Remember When: Pianos, radios, entertained many families in past decades

Tom Mooney - Remember When | September 11th, 2017 6:00 am

“Care to try it?” asked my buddy Alner, stepping back to admire the huge recliner I’d just helped him wrestle in from his car.

“Thought you’d never ask,” I replied, sinking into the big chair.

“Here,” he said, tossing a key pad to me. “Not only can I adjust the chair with it, I can even access the flat-screen TV if I forgot to grab the remote. Can’t miss my shows coming back this fall.”

My grin must have been a dead giveaway, because Alner suddenly groaned. Within seconds, thanks to my power of metaphysical travel we were heading down a Wyoming Valley street of days past.

“OK,” he sighed. “My new chair made you think of something, right?”

“Yep,” I said, steering us toward a nice-looking family home. “It’s time to broaden your mind. I’m calling this trip ‘Things People Used to Have Around the House’ — at least things they had before atomic-powered recliners and TVs a half acre wide.”

“We’re just going to walk right in?” he shrieked as I opened the front door for him.

“Relax. They can’t tell we’re here. Look around this nice living room. A bit different from yours, right?”

“Well, yes. Hey, there’s a piano – in the living room?”

“Lots of people played piano years ago. Families enjoyed music and often would sing together.”

“I must admit those old-fashioned chairs look really comfy,” said Alner.

“Note the ottoman in front of that big one. After a hard day at the factory, dad enjoyed nothing more than lounging back in this overstuffed beauty and putting his feet up. You know, it might even be more relaxing than your space-age throne. Mom, who’d also had a tough day, had her own chair over there.”

“What’s that box on legs?”

“That, my unenlightened friend, is also a relic of homes past — a smoker’s stand. It’s where the man of the house kept his pipes, tobacco, cigars as he unwound in the evening and read the paper. If you’ll glance over in the corner, you’ll see something else alien to our culture — a big console radio with a lighted dial. This was how you listened to Jack Benny or the soaps. You had to envision what was going on — a skill we don’t much have in our day.”

“What if we get arrested for being in here?” whispered Alner, looking over his shoulder.

“Then we’ll end up starring on ‘Dragnet,’ another popular show of this time. Hey, let’s check out the dining room.”

“Odd,” he said. “Look at the big dresser next to the table.”

“It’s called a bureau or a buffet,” I said. “You stored your table linen and silverware in it. See this little room off to the side? It’s called a sitting room.”

“Wow, there’s a weird contraption.”

I sighed.

“I’m sure a sewing machine is as alien as a UFO to you, Alner. Lots of people used to sew things. They didn’t buy everything new or just toss old clothing. By the way, that item over there is a writing desk. People used to sit at it and write letters — on actual paper — to friends and relatives. If you ask what a letter is, I swear I’ll …”

Fearing sensory overload, I decided to return us to our own time.

Alner sighed.

“Does the recliner really look ‘midnight green’ to you?” he said. “That’s what I wanted.”

“Maybe not, but you’re carrying the next one yourself. What time’s the game?”

Tom Mooney Remember When Mooney Remember When

Tom Mooney

Remember When

Tom Mooney is a Times Leader history columnist. Reach him at [email protected]