Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Now Defunct Museum

One-Time Icons of American Life That Are Now Obsolete...

. . .kaput, washed up, seen better days, belly-up, burned out, cooked, dead, demolished, done for, down the drain, down the tubes, finished, had it, sunk, totaled, wiped get the picture.
     Unlike the Pez dispenser or the Frisbee,* many features of everyday living went the way of the Edsel and couldn't hang on. Youngsters can glimpse this collection to get an idea of what life was like before things started going...defunct!

*Trivia: What was the original name of the Frisbee?

Back to Haunt You
Stuff that faded from the scene... or was replaced by something easier, faster, cheaper

The world is evolving before our eyes. It's probably mostly a good thing. I doubt that even the most nostalgic among us longs for the days of wax paper now that we have saran wrap. Along the way, a lot of good things got shoved aside for no reason other than they were around too long.
     Amusement parks, for example. When they became all but extinct, a new company, Six Flags, had to be created to build a bunch of fancy new ones you had to drive 100 miles to get to. Since amusement parks developed a tacky image over the decades they had to be repackaged as "theme" parks, wholesome family-friendly venues safely removed from urban centers.
     The choices our culture makes aren't always the best. Almost as soon as the last streetcar line was dismantled, that strange "wup" you heard was scores of cities saying, "Oops!"
     Here are some things we should have kept, things we mostly say good riddance to, and things that evolved into something better (I'm sure).

In the 1950s a TV was called a TV "set" for some reason. Perfect for watching Howdy Doody.


Dawn of the couch potato age. An astonishing innovation when it was introduced in the mid-1950s, the first TV remote actually clicked when you pressed the buttons. Before the clicker, you had to rouse yourself from the sofa to change the channel or adjust the volume.

Baby Boomer Code:   33-1/3   45    78

Only a baby boomer would understand these numbers (a non-boomer would say "so what?"). Nonetheless, the code has deep significance for those who heard their first Beatles, Stones, and Dylan tunes on a record player like this (purchased at White Front, possibly).

White Front - A fledgling Wal-Mart in its day. White Front is just one of a long line of household-name retailers to go defunct.


Along with the demise of the dime store (Woolworth, W. T. Grant, J. J. Newberry) there were defunct drug stores (Rexall, Thrifty, and Sav-On—more below) as well as former going concerns Montgomery Ward, Western Auto, Alpha Beta, Mayfair, Big Bear, the Akron, the Boys, Food Basket, Hudson's, Bullock's, Buffums, the Broadway, Orbach's, Zody's and Zachary All.
     Although defunct on the West Coast, Piggly Wiggly is still around. Thankfully, our culture hasn't become homogenized to the point that there isn't a place for a store named Piggly Wiggly.

Update 1.16.09: Circuit City joins the ranks of defunct retailers with the liquidation of the entire company, something that isn't supposed happen under Chapter 11. 30,000 people will lose their jobs.
     Who will be next?

     Closed Sundays. It's nice to have the convenience of a leisurely Sunday at the mall. The demise of White Front marked the birth of the modern Consumer Culture. Until the late '60s or early '70s, hardly anything was open on Sunday, the traditional "day of rest."
     Marathon business hours, with stores open 12 to 24 hours a day, were unheard of. In those days, most families had but one breadwinner. The June Cleaver Mom took care of shopping while Dad toiled at his job. The advent of the two-income family forced retailers to accommodate a new reality. A lot of moms, meanwhile, became part of the horde of workers needed for the new, expanded hours that became standard.
     Sunday shopping remains a hot-button issue in many parts of the world. IKEA was fined for Sunday selling in France, which clings to a union-backed ban on the practice. In the United States, Bergen County, New Jersey still forbids Sunday selling.

Sambo's - In its day, a burgeoning Denny's or IHOP. It seemed like they disappeared overnight, one of many thriving ventures (Chicken Delight,* and Vic Tanny health clubs for example) that didn't work out for one reason or another. For all I knew, Sambo's was a takeover target, perhaps devoured by Denny's. Only when researching this squib did I learn that Sambo's was virtually driven out of business because of outrage over the chain's unfortunate choice of a name. According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Sambo's was a mashup of the owners' names (Sam Battistone and Newell Bohnett).

*"Don't cook tonight, call Chicken Delight!"

Backyard incinerator - Standard equipment on SoCal homes into the '60s.

