Scott Funk | Boomer Funk: Before the media

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Wanna make someone think you are really old? Tell a younger person you remember when there were only three television stations and that they stopped broadcasting at the point you were expected to be sleeping and started back up in the morning with a grainy black & white picture of the American flag flapping in the breeze while the national anthem played.

Wow, was it really so long ago that when company came over Dad greeted them at the door while Mom hurriedly turned off the TV? After all, there was nothing more exciting than visitors. If they were real grown-ups (no kids) you longed to be allowed to sit on the periphery and listen to the talk. Yep, just talk. Conversation they called it. Maybe witty, maybe sports or work, but rarely politics, sex or religion.

The media wasn't the media yet, because it didn't dominate our lives. If we missed a show in during the winter, we had to wait for the summer reruns. Sometimes there were movies on TV, but they were old movies, often starring younger versions of the TV stars in the shows we watched.

For movies, we had to go to the cinema. I can still remember the last time an usher seated me and my dad in a movie house: it was for "The Sound of Music." That show must have run at that theater for three years. Only at that one place in the entire city and only one screen in the whole building.

Radio was small and local, too. You could call in and they'd play the song you requested. If the disc jockey was bored, he'd keep us on and then say things about our school or what was cool to do that summer. What was playing on our station was different than the other station, even though they both might be playing rock 'n' roll. Until the mega-watt stations started blasting over the Mexican border, the radio went off late at night just like the TV. All of it was AM until high school when FM came out, but not on my old car's radio.

If we liked a song enough, we went down to the record store and bought the 45. Maybe first listening to both sides in the booth.

Oops, I forgot to mention there was only one TV in the house. It was a big box with a relatively small screen. Sometimes, it wasn't just the TV; it also had a radio and a hi-fi turn table. (Oh, that was a great thing. Imagine piling a stack of LP's on top of each other to drop one-at-a-time and play. It was so high-tech, and created those nostalgia crackles on our old records.)

So, the question must be asked and answered. What did people do with so little diversion, without the social media, and the media we have today? Simple — we socialized, entertained each other, read, thought, had hobbies, and did a remarkable number of things with the family.

Things with the family? We'll have to save that for another column; that poor youngster we started out with wants to escape.

Scott Funk lives, works, and writes in Vermont. His Boomer Funk columns are available at www.VermontFunk.com, as are his blogs and archived Aging in Place columns.

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