The other day I was in a nostalgic mood (I still am, actually), fondly recalling all those customs, products, services and events from my childhood growing up in Australia, that are no longer around because either new technology has left them behind or they went out of fashion long ago.
I’m sure everyone feels this way at times, but come with me for a walk down memory lane and see how many of the following bring back pleasant memories. No doubt, some can still be found in various countries.
Note: Anyone born after 1980 may find some of these puzzling.
1. The milkman. It was always my job to put the milk bottles out at night and no matter how early I got up the next morning, he had delivered the milk and gone. I never understood why the milkman went out of fashion. Milk always tasted better from a bottle than a carton.
2. The ice cream van. Every Saturday afternoon, I would wait in the front garden. He was called Mr Whippy in Australia and as soon as we heard the jingle coming from his approaching truck, every kid in the street would race out to the footpath.
3. Fireworks night. Or cracker night, as we called it in Australia. The night sky was full of skyrockets launched from backyards all over town. I think that custom disappeared because too many idiots injured themselves and others with the fireworks. Japanese still let off fireworks, but they are mainly sparklers, not the firepower we had.
4. Full-service petrol stations. Every time we pulled into a petrol station, the workers would all come running out, in their uniforms. One checked under the hood, while another cleaned the windshield, and so on. It’s nice to see that this still happens in Japan.
5. Double features at the movies. Way before the days of videos, it was fun to go to the movies. I remember the James Bond festivals where you’d see two films in the series each night.
6. Drive-in movies. A dating institution, if ever there was one. But after seeing the movie "Targets," I got a little bit worried about drive-ins.
7. Sunday baked dinner. One of the few times the whole family could be together. Do families eat meals together anymore?
8. Record stores. I used to love leafing through the jackets of vinyl records. Downloading music? No thanks.
9. Photos. We’d hand in our roll of Kodak film and a few days later, eagerly return to the shop to pick up the photos and look at them all before exiting the shop.
10. Handwritten letters. I always looked forward to getting a handwritten letter from a loved one or dear friend, especially when one of us was overseas. Saying "I love you" in an email message just isn't the same. And the postman used to always blow his whistle to let us know there was mail.
11. Typewriters. How many university assignments and stories did I type up, and more to the point, how much white-out did I have to use to correct typos?
12. Tape recorders. These were always fun, especially when it came to splicing tapes – that is, after I could load the damn spool in the first place.
13. Radios with dials. I don't know how many radios I broke by twisting the dials off, but lying in bed late at night, listening to a live broadcast of a cricket or rugby match on the other side of the world was like hearing a voice come from another planet.
14. Hamburgers. Long before there was McDonald’s, Burger King or Wendy’s, there was Greasy Harry’s. Burgers at the local diner were the best and they always gave us poor starving students extra chips.
15. Returning empty soft drink bottles. We'd get the deposit, which I would then use to buy a few lollies.
16. Milkshakes or malted milk. I haven’t had a good one since Johnny Rockets left Japan.
17. Walking on the tarmac and up the steps to board a plane. Doing that always made the trip feel special. And people dressed up to go on planes back then.
18. Dial phones. I had one up until 2001 and I remember a young visitor to my home was puzzled when he saw it. He put his finger on the number, thinking he just had to press it rather than dial it.
19. Tooth fairy. It was 20 cents for a tooth left in a glass of water overnight. I wonder how much a tooth would fetch in today's economy.
20. Coins in plum puddings. I’m surprised that no-one in my family ever choked on 5-cent coins, considering how many puddings we ate in our childhood.
21. House calls by a doctor. Yes, you read that correctly. There was a time when doctors did make house calls, often late at night.
22. Disney comics. Well, I have to admit that I have kept my collection from childhood and they are still in reasonably good condition. I still have lots of Phantom comics, as well.
23. The Phantom Agents. This Japanese TV program probably first got me interested in Japanese pop culture, along with “Prince Planet,” "Astro Boy” and “Gigantor.” The dubbing was atrocious but those ninja stars were great. All us kids wanted them.
24. The whole family getting together to watch a TV program. Fighting over which program to watch was another matter, of course.
25. And last but not least, good manners. Where did they go? Many is the time I got a clip on the ear from my mother because I didn’t show respect for my elders, or I forgot to say please and thank you.
There are so many more, of course (yo-yo contests, jukeboxes, ham radio, telegrams, telexes, evening newspapers, to name just a few), but you get the picture. When I look around me today at all the gadgets and customs that are part of everyday life now, I can’t help wondering what people in 2052 will fondly recall when they look back at 2012. Will they be amused at how we used smartphones, iPads, flew in planes, watched TV and that dentists still used a drill?© Japan Today