Milk home delivery. Newer homes had a receptacle ("milk box") built into the wall, so Mom could retrieve the bottles without leaving the kitchen. The typical milkman wore a spiffy white outfit on his predawn rounds. Milkman was a valid occupation, not a menial job.

Get this: The milk came in glass bottles. The milkman would take the empty bottles back to the dairy, where they were sterilized and used again! Now we have convenient disposable plastic and we have to schlep our own milk from the supermarket. Plastic is contaminating the environment beyond repair, but other than that I think we can all agree that modern conveniences make life far better. Don't they?

Milk box: Straight to the kitchen.

The Good Humor man. The pedophilia craze would make a scene like this impossible today.


Present day ice cream truck.

Gas station attendant. Typically a friendly guy from the neighborhood. He would stride up to your car with "Yes ma'am, what can I do for you today!" Men actually made a living doing this. Gas stations, aka "garages" or "filling stations" had (clean!) restrooms.

Each gallon of gas was noted with a crisp ding! from the pump, much like the correct answer on a quiz show.
     For extra measure, every car that pulled in announced its presence with its own jaunty ding! by driving over the black tube in the driveway, sending a pulse of air that activated a bell inside the station. You can see the tube draped across the driveway in the picture.

This picture has everything but an arrow pointing to "kids in car." Probably about 90% of people born before the '60s remember being treated to a thrilling ride on the grease rack at the local garage. It didn't take much to entertain kids in those days.

Phone booths. They were everywhere. By today's standards, a civilized way to communicate. You conducted your business in private (a feature no longer considered important).

Beatles phone booth

Osborne Computer - Clunky and bulky, with feeble computing power, this machine was a status symbol. Also noteworthy as one of the last computers to use the CP/M operating system, at the time thought to be the likely standard.
     The machine was an improvement over the original "pocket" calculators that would only fit in a very large pocket.

They could only add, subtract, multiply and divide. All that for $200 (a jillion in today's money). They sold so fast stores couldn't keep them in stock.

Old basketball uniforms. Do old school players envy the guys now with their baggy outfits?

Clunky $3,995 "brick" cell phone.

The first cell phones were strictly toys for the elite, or for dudes who seriously wanted to make a big impression. Having one meant you were a mover and a shaker.

                 Stern librarian.

Libraries were once quiet as tombs. Should you thoughtlessly raise your voice, the librarian was sure to give you a good shush! Asking a kid to tone it down these days invites a vicious outburst from the parent.

Movie theater usher. They showed you to your seat with a flashlight.

usherIf you misbehaved, the usher would train his light on you and tell you to knock it off. Ushers had the authority to eject you from the theater. The threat of violent attack makes the job obsolete.

Sandlot Baseball. I spent endless hours of boyhood summers playing workups at Gormley's, the neighborhood empty lot where we played baseball. No one knew why it was called Gormley's.
     Nothing was organized or prearranged. You just showed up. If kids were there we would play catch or shag flies until there were enough players to start a game. You only needed a few. It was called workups because every player moved up one position when a batter was put out (strikeouts were unheard of). The retired batter would start over again in right field.
     You got to play every position. It was a great way to learn the game. It taught us to be flexible, adaptable. It was true multitasking. Not doing a bunch of things ineffectively at once but working at several things until we got them right.
     There were no umpires. No foul-mouthed drunken Little League coach to tell you where to play. No parents screaming every move to make. There were no grownups, period. We didn't have helmets or bases. No uniforms. We resolved disputes among ourselves. Or if not, a kid might go home crying. He probably wouldn't show his face again for a few days.
     Sometimes there were fights, but they weren't serious. We needed each other. We all had to hang together for the game. The game was what really mattered.

We played hardball with wooden bats; no sissy softball. Aluminum bats had yet to be invented.
So what do today's kids have that might be the equivalent of our sandlot experience?

"Lowly" jobs that paid a living wage.

Bus drivers, janitors and cafeteria workers were respected members of the school staff. Mr. Russet, my school bus driver, was a happy-go-lucky guy with three kids. His job afforded him a middle class lifestyle. Economies of scale and cost efficiencies are all well and good but should we welcome the downsizing of our culture?

Night speed limits.
There was this old concept that you should go slower at night. Sorta like the one that you shouldn't follow any closer than one car length for every ten miles per hour of speed. Your fellow motorists will not be happy if you try going slower at night.

