The prohibitive cost of keeping in touch . . . and other things

When Boomers were growing up in the fifties and sixties, there were a number of inventions still off waiting in the future and therefore the family budget was not encumbered by the cost of such items as:

  • There's still nothing better than a personal, handwritten thankyou note.
    There’s still nothing better than a personal, handwritten thank you note.

    Internet service. We composed lovely handwritten letters and cards that we put into an envelope, affixed a stamp and walked to the corner of the street to drop into the mailbox. This is also how we paid bills.

  • Cable or satellite television service. We had rooftop aerials or rabbit ears that involved no monthly charge. We picked up two channels most of the time and sometimes we could get CBC in Toronto which brought our selection up to three channels. When the weather was particularly cooperative we could also pull in Rochester, New York at night. The dial only allowed for eleven channels (remember there was no “Channel one”, just two to twelve).
  • Party lines were an early version of social networking.
    Party lines were an early version of social networking.

    Cell phones. We actually managed with only land lines—one per household and for the affluent homes, perhaps an extension in the parents’ bedroom. In rural areas party-lines shared by several families were common. Imagine running that one past your teenager today.

  • Electronic home security systems. We never even locked our doors unless we went away on vacation. We didn’t really have a lot worth stealing (remember? – no electronics) and everyone watched out for everyone anyway.
  • Extra telephone services. There were no such frills as a touch-tone surcharge (rip-off; who doesn’t have touch-tone now?), call answer, call forwarding, long distance bundling and data packages that make our bills go ka-ching.

The cost of personal telecom alone adds up to a shocking amount of money each month. Our dependency on electronic devices has made us slaves to the media companies. Not including capital investment in the devices, it can cost an average family as much as $350.00 per month to keep in touch. The expense generated by these items didn’t exist when we were growing up but now we couldn’t imagine living without the benefits they bring so it’s not a total downer.

My friend Keith sent me this piece about a few more differences in lifestyle that we need to be reminded of from time to time to help us rein in our excessive lifestyles.

We didn’t have “the Green Thing” then!!

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment. The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations. The older lady said that she was right — our generation didn’t have the “green thing” in its day. The older lady went on to explain:

  • Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.
  • Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable, besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But, too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then.
  • We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building.
  • We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. 
  • Back then we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.
  • Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.
  • Back then we had one TV, or radio, in the house—not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana.
  • In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.
  • When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
  • Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.
  • We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
  • We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.
  • We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen.
  • We replaced the razor blade in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.
  • Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the”green thing.”
  • We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then? Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smart ass young person. We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off… Especially from a tattooed, multiple pierced smartass who can’t make change without the cash register telling them how much. Bah, humbug!

Hello? Are you paying attention?
Hello? Are you paying attention?

Fortunately, thanks to telecommunications and despite its high cost, it has given me a platform to vent my joys, frustrations, questions and concerns with my Boomer readers. Blogging has kept this old lady off the soapbox on the street corner and prevents me from making a fool of myself venting my personal opinions to questionable audiences in public places. And that can only be a good thing.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Although I consider myself a “tree hugger” it’s good to be reminded of all the things we now take for granted (and, some think, we can’t live without) that were not a part of our world just a few years ago. I bring reusable shopping bags and avoid plastic water bottles, among other things. Some people think that’s inconvenient, but I think it’s responsible. Great post!

Lynda Davis
7 years ago

Thanks for the feedback. We’re like-minded.  Lynda Davis Follow my blog at: Social commentary on life from a Boomer Broad’s perspective e-mail: For further insights into the Boomer perspective on business, fashion, mind and body, order my new book, BOOMERBROADcast. It makes a great hostess, birthday or Christmas gift. Click on this link:  or