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Sunday, January 24, 2021

60 years of Memories: Thing’s We Didn’t Have…And Used To Have


60 Years of Memories of Butler

by James Ring


As I was applying a pair of ordinary nail clippers to an errant claw on my writing hand, I happened to think “ya, know, these things hadn’t been invented when I was young.” I would have been using scissors. There are a lot of items that we now take for granted that weren’t around when I was a kid.


Like, for instance, the sponge-plastic flip-flops I have on my feet, cheap substitutes for bedroom slippers. People wear them to the Whale-Mart to pick up groceries, or even mow the lawn in them. Didn’t have ‘em back then. We wore stores or went barefoot.


Naturally, the idea of carrying a phone in your pocket, even without the notion of incorporating a computer in it, was unheard of. Remember the first “bag phone” you ever saw, plugged into a car’s cigar lighter? A “cell phone” was the pay-phone you used to call your attorney when you got thrown into jail for drunk-and-disorderly.


We had pay phones around Butler in the olden days; I remember a phone booth over at the telephone office, and one at the Bus Station, and the ones in the Inn Hotel lobby. These were little cubicles with folding doors that gave you a modicum of privacy, before the open-air armor-clad outdoor phones on the side of a building took their place.


The credit cards we regularly use today did not exist when I first came to Butler. There may have been American Express or Diners Club cards for the plutocrats, but what was first termed “bank cards”, issued in conjunction with our local banks, came into vogue only in the 60s and 70s. Butler State Bank had the “Mastercharge” card, now MasterCard, and First National Bank issued the “Bank America Card”, today’s Visa. Cash was still king back then; a $20 bill was big money, half a week’s wages.


Fountain drinks were a luxury available only at the drug store, mixed on the spot with Coke syrup pumped from a gallon jug and some carbonated water. Convenience stores? Sure we had ‘em: they were the crossroads general stores in Passaic, Spruce, Virginia and Foster, but their soda pop was sold in a bottle, which you were expected to return to the wooden rack beside the pop machine, where the pop truck would pick it up when delivering fresh stock.


The first convenience store in Butler was Ours Oil Company’s EZ-Way outlet on West 52, erected on the family property, now the Bear Stop liquor and gas station. You paid for the fuel after it was pumped, trust being a normal expectation. Driving away without paying would have ruined your reputation. 


So, some things we take for granted today were not invented 60 years ago. And what we have today, like the old slot car arcades and video rental stores, will be history soon.