“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

When I woke up, it was closer to afternoon than morning. I suspect it was the combination of pills I’m taking for my back. Gracie and Fern were still with me, both asleep. I imagine they too had excuses for sleeping so late, but I have no idea what they are. They don’t share. It took me a while to get out of bed, but I yelped less than yesterday. I guess that’s a barometer of sorts for my back getting better.

The sun is out and the sounds of drips are in stereo from the front and back of my house. Mostly they are falling from the roof onto the deck. The snow is quickly melting. I can see grass again and the streets are perfectly clear. The sky has more blue than it has clouds so I’m thinking it’s a lovely day. I filled the bird feeders yesterday, and they are now fully occupied. The woodpecker seems to be enjoying the new suet which is a far better alternative to the shingles on my house he was pecking yesterday.

The other day I thought of Mrs. McGaffigan. She used to live in the huge house on the corner at the bottom of my street. She was the other half of our party line. My brother and I used to try to listen to her conversations, but we usually giggled and got caught. She was never happy about eavesdropping and was brusque about our hanging up right away. We usually did but once in a while we only pretended so we could keep listening. I remember picking up the phone to make a call and hearing Mrs. McGaffigan. She’d tell me to hang up as she was already on the line as if I couldn’t hear her. I don’t remember exactly how we knew which calls were ours, but it had something to do with the ringing. Those were the days of clunky black phones and letters as part of the phone numbers.

I remember my mother making sure I had a dime when I went out with friends in case I needed to call. Phone booths were everywhere. I never walked by one without checking the coin slot. Sometimes I’d get lucky and find a dime. In the rain, a phone booth was a great place to wait out the storm for a while. Two and sometimes three of us would jam ourselves inside. We’d be dry but none of us could move. A phone booth always looked kind of cool in the dark when the light went on as you shut the door. I didn’t like it when the booths started to disappear and the phones with small shelves took their places. Now, though, pay phones have pretty much disappeared, and soon enough no one will even remember they existed.

I have this image. It’s a room filled with all the stuff from my childhood, like phone booths, rabbit ears, skate keys and bottle tops on shoe bottoms, and one by one a piece disappears and no one notices.

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37 Comments on ““The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.””

  1. Hedley Says:

    Maggie and I made the morning run. the ATM, the Shell gas station and then on to one of her favorite destinations the car wash. A bone biscuit was offered and Maggie almost took a finger as well. It seems a bit self defeating as the American car is washed and the Terrier is leaving crumbs all over Mrs MDH’s seat. Oh well. We stayed away from the Palace where the NCAA is rocking, Michigan go now and are followed by State. Blabber mouth Barkley picked Memphis over Sparty – Shut up Charles.

    Mrs MDH and I are heading out tonight to celebrate #28. So we will save Palm services for tomorrow. We will also hear the Passion – it will be quite a long service.

    The Big Texan got it done last night, Clint Dempsey Captain of the USA and a player, every now and again, for Tottenham Hotspur scored the only goal in a snow game up in Colorado against Costa Rica. We, being the US, needed a win to get the campaign going for the World Cup in Brazil. Meanwhile the old country splattered San Marino.

    Its basketball today. My kids are Spartys, so by definition I am a tuition Sparty GO GREEN GO WHITE.

    • My Dear Hedley,
      Gracie is snoring on the couch. After her run she needed a nap. The poor dog is exhausted. I think I should do vacuuming at the car wash as the back seat is Gracie hair despite the cover.

      Charles Barely should be struck dump, or is that dumber?

      My mother always kept her palm fronds behind the picture of Christ with his halo and flowing beard which hung over her bed. It didn’t take long for the fronds to get dry and sharp. Every year, after the Palm Sunday mass she’d take down the old ones and up were go the ones given out at mass. She was most careful so she wouldn’t jab herself.

      My family attended that snow game and sent a picture from the stands. They were totally bundled in Arctic looking gear.

      Congratulation on your 28th. Have a wonderful evening!!

