LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: I’m high-tech, on the low side

Published 3:25 pm Thursday, June 2, 2022

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I’m not old enough to remember life without technology.

I guess we baby boomers were spoiled with all the advances of science. After all, our parents grew up with T-Models that had to be hand-cranked to get them started. By the time I was born, Daddy’s car sprang to life with the turn of a key.

Larry Penkava

Mama and Daddy used funeral-home fans to keep cool during the summer’s heat. By the time we boomers came along, we had electric motors that eliminated the need to fan ourselves. My high school biology teacher told us that the energy to wave the hand-held fan produced more heat than we were striving to get rid of.

Winters were another story. My parents’ generation had to burn wood to keep warm. That meant cutting up fallen trees into logs short enough to feed into the wood stove.

We boomers were lucky. We had a floor furnace with a fan to keep us warm. I remember Mama standing on the furnace, her skirts billowing out.

My parents had to write letters and send them through the mail to trade news with faraway family. It could take a week or more for the answer to return.

By the time I was a boy, we had a modern, state-of-the-art black telephone that we used to dial up the same family members in real time. Never mind that it was also long distance to call the relatives who lived five miles away. Or that the neighbors could be listening on the party line.

We boomers had it made when it came to writing research papers for school. My parents had the foresight to buy the American Standard Encyclopedia, which had articles on all sorts of subjects.

I was able to use the encyclopedia to write papers, from history to science, from Lincoln to Einstein. OK, it wasn’t up-to-date enough for current events, making it necessary for me to pay close attention to “Douglas Edwards with the News” on the TV.

I don’t think my parents ever had the opportunity to take courses in typing. But our boomer high school had a typing class that we siblings took advantage of.

We had the manual Remingtons and even some electric typewriters to practice on. We learned to type at 50 words per minute, tabulate, make carbon copies and erase mistakes. How futuristic we were!

I was so fortunate to have Mr. Walton’s typing class. I was able to use those skills later in my Journalism 54 Feature Writing course. I only got a C in the class, but it wasn’t because of my typing abilities.

I’m not sure what my parents did for entertainment prior to having us kids. But I think they had some kind of primitive record player. That’s because Daddy prepared the atmosphere for popping the question to Mama by playing a recording of “Blueberry Hill.”

But when I was 11, they bought a fancy entertainment system complete with a radio and a record player that could spin a stack of records without having to reload. It even had an adjustment for 78, 45 or 33 ⅓ rpm. Man, what technology!

Sometime in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s, Daddy brought home a bright yellow Studebaker station wagon. No, it wasn’t the color that was futuristic. It was the automatic transmission.

Daddy bought it for Mama, who needed it for her Avon sales route. But she was so used to driving straight gears that she had a problem with not having a clutch to push with her left foot.

She was a quick learner, though, and before long she preferred automatic to straight drive. New technology requires being able to adapt.

Years later, when I began writing for a newspaper, I would go in the office and use the typewriter to turn in my latest copy. But the owner saw me typing and told the editor I needed to be typing, instead, into one of their computers. I reluctantly went along, entering my words into this new-fangled machine.

How was I to know that computers would one day control the heat and air, drive cars, allow us to communicate from anywhere on Earth, and eliminate the need for encyclopedias. We can even be entertained by computers small enough to fit in our hands.

And to think, I believed technology was advanced when I owned a transistor radio.

Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189,