It was day to get a lot of things done. I had recently graduated high school, but hadn’t left for college. So when my alarm clock went off early in the morning, I quickly reached over to push in the little button on the back. I then wound it back up like I did every morning and evening.
After showering and getting dressed, I went upstairs to eat breakfast and make a few phone calls. I stuck my fingers through all the corresponding holes in the dial and ratcheted the dial over to the stop for each number, listening to the clicks as the dial spun back after each turn. Soon, I would have to get one of those new phones where you just pushed the buttons. After finishing up my local calls, I dialed the operator. She came on the line and I asked for assistance in locating a person in another city. She quickly found the person’s number and connected me.
Calls completed, I threw on my coat and headed out. In the car I pulled out the choke, pumped the gas a few times and started it up. I let it run for a few minutes before slowly pushing the choke back in, satisfied that it would stay running. I fastened my lap belt (wasn’t required that I wear it, but I liked to anyway) and pulled out of the driveway. I had an upscale model with the AM radio. But there wasn’t any reception where I was, so I inserted an 8-track into the new 8-track player I had just installed.
My tank was almost empty so I pulled into Texaco to get gas and talked to the attendant as he filled the tank, washed my windows and checked my oil. I gave him $10 for the fill-up and waited for my change before continuing my errands around town. I had lots of bills to pay and it was Friday, so I had to get to the bank before it closed for the weekend. I withdrew cash from my account so I could drive to the various offices and pay my bills. I remembered something I forgot to do before I left the house, so I drove to the nearest pay phone to call home.
After running around town all day, it was time for school to get out, so I drove over to pick up my little brother. When he jumped in the car, he immediately asked if we could swing by the library. Seems he had a report to do and needed to pick up some books on the subject. I waited while he ran in and picked out some books and then we headed home. Mom was busy, so I volunteered to show him how to use her brand new Corona electric typewriter. It was the fancy model with the cartridge that could be removed and replaced with a white-out tape to correct mistakes.
Dad came home a little later and went into his office to check the business phone message machine. I heard the familiar warbling as he rewound the tape over and over again to listen to the messages as he wrote them down on a pad. I never had learned how to operate that thing. It was so big and clunky, must have weighed 10 pounds with buttons and switches all over it. They had purchased it on the payment plan from AT&T and we felt “cool” that we had an answering machine in our house.
It had been a busy day, so I went to my room to listen to some of my records. I always took good care of them and was worried that my little brothers and sister would scratch them all up after I left. So for the last week or so I had been listening to them often, trying to savor them while I still could. After an hour or so of that, I heard the chunk-chunk-chunk of my brother hitting the typewriter keys stop, so I went upstairs to see what everybody was doing.
Mom was working at dinner, so I joined a couple of my siblings at the television. They were using the black-and-white one in the office because it still got better reception than the color one we kept in the living room. Even so, it still took a few minutes of adjusting the rabbit ears on the back to get most of the static to die down so we could watch a few of the channels. It was one of the drawbacks of where we lived, having a big hill behind the house that blocked a lot of the TV stations from Seattle. But on the plus side, channel 13 had just come on the air, so we had a lot of channels to choose from! We could watch VHF channels 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and the new UHF channel 22!
After dinner, my siblings did some homework and went to bed. I stayed up and talked to Mom for a bit before catching a little bit more TV (not much since all the channels signed off around midnight) and headed to my room. One more winding of the alarm clock and it was off to bed.
This is not a “true” story so much as it is various mundane memories of my youth put together in a brief story. The intent? I’m hoping a teenager, or anybody born after the 1970s, will read this article and be royally confused.
Ben Compton is a Palmer resident and publishes his column as “Compton’s Corner,” the same title used by his grandmother, Phyllis Compton, a longtime Frontiersman columnist.