      • Hedley Says:

        I wondered if your family had gone to the game, can you post the picture ? I was watching on ESPN and it was a bit rough. They had decided to take the Costa Rica team to a cold weather State to try to get an advantage – last night was a bit too much. Anyway, a win is a win, and a great job by the fans cheering on our Team. Next stop is Mexico City and the Azteca on March 26. It’s a 10.30 pm game on ESPN.

        I make a cross from the Palms during services, and it is returned to a photo of my Mum where it will stay until the next year. Father Jerry knows that I may not be paying attention.

      • MDH,
        The picture is just of them in the stands, not the game itself. It is my brother-in-law Rod, his grandson Ryder and son Ryan who was the one who got a full scholarship to play soccer at Oregon State.

        Here it is on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misskath/

      • Hedley Says:

        They don’t have snow on them…..yet ! Was hoping it was a crowd photo and not a shot of the game. USA USA
        Thank you for sharing

      • Happy to share, MDH.
        I love my brother-in-law Rod to death, and he always tries to include me in their adventures by sending a photo. We do face to face sometimes when he’s on the road. He travels a lot for his job.

      • Hedley Says:

        Tuesday will be fun . England heads off to Montenegro and are on ESPN3 at 4.00 pm and then we have a bit of a breather before a very difficult game for the USA at the Azteca.

        Oh hilarious, some non hooters babe on CBS is claiming that VCU have been doing navy seal training to come back from 16 point deficits.

    • Okay, How does Navy Seal training help?

      • Hedley Says:

        I think it was something to do with being really tough and stuff while the Wolverines were splattering this team down the Palace. Whatever it’s now a 23 point lead and the University of Michigan are about to become the first team in to the 16.

      • MDH,
        Rod just sent me photo of the fields:http://www.flickr.com/photos/misskath/

        They now have 14 inches of snow and it will be 11 degrees tonight. He said the game was great. Everyone got scarves which said USA versus Costa Rica. You can notice them in the crown picture now that you know to look.

      • Hedley Says:

        I am not convinced that Klinsmann should lead the US. The picture is great. Split scarves became popular some years ago as a commemorative. My first one was the Champions League Final near Birgit between Monaco and Porto.
        We are in London for this years final but it would be a couple of weeks before we know if we came out of the lottery. We will go to the Fan Fest at the Olympic Park.

      • MDH,
        I didn’t watch the game but would have had I known it was on TV. My sister was going to call me but thought it was too late at night (as if…).

        Ryder loved his scarf. He had the best time with his father and his favorite in all the world, his Pa.

        You tend to get lucky at lotteries so I hope that continues!

      • Hedley Says:

        Actually we have been failing all week, Tottenham were sold out to Members for the last game of the season and David Bowie at the V & A is sold out until June
        Easy win for Sparty…Charles is best at Capital One commercials about his gigantic underwear

  2. Bob Says:

    This morning everyone at my house slept in because it was cool and raining with an occasional clap of thunder. We had a treat for breakfast, fresh bagels, lox (smoked salmon) and cream cheese with coffee. Nothing could be better on a rainy Saturday morning.

    You made me think of all the things that my kids have not and will never experience. The list includes party lines which are long gone and pay phones which are getting hard to find. Even land line telephones are quickly disappearing. I remember college fraternities trying to stuff as many people as possible into a phone booth or into a VW beetle. Do you remember that each coin that you put into a public phone made a different sounding chime? That was designed so that the operator could determine if you inserted the correct amount for your call. Telephone operators and telegrams are also relegated to the dustbin of history. I think Western Union exists only to wire transfer money from parents to college students who are stuck and broke in some far away city or to pay a bail bondsman to get them out of jail.