A perfect fit through the miracle of modern science.

fluoroscopeThe foot X-ray machine was standard equipment in shoe stores through the '50s. They were eventually outlawed for safety reasons. The youngster would mount the machine and stick his feet into the opening. Mom and the sales clerk could peer through the other spy tubes and observe what a fine fit Johnny was getting with his new pair of shoes.
     January 23, incidentally, is Measure Your Feet Day.

Tonsillectomy - In the 1950s virtually every kid had their tonsils out, whether it was medically warranted or not.

Primitive Television

TV had a charming simplicity back when it started. Early weather guys used nothing more sophisticated than flip charts. This weather map was state-of-the art. For a while, weather personalities stood behind a plexiglass screen and made doodles of happy face suns, clouds, cold fronts, and rain. They had to learn to write backward for the correct appearance on TV.

Here's Raquel Welch doing the weather in San Diego.

Question: How did they come up with "meteorology" for the science of weather? Apparently, rain drops, snow flakes and hail stones are considered meteors, so "meteorology" is not a misnomer. This concludes the educational portion of the squib.

The rabbit died!

Depending on the circumstances, this was either joyous news or the beginning of a tragedy (and not just for the rabbit).

In a long-forgotten era, adorable bunnies were used for pregnancy tests. It was widely believed that results depended on whether the rabbit lived. A dead bunny meant jackpot!
     This is a misconception, I assure you! The poor female rabbit was injected with a sample of the woman's urine. (No, not at home, the doctor's office!) Then the rabbit's ovaries were observed for telltale changes.
     This usually took a couple of days while those involved either sweated in agony or fretted in happy anticipation.
     Aren't you glad pregnancy tests today are so easy and convenient? Who said modern technology isn't wonderful?

Shell No-Pest Strip. A familiar sight in homes and restaurants in the '60s and '70s.

A rare early example of consumer protection that worked, these were withdrawn from the market amid concerns that they contained a deadly poison. The maker fought requests to attach a warning label. The situation was seen in some quarters as the government overreacting to groundless safety concerns. I had inside information, however: I knew an exterminator who was nervous being around these even for a few seconds.

Telescoping gas storage tanks.

Once a familiar sight in California. They moved up and down with the contents of the tank. They blended into the cityscape so well that nobody noticed when they disappeared.

Semaphore traffic signals.

The change from stop to go and back was announced with a resounding "ding" (a popular sound effect back in the day). There wasn't a yellow light. These quaint signals were hurriedly replaced in the early 1950s.

Manual Turn Signals.

It seems laughable now, but flashing electronic turn signals were a daring innovation in the 1960s. Before that, you had to poke your arm out the window. Turn signals weren't optional then, either. In freezing weather or rain, you had to do it.

Movie palaces. Somehow we've convinced ourselves that multiplexes attached to malls are way better than neighborhood movie palaces, part of an architectural heritage that is being obliterated in the name of progress.

Thank you to readers in Joliet, Illinois who let me know that the Rialto Theater is not defunct. Let's hope there aren't any developers licking their chops over the property as you read this.

Hair tonic.

Wildroot Cream Oil or a tube of Brylcreem. JFK favored the dry look, however. That was the beginning of the end. Along came the Beatles with their free-flowing moptop haircuts and that clattering sound you heard was millions of bottles of hair tonic hitting the trash.

Hats. It seems like everyone suddenly quit wearing hats. As a kid, I wondered why they didn't get all greasy from the hair tonic.

In the mid-50s, people even went to the movies in suits and hats. Women wore furs with the heads of snarling critters still attached. They blamed JFK for killing the hat business too, but that's not true. Hats were nearly gone by the time JFK was elected president.
     Contributing to the demise of hats was a baldness theory that took hold at the time: Wearing a hat makes your hair fall out. No wonder there are so many bald golfers and baseball players.

Reggie Jackson, victim of hat-induced baldness syndrome (HIBS)


The practice of thumbing rides by the side of the road had its last heyday in the 1960s and early '70s. The longhair subculture depended on each other for reliable transportation. Before that, WWII servicemen got around by thumb travel. In those days if you couldn't trust a soldier you couldn't trust anyone. During the Great Depression, it was either thumb a ride, hop a freight, or walk.
     These days the threat of violence is too great for extensive use of thumb travel. (Note: I know, the guy pictured is not traveling in America.)

