Life Before Cell Phones

Culture | September 12, 2017

If you remember life before cell phones and electronics, you probably possess the ability to entertain yourself (if necessary) and relate to what you are about to read. Prior to society being electronically enlightened, people relied on their own abilities to remain mentally active and socially engaged. There was no texting so having a conversation actually required the spoken word. Somewhere along the line, society decided that it was necessary for constant and instant gratification,

Ideally, the world would revolve around you and meet your every need, including 24/7 entertainment. Sadly, that is not, and was never the case! If you wanted to talk to a neighbor, you walked to their house and knocked on the door. If you wanted to communicate with someone that was not a neighbor, you called them on the family’s ONLY rotary dial, landline telephone, which usually had a cord that could stretch around the block, or sent them a handwritten letter; affixed a $.05 postage stamp and deposited it into a U.S. Mailbox, which could be found on any corner. There was no immediate gratification and we eagerly awaited a response. There were no cell phones so if you wanted to call someone, they had to be home to answer the phone; unless of course, they were already talking to someone else in which case you got a busy signal. Party lines were not uncommon but it was a pleasure to have your own line. 

Years later, call-waiting was invented allowing you to take a call when you were already on the phone. Even more mind-blowing than that, answering machines and caller ID came along and then you knew who was calling you; giving you the ability to decide if you wanted to answer or return a call you may have missed!

If you were a kid, you looked forward to the weekend to forget about school/homework and just wanted to have fun with your friends. There was no internet so there was no competition with Minecraft, Tetris, Candy Crush or Call 4 Duty! Football/baseball, birthday parties and sleepovers were of utmost importance! When the weekend and/or free time presented itself, the standard for people you thought you were compatible with was overlooked if no one else was available. Making it work was sometimes the beginning of new friendships.  

Years ago, when kids were not in school or doing mandatory household chores, they were outside playing from sunup to sundown. Parents sent their kids out into the neighborhood to play (with no way of contacting them) and trusted that they would come home either when it was dark or when they got hungry. Kids ran around the neighborhood with bare feet all day and left a ring around the tub after a bath time.  

If you were lucky enough to have a friend or two close by, you probably played games outside like “Mother May I?”, Jump Rope, Hopscotch, Hide & Seek, Kick the Can and Flashlight Tag. When Dad hooked up the sprinkler to water the lawn or garden, it doubled as a fun way to cool off on a hot day. If you were lucky enough to have access to a pool, you were required to wait a minimum of 30 minutes to go swimming; never mind that we never wore sunscreen! There were many times the only drink you had all day while playing outside was a sip of hose water; no juice boxes. Homemade Popsicles made in Mom’s Tupperware Popsicle molds was also a special treat on a hot day.  

In the evenings, Saturday mornings and on rainy days, gathering around the ONLY television, black and white mind you, was another option for entertainment. There may have been 3 or 4 channels that came in clear enough to watch but adjusting the rabbit ears, and sometimes wrapping aluminum foil around them was usually necessary. The biggest issue was deciding what to watch. If Dad was home, you most likely watched what he wanted to watch. If you missed a holiday special, you had to wait until the following year to see it. GEESH!

When it rained, you could still play outside as long as there was no lightening. Often, a puddle brought more joy than something you may have found under the Christmas tree (like socks). If you were forced to play inside, all you needed was a little imagination, some cardboard boxes and blankets to make a fort in the basement on bad weather days. Forts made for hours of fun on a rainy day and sometimes required a secret password to gain entry.  

Other countless indoor activities are too numerous to list. Games included Jacks, Paper Dolls, Light Bright, Shrinky Dinks, Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, Old Maid, Go Fish, Sorry!, Cootie, Operation, Don’t Break the Ice, Uncle Wigley, Trouble, Dominoes and Twister. Luckily, the Hula Hoop could be used inside or outside!  

Many evenings were spent around the dining room table playing board games rather than watching television after dinner. Dinner time was family time. There were no distractions like phones and/or other electronics. Prior to sitting down to the table, kids took turns setting the table and then clearing the table as well as hand washing and drying the dishes afterwards. Dinner was scheduled for the same time each day and you were required to clean your plate whether you liked the offering or not. If you missed dinner, your next meal was breakfast. Much like the deal with the television, the dinner menu usually consisted of whatever Dad liked.

While electronics have certainly made our lives simpler and more convenient, there is something to be said for what seems like a simpler way of life prior to their invention. Having enjoyed the benefits of these conveniences, it is difficult to imagine how we lived without them; however, it was also equally difficult to imagine all the possibilities prior to their arrival.

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.