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things we recall

DA Monkey

We have just been having a chat, in our office, comparing some of the townships we grew up in and our recollections of things rarely seen anymore?

Most of us grew up in small country towns which at the time in Australia were often very isolated, so our list is a little archaic. Mostly we are talking mid seventies to early eighties.

I spent time in a small country town in mid north Victoria. We lived at the end of the stock route and consequentially the furtherest from town, so we had no sealed roads etc. Although we did have fruit trees planted in the road reserve all the way into town and in most suburban streets. I would always try to skip my porridge in the morning and just eat fruit whilst going to school.

Other recollections include:

We had the first colour television in our town - our house was a very popular venue after school.
Schools provided a container of milk to all children free of charge.
The town Mayor often threw a huge BBQ at his house and invite most of the town.
Inter-town cricket games were always played on the school oval and always during the hottest part of the year.
Milk was delivered by horse and dray - the local dairy was just down the stock route we lived on.
Night soil carts still operated in the outskirts of the town.

I know Australia is a little different in some respects, but what is it that you people recall about your childhood towns :-D
I lived on the edge of town. There were woods behind our house and developed areas across the street and left and right. There were two street signs at the top of the street, one old-fashioned one hanging from chains and one new-fangled one. They two signs spelled the street name differently. The main road we lived off was a 4 lane road 'In town" and a two lane country road, lined with trees, starting a mile or so from our street. The last time I went back to visit, it was 4 lanes all the way down and the wooded areas in my old neighborhood were all suburbs.

The college was also on the edge of town (although nowhere near where I lived), with developed areas on one side and patches of woods on the other and it, too, was just off a two lane country road. They renamed that road "University Drive" (or some such) a few years back and it is now 4 lanes all the way and all the wooded areas are gone.

I remember our tv with legs (that I would sometimes lay under, cuz I was between 3 and 5 years old) that had 2 channels. And dad used to sometimes hunt squirrels or deer and we had a garden out back for some years. I used to play with the squirrel tails while dad finished skinning the squirrels. I never knew that a "paycheck" had anything to do with a big meal being put on the table. We ate big every night, even if it came from the garden and the freezer full of venison.

Because we lived on the edge of town, my dad got away with his weird quirks from growing up on a farm. His shot guns were mounted on his bedroom wall, above the bed. He used a hunting horn to call us home from the woods.

Halloween was one big block party and one of the rare occasions when I could stay up past 9pm (rather than the endless mambo line at the mall, like it is now). I remember when cartoons were only on Saturday morning and I remember when they added an hour or so of cartoons on Sunday morning and what a big deal that was.

I remember not having much in the way of homework in elementary school.


Small town Australia: Picking up lumps of coal from the side of railway tracks for my grandmother's fuel heater. Hunting for rabbits using ferrets. Talking about stock routes DAMonkey, I lived in Tamworth not far from the sale yards for a while. We had stock routes and deep dry creek beds on the common that were great for adventure. I liked the action and auctioneering of the sales as well.

I remember flavoured milk in small bottles at school - you didn't want one that had been left in the sun.


Dear Leader
Staff member
Many suburban communities around Buffalo had sirens that were tested once a week, but they were to call volunteer firemen. Even if the volunteers are paged now, the siren is still tested weekly in some places, out of tradition.

I remember, in the 1970s, seeing a horse-drawn knife sharpening card making its way down our street. "Knives sharpened! Knives sharpened! Rags! Knives! Rags!"

We got a color television in 1973, relatively late compared to others on the block, but we were the first one to get cable. 12 channels, one of which showed the images from a monochrome camera that went back and forth between an analog clock and an analog thermometer. If you didn't have cable, you only got seven channels - NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, the infamous independent Channel 29 (horrible local commercials and the Good News Capsule, a newscast featuring a very unattractive female narrator, with a real-time sign language translation), and depending on the weather, CBC and CTV from Toronto. Canadian television had a LOT of bizarre toilet paper commercials then, for some reason, along with the usual beer commercials and little two-minute Canadian fact PSAs that usually slammed the United States. "The Canadian Falls is larger and prettier than the American Falls." "The CN Tower, under construction in Toronto, will be taller than any building in the States." "We defeated the renegate United States in the War of 1812."

Local kids shows on television, from both Buffalo and Toronto stations. Buffalo had Rocketship 7 and Commander Tom, but no local Bozo the Clown. Bimbo the Birthday Clown on the Uncle Bobby Show in Toronto hated American kids, but the shows on the Buffalo side of the border always announced the birthdays of kids from Canada. Supposedly, old SCTV shows parodied local television programming and commercials from Buffalo.

US television stations broadcast the US and Canadian national anthem before they went off the air, but I always wondered why Canadian stations didn't reciprocate, instead playing their national anthem and "God Save the Queen." The Canadian national anthem would usually feature Monties, wheat fields, Parliament buildings and the Canadian Rockies, while the US national anthem would show jet fighters, eagles ready to strike, Revolutionary War reenactors firing muskets, and other militaristic images.

There were four corner groceries, located deep in residential areas, within walking distance of my house. There were also a couple of corner beauty shops tucked away, too. One was operate by a former mayor of Buffalo, who left the office after a scandal in the 1950s.