Keane. Wildly popular artist of the '60s. Touched off "Is this Art?" debates.

Rod McKuen. Wildly popular poet/songwriter of the '60s. A tamer version of disreputable counter-culture poets of the era (Dylan, Ginsburg, etc.). It's an insult to say he's defunct, since he's not entirely forgotten.

One of the all-time bestselling authors, Harold Robbins is virtually forgotten today. Sexually-charged content was a novelty in '60s popular fiction. Racy pulp fiction with lurid titles like Torrid Wench or Tramp Wife (Orrie Hitt), had been around for decades. Along with men's magazines like Adam, Escapade, and Stag, these paperbacks were sold at less-reputable liquor stores and smoke shops. Until Robbins, no major publisher had thought to take smut mainstream. Robbins got filthy rich while fame and fortune eluded scores of deserving toilers in the genre. Robbins's success encouraged revered authors to try their hand, among them John Updike (Couples).

Sav-On drugstores. Sav-On staged a bold comeback after Osco tried to obliterate a name that generations grew up with. It looks as though CVS has finally done the deed.
     Some kids learn nursery rhymes. I learned the Sav-On jingle (sounds like a college fight song):

Sav-On, Sav-On!
Join the Sav-On hit parade,
It's fun to serve yourself and save at
Sav-On Drug Stores, Sav-On Drug Stores
[boom, boom]

I saw in a movie that radio waves continue to bounce around somewhere in the universe. I guess that means the Sav-On jingle will go on for eternity. But for us Earthlings, it only exists in the minds of the few who are still around to remember. When we're gone, it will be as if it never existed.
SavOn Drugstore

Casting about for an excuse for poor performance, the brain trust at Macy's wiped out such venerable names as the 150-year-old Marshall Field's in Chicago, Meier and Frank in Portland, Rich's in Atlanta, Goldsmiths in Memphis, Bon-Marche in Seattle, Lazarus in Columbus and Burdines in Miami. The rationale: Look at Wal-Mart and Target. All their stores have the same name. That's the secret of their success!

Burdines: Wiped Out. Thanks, Macy's.

August 15, 2008 update: The corporate compulsion to purge the culture of familiar names continues. Long's bites the dust. The venerable drugstore chain, noted for its selection of Hawaiian products, has been terminated by CVS (Corporate Venality & Skulduggery).

Steady job. Between downsizing, mergers, hostile takeovers, consolidation, reorganization and outsourcing, workers are lucky to keep a job for more than a few years. Age discrimination figures to be an obstacle for downsized seniors as employers struggle with the notion that people over 50 retain basic mental and physical functions.

Patty Smart managed to stay on the same job 50 years.

March 31, 2008 update: Aloha Airlines is kaput. A company that would keep the same person employed for 50 years probably deserves to go belly-up. They obviously are not up on modern management theory (employees are the one expendable asset).

Doggie Diner. A fixture for decades in the San Francisco area. Best dogs ever.

Orange groves. A culture says a lot about itself when it decides that suburban sprawl is better than orange groves.

Santa Clara Valley fruit orchards. Silicon Valley was once known as the Santa Clara Valley, home of vast fruit orchards. Between Southern California's orange & avocado groves and Northern California's fruit & nut production, there was more than enough to satisfy our country's needs. Now they are imported green from obscure third world countries and taste like a feeble imitation of the real thing.

It was probably wise to squander these riches since there are no longer enough bees to sustain major agriculture. Besides, aren't vast housing tracts, freeways, and shopping malls better?

Big Old Barn

In a front page article (Sept. 7, 2008), the New York Times reports on the vanishing barns of Iowa. During the Great Depression, barns numbered 200,000 in Iowa alone. Now they're down to 50,000 and disappearing daily. Like many vanishing aspects of American life, our agricultural heritage will never be restored once it's gone. When it becomes a thing of the past, a new theme park will be built: "Farmland."

American Manufacturing. In just a few decades, America went from Jim Crow to the first African American president, something that even the most optimistic among us thought might not happen in our lifetime.

At the same time, we saw America topple from world dominance in manufacturing, something even the most pessimistic among us thought would never happen. With the automobile industry on life support, our agricultural resources largely squandered, the steel industry in death throes, where are the new areas of leadership for America? Science? Technology? Energy independence? Let's hope we don't settle for being #1 in service jobs, fast food, video games, and smart phone apps.


