Friday, October 24, 2014

52 Weeks of Sharing Our Memories - Life Before the Present Technology

This post is part of the 52 Weeks of Writing our Memories by Lorine McGinnis Schulze at Olive Tree Genealogy who has challenged us to write our memories for our future generations.

The other day, when I read Joan Hall's post "Connected or Disconnected" about how 21st century technology has changed the way we interact with each other, I was reminded of how things were when I was a kid, and I thought about how different it is now.

I remember going to Oliver Brothers gas station on Patterson Street. When we'd pull up, one of the guys would pump the gas, wash the windshield, and check the oil. Then they'd hand my mom or dad the ticket to be signed and we'd take off on our way. The owner would send a monthly statement to our house. Now, I pump my gas, pay with plastic at the pump, and wash my windshield. The only time I've ever spoken to the attendant was when there was a problem with the pump or no receipt printed out, which is rare.

I remember shopping with my mom at Patterson-Jones Shoes, McCrory's 5 and 10 cents store, Southern Stationery, Belk-Hudson, and C. C. Varnedoe's downtown and at Playland toy store at Castle Park. I used to go with my dad to a small book store on Oak Street across from Dixie Cream Donut Shop's current location, but I've forgotten it's name. I loved going in there. It was small and cozy and it seemed to me that books were everywhere! I instantly felt like I belonged in there. The 1957 city directory gives the name Jet's Book Shop at this location. Today, I usually just order what I want online. (I actually hate shopping, but I miss going to the book store in person.)

C. C. Varnedoe's building on Patterson Street, Valdosta, Georgia, where my mom shopped for clothes and accessories. I loved sitting at the make-up counter and smelling the scents.
(Google Earth street view)

When I wanted to play with my friends, I'd either call them up on the phone or go to their house and knock on the door. Now, kids text or video chat. I do my own fair share of texting rather than calling or visiting.

When we went out to eat, it was usually just on Sundays after church. I don't remember doing this until I was a little older, probably after all five kids had been born. We went to Ashley Oaks Restaurant or Shoney's Big Boy Restaurant on Ashley Street. (To this day, the smell of fresh parsley reminds me of Ashley Oaks. They used it as a garnish.) Back then, no one sat around the table staring at their phone or tablet. Nor did my dad pick up a newspaper to read at the table! I consider this to be just as rude. It's like being told, "I don't want to talk to you."

I remember Bob Belcher's Drug Store, Barnes Drug Store, and Vinson's Drug Store. Those were the names of the pharmacists and all were locally owned. (We also used Brookwood Drugs.) Today, if you use a small pharmacy, you probably know the name of your pharmacist, but I have no idea who the pharmacist was at the big chain drug store my mom used until we switched her to a locally owned one that delivers. A lot of drug stores let you reorder prescriptions via an app on your phone. You don't even have to call to talk to anyone. While I like that convenience, it's just one more thing to remove you from human interaction.

Like Joan said in her post, banking was different, too. I remember going inside the bank with my mom for all transactions. We went to Citizens and Southern National Bank and First National Bank. I still have to make deposits at my bank in person, but I use the drive-through. Some banks allow you to just take a photo of a check with your phone and it's automatically deposited. Some of the places I've worked have direct deposit. If I want cash, I either get it from a store where I'm shopping when the machine asks "Cash Back" or I go to the ATM at the bank. I don't have to go inside the bank and endorse a check made out to "cash" in front of the teller. I can also check my balance, transfer money, and pay bills online. I've rarely gone inside a bank for anything in several years.

The former First National Bank, now the Wisenbaker Building, on Patterson Street,
Valdosta, Georgia. It's on the National Register of Historic Places 

as part of the Valdosta Commercial Historic District.
(Google Earth street view)

It seems like it wasn't all that long ago when we had full-service gas stations, shopped only in stores, and went inside the bank for every transaction. I wonder what it will be like in about 20 years. Or maybe even just five or 10 years from now. Technology changes so quickly. I'm sure if/when any of my descendants read this post about how things were and how they are now, they'll think "How quaint."

I'm going to be one of those grandparents and great grandparents who says, "Well, when I was a kid, we didn't have...."



  1. I love this post, Catherine! It brings back even more memories for me. I remember going in the drug store when I was a child. They had a grill at the back and served hamburgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and more. Another thing I remember was the Western Auto store. It wasn't just a place for auto parts, it had toys and small appliances. Yes, Wal-Mart has these things, but it doesn't have the personalized feel of a locally owned store.

  2. Thanks, Joan! I forgot about the grills at the drug stores. I loved eating there. This brought back more memories. The 5 and 10 cents store where my mom shopped had a lunch counter. I remember going with her to the local hardware store for kitchenware. They had everything, not just tools. She shopped at Western Auto, too :)