Milk machines! If the stores weren't open, and you really needed some milk, you could go to a coin-operated machine that would vend cartons of milk.

Blue laws ... everything in New York was closed on Sunday except gas stations and grocery stores.

If we went to a supermarket deeper in the inner city, there would usually be a row of cabs lined up at the door. None of the cab drivers ever shouted "Taxi!" though ... anyone leaving would hear a cocophony of shouts lke "caaaarserrrrrVESS!", "jitNEH!", "livREH!" and "HAAAAACK!" I remember one that shouted "HEB-uhh-dah", and I still have no idea what he meant.

Holidays that fell in the middle of a week, instead of the following Monday.

Property crime rates seemed to be much higher, but there was less paranoia about crime in general. Every few weeks, a neighbor would have some part of their car swiped; a car radio (AM only, of course), their hubcaps, or even their tires. Still, kids played under less supervision, and I remember running errands that would be out of the question today, like heading to one of the corner stores to buy cigarettes for Mom. A store owner saw nothing strange about a six year old buying Marlboro 100s, soft pack.

Not much of a scar left from my smallpox shot.

School: filmstrips (BING!), SRA tests, and bomb threats in the late Vietnam War era. I was in the same class as David Boreanaz's sister. Also in the 1970s, the United States was in the process of converting to the metric system. Kids didn't learn English weights and measures; it was strictly kilometers, kilograms and liters. Every classroom had a THINK METRIC sign. There's a generation of confused Gen-Xers out there, myself included, that are still clueless about how many teaspoons are in a liquid ounce, or how many pints are in a gallon.

One telephone company: AT&T, and you liked it. We had a made-in-America (probably someplace like Gary or Camden) black dial telephone that weighed about 20 pounds (pounds, not kilograms), hardwired into the dining room wall. Most families on the block had phones in the kitchen or dining room, for some reason.

Music on AM radio stations.

Mister Softee!


Repo Man

I grew up in a village with around 700 residents about 20 miles west of Milwaukee. Every day at noon the fire station would blow its noon whistle, and they still do it. This also serves as a test of their emergency alert system.

Every December most of the village would go down to the Village Hall for the tree lighting ceremony, complete with the obligatory hot chocolate and caroling.

Every summer there was a chicken/pig roast at the Fireman's park. They attempted fireworks one year but the budget was so small that I could have put on a better show with 500 bucks and a trip to a Tennessee fireworks store.

Every Saturday afternoon people would come to the same park to watch the village baseball team (comprised of former high school stars, washed up minor-leaguers from the area, and college players) play a similar team from another village.

We had a small grocery store where the owners knew everyone. A simple call to the store from my parents and they would let me (still in grade school) come in a pick up a bottle of brandy or a six pack of Andeker beer for my parents.

There was a bait shop that opened every day at like 5AM where you would find the owner cracking open his first Pabst Blue Ribbon of the day. Its kind of funny, the place has been closed for 10 or more years and I still remember the distinct smell of the place. People from all over would come to the village to fish in the river or the Mill Pond. To this day when I tell people where I grew up I am surprised at how many people say "Oh I used to always fish in the river and go to that bait shop"

Even though we only had 700 people (it is now the victim of suburbinization with all of the farmland replaced by large-lot subdivisions and a population 5 times what it was) we had 5-6 taverns, 4 on and around a local lake and two downtown.

The thing that sucked is that everyone knew everyone's business so whenever there was trouble caused by kids there were like 4 families that the cops went to first. Unfortunately for my parents we were one of them thanks to my various shenanigans.
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I remember...

...watching the barges and freighters travel up and down the Detroit River. We'd always say, "that one's going to Duluth," or "that one's coming from Buffalo," without any real idea where they were from or going. BTW, barge and freighter traffic in not visible on Lake Michigan in Chicago.

...Detroit was the "Murder Capital of the World" in the '70s, and everyone knew it. Everyone was way more conscious of crime, but, like Dan, I went places on my bike at 12-13 years old that I'd never let my daughter go to now.

...Our house was burglarized and picked clean when I was 10. The coach of my church basketball team was murdered when I was 12. An older kid on my block was killed for his "boom box" when I was 13. And a girl I spoke with every day while delivering papers on my paper route was murdered by her mother when I was 15.

...Our TV stations were CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, a CBC station from Windsor, ON and about 3 UHF stations (channels 20, 50 and 62). On rare occasions I could pick up another station from Windsor, a weak-signaled French/English station on channel 78. Friday nights at 11pm, they would broadcast "Cinema Nuit," and show soft-core French movies featuring total nudity. At 15, I was saying God bless Canada. Channel 62 featured a daily dance show called "The Scene". It was a local version of Soul Train, and kids from local high schools would be featured each day. That's where I first heard rap music, around 1977.

...My uncle got the precursor to cable in Detroit, ON-TV. Channel 20 in Detroit gave up its signal during primetime for a pay-per-view service that showed movies until maybe 3am. Scramblers became all the rage.

...Disco, man, I remember disco! I loved listening to WDRQ ("Q93, Detroit's disco!"), and I couldn't wait until I was 21 to go to disco clubs. Unfortunately, disco could not wait for me; it was gone long before I was 21.