The Chicago Tribune, founded 161 years ago, has gone belly-up. The parent Tribune Company, which also owns the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun (founded in 1837), filed for Chapter 11. History is being dismantled before our eyes. Once newspapers are defunct, we'll have to reinvent them. According to surveys, most people now get their news online and have no use for a newspaper. Forward thinkers say there's an upside: We're saving trees. Meanwhile, we're throwing out a rich newspapering heritage. Literary legends Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce, Frank Norris, Willa Cather, Upton Sinclair, Ernest Hemingway, H.L. Menken, Tom Wolfe, and Hunter S. Thompson had careers as reporters.

News flash 2.27.09: The Rocky Mountain News is kaput. Colorado's oldest newspaper, launched in Denver in 1859, has printed its last edition. The Denver Post carries on as the only daily in town. 3.16.09: The 146-year-old Seattle Post-Intelligencer is gone. The San Francisco Chronicle is hanging by a thread. Herb Caen and Charles McCabe are thrashing in their graves.
     I guess I'm just an old fogey. I think the newspaper is one of mankind's great inventions. I can't imagine anyone thinking an electronic device can replace a Sunday paper.

Hunter S. Thompson started as a sports reporter. Literary lions of the future will start as bloggers.


With the advent of the Amazon Kindle and the Apple iPad, experts predict the demise of the book is coming soon to a Barnes & Noble near you. How people think a plastic gadget offers a satisfying alternative to books and magazines is beyond me. Never mind that Apple, Amazon, and other gadget makers will control what you read.
     The word "tome" was invented for mammoth works like Stephen King's Under the Dome, which weighs in at 1074 pages and about ten pounds. To a book lover, digging into a hefty page turner with real pages is one of life's principal pleasures.
     I guess the Kindle offers one advantage--you won't hurt yourself if you accidentally drop it in your lap.

Horse Racing
It isn't a question of whether American racing will become obsolete, only when. The venerable Sport of Kings is too boring for the Twitter Generation. The last generation of racing enthusiasts is dying off. The majesty of the thoroughbred holds no fascination for young sports fans. Gambling taxes and the high cost of admission, parking, and seating are beating bettors. In operation since 1934, Bay Meadows, a major racing center near San Francisco, closed in 2008. The defunction of Bay Meadows follows the death of Ak-Sar-Ben, a storied racing center in Omaha. Tracks around the country are on the verge of a similar fate.
     Enjoy the Secretariat movie. Before long, movies will be all that remain.

Bygone brews. Scores of old trusty standbys for millions of beer drinkers are now consigned to that megabrewery in the sky: Hamms, Falstaff, Pfeiffer, Country Club, Schlitz, Olympia, Rainier Ale (aka "Green Death"), Regal Select, Ballantine Ale, Jax, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Blatz, Blitz, Rheingold, Burgermeister ("Burgie"), Lucky Lager, Stroh's, and Dixie.
     Just because a product has been around 100 years doesn't mean it deserves a place today! It's commercial Darwinism. Only the bland survive. Besides Bud, Miller, and Coors, how many beers do we really need? I understand Rheingold has made a comeback.

Brew102 Hollywood Freeway

This is the Hollywood Freeway going past the Brew 102 brewery. When I was a kid, I marveled at that giant tank of beer. Note the telescoping gas tank.

Conventional baby names. In the movie "Splash!" Tom Hanks asks the mermaid played by Daryl Hannah what her name is. They are standing on a street corner in New York City. She glances up at the name of the street. "Madison!" She replies.

That's where it all started. Madison went from being a wacky name in a movie to now being the third most popular name for a girl. That was the beginning of a trend to give kids imposing unisex surnames for first names: Taylor, Tanner, Fletcher, Spencer, Morgan, Leighton, Faulkner, Sutton, Jasper, Kendall, Chandler, Bennett, Riley, Bentley, Barclay, Brooklyn, Jordan, Hayden, Dawson, Quinn, Nelson, Knickerbocker, Bronson, Logan, Harper and so on. (Isn't it about time for Archibald to make a comeback? OK, I'm kidding about a couple of these. If I've given you the name of your next baby, please donate 50 cents.)
     With the rising popularity of geographic names like Brooklyn, I'm surprised there haven't been more: Poughkeepsie, or example. How about Chesapeake or Narragansett? I think there should be more product names, like Burroughs or Remington. I hear "Dell" is poised to make a big splash on the baby name scene, but my money is on "Hewlett" or "Packard." Gwyneth Paltrow has already taken "Apple."
     America's cities offer a rich lode of potential baby names. Namely, the names of districts and neighborhoods, such as Kensington (San Diego), Richmond (San Francisco), or Fauntleroy (Seattle).
     Back in the day a kid named Madison would have been ridiculed. Now it's kids with names like Nancy or John who are scorned. "Where'd you get that weird name?"