    I can remember going to the beach and seeing people listening to portable AM radios the size of a lunch box which were powered by “D” cell batteries and contained several vacuum tubes which warmed the case. Reel to reel audio tape recordings were amazing and then they were replaced by the eight track and cassette tape format. The transistor radio and the cassette tape walkman amazed us and gave way to the portable CD player. I still have a cassette tape Sony walkman and I still marvel at the engineering that went into creating a tape player only a tiny bit larger than size of the cassette and a double “A” size battery.

    Does anyone remember the slide rule. It has been replaced by the digital calculator. In the 1970s I bought a Texas Instrument calculator that could add, subtract, multiply, divide and did square roots for two hundred dollars. It was the marvel of its time.

    Even in the short lifetime of my teenage kids things have become obsolete. CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) TVs and computer displays are gone. The VHS cassette tape is almost completely gone and the CD and the DVD are on their last legs. Soon all audio and video entertainment will be streamed over WiFi. Ten years ago my six year old son called my vinyl records, black CDs. However, vinyl records are making a comeback because some music enthusiast consider digital music to lack a certain warmth that can only be captured from live performances on vinyl records. Those enthusiasts also purchase very expensive vacuum tube amplifiers which they consider better at reproducing the warmth of a live performance. Of course vinyl records were also good at reproducing pops and cracks from dust particles and static electricity. I didn’t think that vacuum tubes were available for purchase any longer. But, I found out that they are available and are made in Russia. There is still a lot of Soviet era vacuum tube technology in Russia. I don’t think that anyone graduating from college with an electrical engineering degree could pick out a vacuum tube from a VHS cassette tape.

    • Bob,
      I know what lox are but am not a fan though I have tried lox more than a few times. The fresh bagels and cream cheese are favorites for breakfast for me too.

      I do remember the different coin sounds but had forgotten about them. Telegrams were associated for many people with WWII and the notification of the loss of their sons. I, however, still have a telegram sent to us from Santa. It was a real one to all the Ryan Children telling us he had his eyes on us!

      I brought a cassette recorder and cassettes with me to Africa. It was great because the machine was small enough to pack and didn’t take away too much from my allotted 80 pounds of luggage. I too still have my Sony Walkman.

      We used the slide rule all the time in chemistry class. I don’t think I’ve seen one in years.

      I bought a new turntable not long ago so I can play my vinyls. They still have a great sound. I think the next time I have a deck party I’ll haul out the “record player” and the records and it will be like the parties we had as teenagers! That’s it-I’ll do a a 50’s theme but no jello dishes for food. They were always disgusting.

      • Bob Says:

        Somehow fruit and tiny marshmallows floating in a Jello mold is one of the culinary art’s biggest mistakes. I’m just waiting for Chef Ramsey to walk into a diner serving Jello molds, on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, and have every other word bleeped out while he dresses down the cook for serving that crap. Whenever I saw one on the I always thought of old spinsters who had never been kissed and church pot luck socials. “Dearie, you want a slice of the green Jello mold or the orange one?” No thank you, I’ll pass.

        A few years ago my wife bought a new version of the old portable record player. It even had the black plastic plug to enable it to play the 45 RPM records with the big hole. I only wish it had a usb output so that I could digitize some of those old records. Maybe not because some of the charm is listening to them played with a tone arm including all the pops, cracks and static.

        It was the old “Ma Bell” labs in New Jersey that invented the transistor in 1948. You and I are lucky enough to have seen the entire electronics revolution throughout our lifetime along with going to the moon.

      • Bob,
        That’s exactly what I was thinking about, those marshmallows and also fruit, but they were popular in the 50’s and early 60’s though never with me. I don’t like even plain Jello with nothing in it. I find the consistency is gross.

        The cracks and pops are part of the listening. I remember the cloth we had to use to clean the records of dust and footprints. I use my allowance to buy new 45’s.

        My turntable does have a USB port for conversion.

  3. olof1 Says:

    I slept for longer than I’ve done in years today! And I took a nap that lasted for over two hours as well 🙂 I have been very tired lately but I have no idea why 🙂

    We’ve had a wonderful day over here sunshine and no wind, 1,4 F in the morning though but 8,6 when we finally went out on our walk. Strangely enough it didn’t feel cold at all.

