By Tom Gillespie
ADVANCES in technology have completely changed our lifestyles. When I was growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s there were household items that were necessary for survival – well for an easier life anyway.
Take for example a can opener – a jagged implement used to pierce the lid of a tin of beans and peas, etcetera.
Today such tins have pull-rings that remove the lid with little effort, not like the solid tins of my day when a sharp tin opener had to be used to virtually cut the lid open to extract the contents.
This was a very dangerous exercise as the cut-away lid was extremely sharp and resulted in many a bloody finger.
In an era before toasters your slice of bread was impaled on a long handled fork and held in front of an open fire until it was toasted on one side.
With the advent of the toaster we progressed to having the slice of bread toasted on both sides.
Another comfort was the two-bar electric heater – an electricity gobbler – but a feature in most households.
I particularly remember when I was studying for my Inter Cert examination, studying in our sitting room in Marian Row. On the colder evenings my mother would plug in the two-bar heater to ‘heat-up’ the room. But all it did was to direct a blast of heat only at your ankles and shins, while at the same time burning up the air in the room – a trick to counter this was to place a bowl of water beside the heater.
Today, with underground heating, oil-fired and solar heating and a ban on traditional fireplaces in newly constructed homes, heating was never cheaper or more efficient.
Sitting rooms then were reserved for special occasions like entertaining special visitors, birthday parties and Christmas time.
Most households had a television located in their kitchens which were transferred to the sitting room for the Christmas period. It was only then that the fire in the sitting room was lit.
No individually wrapped firelighters were on the market then. Instead a few handfuls of bundled up newspapers and a bunch of sticks were used to start the fire. When well ignited a few pieces of coal or turf were added and the two adjoining pages of a broadsheet newspaper were placed across the fireplace in order to create a draft from the chimney.
To watch the TV took effort. It had to be switched on. There were only two channels available – RTÉ 1, initially, and later 2 – and these had to be manually selected. TV controls were a lifetime away. Earlier, many of the black-and-white TVs had slot machines into which you inserted half-a-crown to get a few hours viewing of a poor picture.
I am old enough to remember the wind-up gramophone and later record players – of which there is a slight revival – that played LPs (long-playing) records or vinyl ‘singles’. Nowadays it’s Spotify and YouTube on your mobile phone or Alexa.
Nearly extinct are landline phones and public phone boxes, and also gone are massive phone directories, with the hand-held mobile now king, resulting in the demise of photo albums or having photo negatives developed in the chemist shop. Now our photos are filed away on iCloud or in our laptops.
The sale of road maps, too, has reached an all time low with GoogleMaps now on every mobile device.
Blackboards have become whiteboards. Letter writing has, regrettably, been replaced by texts and emails while fax machines and sat navs have been consigned to the history books.
There have been dramatic advancements in the motor car. I can recall vehicles of the 1950s having individual indicators on the right and left sides that actually popped out to advise the following or approaching motorists of the direction you intended taking. Today it is the era of the electric car with every conceivable technical tool to get you safely from A to B.
As children we played outdoors where we made our own fun and played simple games like crocks, Cowboys and Indians, hide and seek, tip and blind man’s bluff.
At Christmas a wonderful gift from Santa was a pair of roller skates, a Mecanno set, a cap gun or a catapult, all of which would be alien to youngsters today. Instead they seem content with their heads stuck in mobile devices, a lack of exercise and communication skills as a result of texting.
We spent many happy hours cycling around the countryside close to Castlebar. It was quite safe then with little traffic to present any danger. Thankfully, with the development of looped walks and the extension of greenways cycling is now becoming popular again with both old and young, which can be undertaken in a very safe environment.
In the kitchen tea bags were yet to be invented and loose tea leaves were the order of the day. Microwaves were unheard of and to reheat your dinner you placed it back in the oven.
Bread-making was manual work without the aid of an electric mixer while the weekly task of cleaning the Jubilee range was a nasty and messy task.
We had no taxis and depended on a sparse hackney service which had to be booked in advance of collection.
Times were simple then and every family was in the same boat. We just got on with life, and believe it or not, we enjoyed ourselves.
But to finish:
One of the most satisfying transformations is the comfort of modern day toilet seats. The old pre-plastic seats were cold on your posterior, uncomfortable and cumbersome and left you somewhat flushed with embarrassment.
When we were in the old St. Patrick’s National School, prior to it being destroyed by fire on February 28, 1957, the students had no choice but to avail of ‘dry’ toilets. What a change we found when the new St. Patrick’s, with all mod-cons, was opened on November 9, 1961.
Gadgets that have changed our lives – Connaught Telegraph
By Tom Gillespie