     Newest trendy name: Brooksley. Back when Clinton was president, Brooksely Born tried to sound the alarm about a looming financial meltdown. For her efforts, she was hounded out of government. The name is just too cute not to catch on. Cool new girls' name for 2010: Collins, from the movie The Blind Side.

Cute imports. Before anyone had heard of Toyota, Datsun (Nissan) or Honda, our family was an early adopter of Volvo. Fellow Volvo owners gave us friendly waves. We were like our own little club.

Pictured: Hillman Minx, dandy little import

This is the Hillman Minx, one of a tide of models by Peugeot, Citroen, Borgward, Fiat, BMW, MG, Opel, Austin-Healy, Sunbeam, VW, Vauxhall, and Renault among others.
     It wasn't just cuteness that drove Dad to buy a Volvo. We couldn't afford an American car. The undoing of the American car industry began after WWII, when Detroit automakers turned their back on the entry-level car market. That opened the gates to a flood of low-cost imports and a few models developed by fringe car makers in the U.S., including Crosley, Kaiser, Willys, and Nash.

The Allstate, a Kaiser model sold by Sears. Yes, you could buy it through the catalog.

Nash Rambler, cool economy car of its day.

They're Back!
(For the time being at least).
Why gum of all things? As a kid, Blackjack chewing gum was my favorite. There was Beeman's pepsin gum (said to relieve heartburn) and Clove gum, totally defunct, kaput, out of the picture. Now they're back.

Playboy Club. After receding like Hefner's hairline, the Club has come back, opening a swank new branch in Las Vegas. Playboy clubs had their heyday in the '60s and '70s as a hangout for sporty groovers, or conventional corporate guys who aspired to the swingin' lifestyle championed by Hugh Hefner, the ultimate Sporty Groover. In the clubs, these groovy dudes could get a taste of the Hefner lifestyle first hand. Update June 2012: The ultra-trendy Palms resort gave it their best shot, but the Playboy Club's time is over for good. The club is gone, over, done with.

This Wasn't Supposed to Happen
San Diego's Giant Dipper is saved from defunction

Somebody screwed up. The Giant Dipper was supposed to be demolished for routine development that doesn't mean much to anyone. The Dipper, on the other hand, looms large in the lives of many. It was my first "rolley" coaster. Warren Buffett bought stocks with his paper route money. I blew mine riding this dopey roller coaster.
     Whoever was in charge of getting politicians in line, for greasing pertinent palms, fell down on the job. Concerned citizens jumped in and saved the Giant Dipper. Now it would be hard to find someone who thinks a condo complex was a better idea.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is Back
Counted out prematurely

Some things go so far out of style they become cool to a new generation. That's what happened to Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, or PBR as it is known to young anti-consumers who shun overly hyped or trendy products.
     I prematurely pronounced PBR and other brews defunct because I'm hopelessly out of touch with modern trends. Little did I know that Pabst Brewing Company, in business for 150 years, now specializes in resurrecting forgotten brews such as Old Style, Schlitz, Stroh's, Old Milwaukee, Rainier, Schaefer, Lone Star, Pearl, Colt 45, and Olympia.

Vinyl Records
Vinyl record albums stood about as much chance of coming back as 8-track tapes. Apparently, the anti-consumers that rediscovered PBR have also latched onto vinyl.
     When CDs first came out, audiophiles stubbornly insisted vinyl sounded better. They were dismissed as analog nerds much like fans of the "letterbox" DVD format are disparaged.
     Record albums also had distinctive cover art and liner notes by prominent music critics or famous authors (Stephen King, for example, wrote liner notes for the Ramones). CDs just can't match the fun of unwrapping a new gatefold LP and exploring its features (printed lyrics, photo spread, musician credits, etc.).
     Too bad the resurgence of interest didn't come soon enough to save a few legendary records stores, such as Leopold's in Berkeley.
     A potential upside: If vinyl can make a comeback, so can books.