    That rarely happened when I grew up but when it did I loved to listen to what they were speaking about 🙂 Thankfully they never spoke about anything serious 🙂

    I know they have one phone both leftt in my old home town, I think they keep it of nostalgic reasons, I doubt that anyone ever use it any more. Too many things will soon be forgotten I’m afraid, many things will of course be saved in museums but I’m not sure kids goes to museums any longer. If You can’t find it on the internet there’s no use in remembering them either I’m afraid.

    I got a catalogue yesterday and when I saw the picnic glasses and other stuff I suddenly remembered those things from when I was a kid. Almost no one saved anything of them and now they’re worth lots of money even if it just was plastic 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Have a great day!

    • Christer,
      The weather is the culprit. The cloudy days make me want to nap. I wouldn’t want to miss sun but I can miss a cloudy day.

      Everything is melting. My whole front grass is back but there is still snow under shading trees.

      You are right about museums. Most are on line and you can see their collections in your own house. I think interactive museums are a big draw especially for kids. The science museum is another one where you get to touch and lay with stuff.

      We had aluminum glasses when we were kids. They were in bright colors. My sister now has them.

      Enjoy your evening!

  4. Brian Says:

    Hi again!
    Things have changed so quickly – and it’s hard letting go … I have a shed full of SLR camera, typewriter, video cassettes etc which I’m finding hard to chuck out …. but one day, they’ll have to go.
    The one thing which will never go, and gets a regular work-out, though, is my turntable. I’m also trying to convince my kids that vinyl records and the leisurely action of looking through them and the artwork on their sleeves, are worth sticking with!
    Best wishes from Catalonia, and an irregular blog-visitor,

    • Hi Brian,
      I finally gave my cassettes away, tons of them, but I had no space and hadn’t looked at them in years. The video cassettes will be next. I’m going to buy blueRays for each before I toss or donate them.

      I agree that nothing was better than sitting on the floor next to my pile of albums reading the covers as the music played. CD’s don’t give the same satisfaction.

      You are a most welcomed visitor!!


      • Caryn Says:

        Kat, you’re supposed to sit on the floor and read the CD jewel cases. 🙂 I have no idea what one is supposed to do with MP3 files. Sit on the floor and swipe through the images on the iPod, I guess. 😀

    • Caryn,
      oops, I didn’t realize that about the floor. I’ll remember the next time I get a new CD!! I just hope I can get back up.

  5. Birgit Says:

    “Rabbit ears” are back, we have over-the-air digital TV. Recently I discovered that the public telephone booth at the station now also has internet. But you are right, these things disappear, – everywhere except at our home: many old technical devices are still alive and in use and we try to repair them if necessary and possible. I’m old-fashioned. The vintage turntables are essential and I still work with an old big computer display, though it sometimes has psychedelic color attacks, but I prefer it for image processing. The old party line device is part of the current system, but not used as a party line anymore. Apart from that my telephone can’t run away and party, it’s still on the wire-leash.

    Maggie and Terre Roche – Telephone Bill

    • Birgit,
      Smart move-keeping the booth and adding internet. I haven’t heard of over the air digital TV, but I’m glad to hear rabbit ears have made a comeback.

      One of my favorite albums in the world is Deja Vu by CSN&Y. It is a perfect example of the changes,. I first bought it in vinyl then as a cassette and then as a CD. It is now on my iPod with a zillion other albums.

      I have a portable phone so I can bring it out to the deck in the summer.

      I tend to use the older version then trade up. My sister loves it as she gets the older version. She keeps asking me when I’ll be getting a new iPad. It will be soon. This one is antiquated.

