Some things pass on; others still in style

BY BOB WACHS, Columnist
Posted 2/3/21

Some time ago while going through a personal treasure chest, I ran across some items — three, to be exact — that I’d saved for use at a later date.

Only problem is that I have saved them so …

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Some things pass on; others still in style

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Some time ago while going through a personal treasure chest, I ran across some items — three, to be exact — that I’d saved for use at a later date.

Only problem is that I have saved them so long that the world has passed them by and I can’t find a use for them and apparently no one else can either.

I’ve asked.

The items in question are three rolls of 400-speed 35mm color film. I have no idea where or when they came to live with me. I’d forgotten I had them since they were out of sight for so long, living in a drawer under some socks that seldom see the light of day.

I guess I got the film during that period of time when I took lots of pictures, both personally and professionally. Now I don’t do that anymore. Shoot, I can’t even find the old 35mm camera with the 135mm lens I used. And since photography today has gone the digital route, apparently nobody uses film anymore, either. Add to that the number of folks who take pictures with their phones and you can see how things have changed.

I know I’m a dinosaur but the phone I have in my pocket is mainly a phone. It does have the capability to take pictures; it’s just that I don’t.

That little event put me to thinking about similar items, things that once were in great demand but which now seem to have gone the way of the American buffalo.

Among those items are the manual typewriter, both the desk model and the portable. I learned to type in a high school class we knew as “Typing.” My teacher at the time was lots older than me, four years to be exact; today I’ve caught up to her. In those days we called her “Mrs.” Now I use her first name. She doesn’t seem to mind.

Anyway, we had those big ol’ honking typewriters that could double as a boat anchor. We learned things like keeping our fingers on the home row and how to fling the return carriage back to start another line. Good stuff like that. At some point the portable version of that machine came into being. Same principle except you could carry it around. I had a job once that required a great deal of travel to do writing assignments. I was super cool, checking into the Holiday Inn with my luggage and portable typewriter.

Today “typing” as a high school — or even lower grade — subject has been replaced by “keyboarding” or “computer somethingoranother” and typewriters have gone away. You just don’t see them in airport waiting areas anymore, not that you see me there either.

There are other similar products — reel-to-reel tape recorders, 8mm movie cameras, the old Beta recorder/players. For awhile we had a VHS camera in our family, weighed about two tons and wore out your shoulder carrying it around. They’re also gone now, replaced by something about the size of half a package of cigarettes. And, of course, the VHS cassette is now a relic. Makes me wonder what I should do with the collection of 657 titles I have in that format.

Slide rules are another item you just don’t find anymore. Of course, the reality is that, even though I had one in high school and wore it on my belt I had no idea what to do with it. It made me look cool, I reasoned. And I could find pi, even though I wasn’t sure what I’d ever need to do with 3.1417 since calculus was the second foreign language I was taking (French being the other).

Other items have also found themselves on the “endangered species” or “extinct” list. During my college career, that period of time in which I managed to cram a four-year course into seven years, Right Guard deodorant was the manly choice. And it had to be in an aerosol spray can. Made the ol’ dorm smell like Right Guard and smelly sweat socks but I loved it. The other day, just for the pleasure of it, I tried to find some Right Guard in a spray can. Either I was looking in the chewing gum section or someone else had beaten me to it but I couldn’t find any.

Then I remembered that spray cans fell into disfavor some years back because they destroy the ozone and let all those bad sun rays filter in.

Some of that changing is likely ingrained in our national culture. For years I’ve believed Detroit in general, and General Motors and Ford in particular, practiced “planned obsolescence” — the art of making sure products, in this case cars and trucks, wear out over a specific period of time so we’ll have to buy new ones. If it weren’t so, why would they make new models each year?

And others — like those mentioned earlier — just sort of happened as time and technology went along.

That may be a reality of life we have to live with but another reality is that some things don’t wear out or go out of style — a kind word, a pat on the back, a smile, a strong shoulder to lean on, a helping hand. Maybe one day COVID will let us do those things again when we don’t have to stand six feet apart.

So try those as you go along as best you can. And if you want to capture it on film — and have a 35 mm camera — I’ve got something for you ... if I can find it again.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and retired long-time managing editor of the Chatham News/Chatham Record, having written a weekly column for more than 30 years. During most of his time with the newspapers, he was also a bi-vocational pastor and today serves Bear Creek Baptist Church for the second time as pastor.


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