Pink Floyd, Animals

At one time tattoos were a symbol of rugged individualism and rejection of society's conventional values. Until the 1960s, tattoos were mainly fancied by sailors on leave in foreign lands and by an underground of bikers, jailbirds, deviants and dropouts. In the mainstream, body art was anything but cool. It was revived by bad-boy rockers, then co-opted by fashionistas. Tattoos are now mandatory if you have any hope of appearing cool, one of the in-crowd. Now, it's only rugged individualists who eschew tattoos.

Hats Are Back?
For decades it was all trucker caps and cowboy hats.

Who would have guessed that hats would come back? Every now and then, a celebrity like Johnny Depp makes a daring fashion statement by wearing a hat. Hats are far from being the standard accoutrement they once were, but it looks like interest is picking up. After a few cool guys like Depp and Brad Pitt showed the way, the fashion industry is making a modest push for hats. If tattoos can make a comeback, why not hats?

These Are the Good Old Days
...if you say so...
Since things began to go defunct, it seems like the dramatic improvements in our lives have come at a cost. I'm sure the quality of life in America is better now.

That's what they keep telling me.

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Further Inquiries Into Obsolescence
Ansel Adams' Lost Los Angeles Found - a photoset on Flickr - Unbelievable collection showing long gone LA.

Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection - Search for more images of long gone LA.

The Obsolete Computer Museum - Stroll down 64k memory lane.

Defunct Gas Stations - Once a familiar site on the American Landscape many of these old Texaco stations stubbornly live on as rusted venues for various enterprises.

The Bad Fads Museum - Browse through the fun and fascinating fashion, collectible, activity and event fads of the last 100 years.

Hippie Museum - A look at the '60s hippie subculture and the era's defunct idealism.

What A View! Home of the Outhouses of America Tour - My boyhood home had an outhouse. I assumed they were defunct by now. Not according to the Outhouses of America Tour, the most comprehensive collection of Outhouses, Outhouse trivia, folklore and Outhouse facts.

Is California Paving Paradise? - One out of every six acres developed in California since the Gold Rush was paved over between 1990 and 2004. Most of it was agricultural land. Read the report to see if there's any hope of saving what's left.

Highway Page - This site covers the design and history of highways, mainly in southern California. It sounds dull, but it's fascinating.

Are people having babies now just so they can give them fancy names? - With the arrival of Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt, let's review this latest batch of star baby monikers.

Flickr: Vintage Supermarkets, Grocery & Convenience Stores - Extensive collection with cool shots of now defunct retailers.

Hitchhiking, Backpacking & Budget Travel On the Road - Original stories, travel tips and road culture for hitch-hikers, backpackers and modern nomads. Featuring highway routes, road maps, safety/ legal advice, photos, rideboard and vagabonding techniques for cheap travel in the USA, Europe, and around the world.

Bell Telephone Ring - There aren't many still alive who grew up with this "ring tone." Telephone "exchanges" had names like EXbrook, SYcamore, or BUtterfield.

Air Raid Siren -
Harbinger of Doomsday.

Sandlot Baseball - Many of us who grew up during the 1940s and '50s remember our summer days when we played baseball all day long. We didn't have Little League but we were among a group of neighborhood kids who showed up at a ball field, picked sides and began playing a ball game. Today, ball fields sit empty during the summer because young children have to have everything organized for them.

Malls of America - Vintage photos of lost Shopping Malls of the '50s, '60s & '70s

Recent Past Preservation Network - Preservation education and advocacy. Did You Bring Bottles? - Explore the history of the American supermarket.

Amusement Park Classic Photos 1940s-1986 - Some of the parks shown are defunct while others are still active. What was Cincinnati thinking getting rid of Coney Island?

Neatorama - A clever collection of miscellaneous musings, some of them related to defunction.

A Way with Words, public radio's lively language show - The hosts and callers discuss obsolete slang among other topics. A must for anyone who cares about words and how we use them.

Vintage Life Network - Memorabilia from obsolete eras.

BBC NEWS | Oldest English words Identified - Some of today's most popular and useful words are headed for extinction. "Dirty" is a prime example.