  6. Beto Says:

    My summer out of High School I worked for a man that put in buried phone lines for Southwest Bell. We were in fantastic shape from the digging. One afternoon he told us to come to work in collared shirts and dress slacks the next day. We were tasked with removing old pay phone stations at the Federal Court and replacing them with upgraded booths. The old booths were worn but very nice Oak and Brass units. The new wall mount units were Solid Walnut partitions with Italian Marble backs and shelves. Now, with the exception of a very few, they are all removed.
    We are all, too soon removed.

    “There are those who’ll rend the very fabric that enfolds them
    And there are those who sew the ragged edge
    Still every morn the brightly feathered nest in bliss amongst us
    Knowing well in time it must come down”

    • Beto,
      Both the old and the new units sound so lovely. I can imagine the wood and the marble and the phone. That was a classy phone booth!

      The poem’s message is so right yet it is so sad knowing it will go regardless of how carefully it is preserved

  7. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    I still remember our party line person. Mrs. Manzillo. She would phone up her neighbor two houses over sometime around mid-morning and they would talk the entire day. She would get quite snippy if any of us suggested that she hang up so we could use the phone. I remember my father lost it one evening after several hours worth of attempts to use the phone. He said some very unpleasant things to her. Shortly after that we got a non-party line. I still remember the phone number, too.
    On the farm in Maine we had multi-party switchboard system. Each phone on the party line would have its own special ring. You weren’t supposed to pick up the phone if it wasn’t your ring but lots of people did. Ours was two long, one short. It’s interesting how many folks can’t tell the difference between a long ring and a short one. 🙂
    Bottle tops on shoes is one I don’t remember.

    It was sunny, windy and cold all day here. Rocky and I had our walk and gave it up pretty quickly. Nasty, chilling wind. We spent the rest of the day on the couch; he was napping and I was reading.

    Glad that your back is improved. Enjoy the evening.

    • Hi Caryn,
      That would have been my father as well. When it came to stuff like that, he was not a patient person. Luckily, Mrs. McGaffigan wasn’t so talkative or had fewer friends.

      I think lots of people on one line would have been too much for all of us. I don’t remember when we got our own line, but I suspect we were all relieve.

      Bottle tops made tap shoes!

      It was sunny here all day but not very windy. It was warm enough to melt the snow. My sister in Colorado has 14 inches already and it will be around 14 or 11 degrees I forget which one tonight. She said mine was a spring snow storm and hers is a winter. The difference is the spring snow disappears quickly.

      Good cheesy scifi movie tonight.

  8. Vintage Spins Says:

    Kat, I visited your Flickr pages – there are really some beautiful pictures posted! Are you a Harry Potter fan? I noticed there were a few towards the end that seemed to be taken just before one of the books went on sale at midnight?

    It makes me feel very sad when I walk by a derelict phone box. I refuse to purchase a smartphone, regardless of how useful and convenient they might be. Folks can’t seem to go anywhere without them and have to keep checking every few minutes to see if someone has texted or left the poor things a message. It’s like something out of a science fiction movie to see people clutching them as they’re walking down the street – even when they’re not in use.

    (I know – I sound like a stodgy, old fogey!


    • Marie,
      I am a Harry fan. That was a party for the second to last book. The party started at 10 with games and quizzes and even tattoos.The place was crowded.

      I like my iPhone for the messaging and the face time; also, when I have to wait for an appointment, I play cribbage to pass the time. I don’t live my life by the phone though I have a niece and nephew who do. It is their third hand. In the Stephen King novel Cell all the people with their phones on become mindless vicious zombies.

  9. Vintage Spins Says:

    Which Harry Potter book is your favourite? With me, it’s a toss-up between ‘The Chamber of Secrets’ and ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’, with ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ close on their tail.

    Would you recommend ‘Cell’ as a good read?


    • Marie,
      I like The Sorcerer’s Stone because we meet Harry and Hermione and Ron, and The Chamber of Secrets would be my second choice. I hated the last book because it was the end though I read it just about non-stop.

      No, I wouldn’t recommend it. I place it in the What Happened to Stephen King category. I do recommend 11/22/63 if you haven’t read it. I thought we got Stephen King back in that one.

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