don’t lose your typing skills…Dad? Did you want to say anything? Dad!…Dad! I think he’s in the bathroom again. He was anxious all morning…Oh, now I remember…Dad’s thyroid growth turned out to be benign…Praise, God! okay, well, we love you and wish YOU would call US more often*…we are always here and don’t make you talk to a machi…BEEP.

*Just for the record, and in the interest of both accuracy and transparency – which I keep reading about but never see — I called my dear late Mother every single day even when we were poor and Long Distance was crazy expensive. I would pay $5,000 for a 10-minute call right now, no questions asked.

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