Bonus: Who Invented the Skateboard?
It's amusing to see online content stating that someone actually invented the skateboard. I was around when skateboarding started. Here's what happened.
     Like countless kids in the '50s, my dad made us boys a simple sidewalk scooter. It consisted of an old skate nailed to each end of a two-foot plank. Then he nailed an upended fruit crate to one end of the plank. Finally he nailed handles to the top of the fruit crate. The result was a dandy scooter we used to rumble the neighborhood sidewalks.
     For the benefit of youngsters, fruit came in re-usable wood crates about a foot wide and two feet long. It would be years before anyone thought of using cardboard.

The flaw in this design was the fruit crate, which eventually came loose from the plank. Many of us discovered that skating on the plank alone was actually better than the scooter. This is how the skateboard was developed, probably as early as the 1940s. Sidewalk scooters were around for as long as the old steel roller skates that clamped onto your shoes.

The movie Back To the Future features a fanciful depiction of the skateboard's creation. Marty McFly yanks the fruit crate from the plank. In real life, the crate usually just fell off. The movie's writers, Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, both born in 1951, probably had sidewalk scooters as kids.

A manufactured skate board from the '60s using old-fashioned steel wheels. I didn't know any kid who had one. We all made our own cool boards from scrap lumber and worn out skates.

The old-fashioned metal skates we took apart and nailed to a plank. These skates came with a "key" that neighborhood girls wore on a string tied around their neck. The key was used to adjust the clamps that held the skates in place. The girls either outgrew their skates (became too sophisticated for such a childish pastime), or got new ones. The unwanted skates were a steady source of wheels.
     No, we didn't buy new skates. The culture was a little different. We couldn't pester our parents for new stuff all the time. We were lucky to get new clothes. We had to make do with what was around. I would have caught hell for destroying a fine pair of new skates by nailing them to a board.

Bonus Feature! Obsolete Slang
My parents and grandparents were fond of cute expressions that have faded into oblivion. I don't remember many of them, so I created this list in case someone wants to contribute (comment).

"He found Weiskopf—in bed with a fifteen-year-old redhead. The girl skedaddled. . ."
     —James Ellroy, L.A.Confidential

Wait a Shake - My grandma used to say this, or sometimes "I'll be with you in two shakes of a lamb's tail."
He slid his chalice brisk away, grasped his change.
—Wait a shake, begged Lenehan, drinking quickly. . .
      —From Ulysses, the Citizen Kane of books.

Gimme a Jingle
Translation: "call me." Doesn't apply anymore because ring tones do anything but jingle.

"MARTHA. What a cluck! What a cluck you are."
     —Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Scissorbill - My grandpa, who spent time hoboing during the Depression, used scissorbill as a synonym for blockhead.

Bread N Butter - Another popular slang expression from the WWII era. Out for a stroll, you said it any time an object (a light pole for example) came between you and your companion.

Shuffle Off to Buffalo
Preparing to leave an old timer might say, "Well, I guess I'll shuffle off to Buffalo."

pinup girls wwii Pictures, Images and PhotosGams, aka sexy legs, as shown in this typical pinup photo of the WWII era (Rita Hayworth).

one that is small or insignificant;

same as wow. seems to be making a resurgence."

Very popular term in the '60s and '70s. Maybe it went out of style because it's based on "bop," a term unfamiliar to today's populace.

We Welcome Your Comments

"Everything I have is obsolete. That's the point."
—Dita Von Teese, burlesque performer and lingerie designer

Feel free to give us your thoughts in the comment area below (down there).

Trivia: The Frisbee was originally called the Pluto Platter.

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Anonymous said...

Brilliant stuff!

But there was more to the Sav-On jingle, something like

"Save a nickel, save a dime,
Save a dollar every time,
[something something] and much more
At your Sav-On Drug store!"

Rufus Quail said...

Thanks for your kind words, Anonymous. Yes, that's the seldom-remembered "extended play" version of the Sav-On jingle. Hope someone can fill in the missing words.

Anonymous said...

It's the good stuff! Do some more. said...

That's a fine museum exhibition. I Googled for the lyrics of Sav-On Drugs Store, and this came up.

Rufus Quail said...

Thanks, dsoderblog. It's good to know Google sends me a reader now & then.

Dorothy Collins said...

Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading this very much.