Recently I spotted the following question on Twitter: “Have you ever had your gas pumped by an attendant?” 

This person may as well have asked, “Is there anyone alive who drove a car when dinosaurs roamed the earth?” 

To answer the question, yes, after I traded in my horse and buggy, Henry Ford pumped my gas. 

Young people apparently have no idea how different life was before the advent of technology turned this country into one ruled by Skynet. It got me thinking of all the great stuff from the “good ol' days” that no longer exists. 

Let’s start with pumping gas. Just watch “Back to the Future.” Yes, there were guys wearing white uniforms who pumped your gas, cleaned your windshield and checked your oil. Why they did the latter wearing white is anyone’s guess. (By the way, state law prohibits you from pumping your own gas in New Jersey & Oregon. So, if you want a trip back in time, drive there.) 

But the best part of buying gas was the free stuff. Fill up your tank and you’d get a steak knife, a commemorative glass, a coffee mug, and all sorts of goodies. 

Speaking of cars, air was also free at gas stations. It boggles my mind that you must pay to fill your tires today. 

Supermarkets also gave out free stuff, holding promotions every week. Usually, it was a set of dinnerware, with a gravy boat one week and a coffee creamer the next. Supermarkets also gave out “reward stamps,” which kids would paste into a book every week. Get enough books, and you could get anything from a set of wrenches to a TV. 

There was no such thing as self-checkout in stores. I can only imagine my storekeeping father’s reaction if I said, “Hey, Dad, why not let the customers check themselves out?” His response: “Are you crazy? They’ll steal us blind!” Wonder if the people at certain major retailers ever considered that? Next thing you know, they’ll force customers to unload supply trucks and stock shelves. 

Another great thing was that milk was delivered to your home—and not through a ridiculously priced delivery service that charged you 30 bucks for two chicken breasts and an avocado like today. Every week Eddie the Milkman showed up in the morning, walked in the house, checked the fridge, and stocked it with milk (in glass bottles!), butter, eggs and cheese. Then stayed for coffee. If we weren’t home, he’d leave the milk outside. If it froze in the winter, the milk expanded and would push up the little wax cap, which we could then slice off and give it to the kitty to enjoy ice cream. 

Entertainment was also different, featuring movies without an agenda on one big screen. There are still a few one-screen theaters around. But even if you can find one, most films these days try to ram a political or social narrative down your throat. Hollywood has no new ideas. It’s either a cartoon, comic book, sequel, prequel or remake. Older movies had this thing called a plot and—what a concept!—the main goal was to entertain. 

We also had drive-in movies. Last time I went to one I saw “Flashdance” in 1983. The “screen” was a cement-block wall painted white. Lines across the film. Still, it was cool to sit in the car with whatever or whomever you wanted to bring. Teenagers in love referred to the local drive-in as “passion pit.” 

While we’re talking about teenagers, most cars had bench seats, not bucket ones. My old Chrysler New Yorker was like a rolling couch, and more comfortable than any car today. These days if you try to drive home with your arm around your best girl, it will be a really long reach. 

Back in my day, there were no cell phones, enabling you to hide from your boss. “Sorry, I wasn’t home!” 

Caller ID was also non-existent. Oh, the fun we kids had with telephone games since no one knew who was calling! My favorite: 

“Good afternoon, we’re working on your telephone line today. Please do not answer the phone in the next hour because if you do the person on the other end will receive a severe electrical shock.” Then you wait about an hour, call, and as soon as the person answers, you let out your best blood-curdling scream. 

Once upon a time you could bring food to sporting events. Before stadiums started charging eight bucks for a soda, we would routinely go to ballgames with a cooler filled with sandwiches, snacks and drinks. 

Flying was also fun. (Sounds like science fiction, but true.) People dressed nicely when traveling, and stewardesses were incredibly friendly—in contrast to today’s flight attendants who are not cheerful enough to get a job at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Food was more than a bag of pretzels. Planes were often half empty. You didn’t have to take off your shoes and get a pat down before boarding. 

And finally, the past offered political incorrectness. This is the big one. Before everyone had to walk on eggshells for fear of offending someone, you could actually tell a joke and people would laugh. Ah, those were the days…

Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to

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