Remember When, No. 427

Can you remember when:

  • History Channel broadcast history
  • Discovery Channel was about adventure and discovery
  • Blue Skies were blue
  • The President of the United States was called ‘The President’
  • Classical radio stations still played classical music
  • You could fill the gas tank with pocket change scrounged from under the car seat
  • Bridge fare was 25 cents
  • CBS considered The Smothers Brothers show controversial

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More “Remember When?”

I received another of those “Remember When?” e-mails the other day, and, of course, I’m old enough to remember them all.

So I came up with a few more of my own.

  • Roller skates had skate keys to clasp the leather soles of your street shoes to your skates.
  • We’d make our own skateboards with a pair of skates, a two-by-four and some nails.
  • Skate wheels were all-metal. You could hear them coming blocks away, especially as they rolled over sidewalk cracks.
  • Soap-box derby racers were actually made out of soap boxes.
  • Packing boxes were actually made of wood.
  • Wood wasn’t manufactured in pulp mills from sawdust and glue, it actually grew on trees .
  • Trees actually grew wild all over the place — before we all had to go out and buy them at Orchard Supply.
  • Little girls were made of “sugar and spice” because they were actually nice.
  • Little boys were made of “snips and snails” because that rhymes better than “frogs-in-the-pockets.”
  • After you washed your jeans, you’d run them through the newfangled electric wringer and hang them on a clothesline to dry.
  • “Homework” was something you learned-by-doing after school, and would usually remember 50 years later.
  • If you were sick, the family doctor made house calls — often, the same day.
  • Families would “save up” to pay for vacations and special holidays.
  • Your folks gassed up the family car for 25 cents a gallon.
  • That’s about $2.20 a gallon in 2009 dollars.
  • I was sent to the store for a load of bread. I couldn’t find the “Crow Eat.” The grocery clerk said I wanted OroWheat (29 cents).
  • A cross-country phone call was “long distance”, and the connection was made by the Operator.
  • The costs of such calls were almost prohibitive. Families kept clocks or timers by the telephone stand.
  • Yes, in 1950 the TV took 3 minutes to warm up, because it was all vacuum tubes and a round 15″ cathode ray tube.
  • Today the sets are all LED, Plasma and miniaturized circuits. They are so complex no one can repair them, and they still take 3 minutes to warm up.
  • Yes, in 1950, one of the best TV shows in town was Howdy Doody.
  • Today, at least we can say the most popular shows are doody.
    TV advertising was designed not to annoy or intrude.
  • In 1956 we weren’t allowed to stay up and watch Jackie Gleason with the grown-ups. It was their TV, not ours.
  • On a clear day you could go for a drive to the mountains, and see them ahead before you arrived.
  • Today, we have GPS to tell us what’s coming up on the next block.

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Oakland Oaks

Oakland Oaks 1903-1955

Exuberant sports fans abound in any workplace, and our office is no exception. I, the old grouch who sits by the window in the middle of the crossfire, am well and fairly known as Sports Ignoramus, truly a lost cause among die-hard sports fans. But it’s hard to get mad at friends when they can get THAT enthusiastic about anything.

So when the subject of sports rears its noisy head, I am likely as not to holler out, “Hooray for our side!” (since everybody already knows I don’t have clue one as to who was playing whom). If the team du jour is the Oakland Raiders, I may just inquire innocently how many home runs they gained.

I haven’t watched a Super Bowl since, oh, maybe the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. It was the year the Raiders went to the Bowl. Oh I know, there was probably more than one such year, but that year was special. I surprised my Raiders fan neighbors. Just to keep them off balance, I studied all the sports stats and came up with a bogus computer printout that successfully predicted a Raiders win, within two points. They still talk in wonderment how Alex (of all people) did that.

Even among perverse sports philistines, there can be a curious kind of local pride. I grew up in a region of the country that’s currently home to the Oakland Athletics and the Oakland Raiders. Teams move far too fast for someone like me to track. Are the Giants still San Francisco? What happened to the Seals? Do I not hear about the Warriors because it’s baseball season, or because they moved too?

And when animated voices start raising Sports to stentorian boom levels at the office, and someone shouts out, “Hey, how about that game last night?”, I am fond of calling out “Go Oaks“! It has become our local gag.

Oakland Oaks logo (one of many)The Oakland Oaks were a local team who played with the Pacific League from 1903 to 1955. As a kid in our grammar school playground, I remember how all the really cool kids – they ones who could hit a pitched baseball – talked about the Oaks all the time. The Oaks were managed for a time by the legendary Casey Stengel. Even I have heard of him. There is a photo on the web somewhere of Stengel training a rookie named Billy Martin, who went on to manage the A’s, who moved into the territory about a dozen years after the Oaks left it.

As best as I can trace it, the Oaks went to Vancouver for a number of years, and then to Texas, and – not sure on this point – on to Salt Lake City as the Bees. The Oaks ballpark was housed on Park Street in Emeryville, became a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in 1957, and currently is home to Pixar Studios.

To the lyrics of the old Kingston Trio “MTA Song” (1959), at the office we will sometimes ask of the Oaks, “did they ever return”?. And the answer is always, “No, I don’t think they did … and we don’t know what happened to them, either.”

As surely as the hometown where you grow up shapes your memory of the way things once were, the lore of the local sports teams instills a youthful civic pride. Not even the larger-than-life, big-league national teams can really substitute for the home team. “Go Oaks” forever!

Chorus:
Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned and
his fate is still unknown.
(What a pity! Poor ole Charlie. Shame and scandal.
He may ride forever. Just like Paul Revere.)
He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston.
He’s the man who never returned.

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