Kids will never know struggles of rotary phones, archaic tech

Guy Dossi

I really enjoy history. Unfortunately, the history in which my knowledge is filled is generally in, for the most part, useless subjects.

Yeah, I know a lot about the history of “Seinfeld,” The Beatles, the San Francisco 49ers and Giants and great Irish war heroes. But I don’t see how knowing that “Hey Jude” was originally titled “Hey Jules” will one day help me out of a pickle.

But because I enjoy history, doing the series on looking through the decades of Calaveras County sports is right up my alley. For some reason, I get excited reading about what happened 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago right here in this county.

And, of course, when I’m reading about the past, I begin to think about my own past and how much the times have changed. And then I start to wonder about what will be different in the future. The life that I had growing up in Tuolumne in the ’90s and 2000s was nowhere near the life that my parents had growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, and will be nothing like the world my children will live in. With that in mind, I began to think of all the things that I grew up with that my future children will have no appreciation for.

The first thing that comes to mind is renting movies. Or better yet, renting a VHS. In Tuolumne, there was a little video rental shop called Tuolumne Video, which was owned by my eventual best friend’s parents. As a kid, it used to be such a treat to go to the video store to rent a movie. You had no idea what would be on the shelves. You walked up and down the aisles, just hoping that a perfect movie called out to be the entertainment that your night needed. It makes me sad that my children will never know to, “Be kind and rewind.”

Phones are obviously much different. At my father’s house, he had, and to this day still has, a rotary phone. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to learn how to dial out, but I eventually got the hang of it. Not only did we have house phones, but they were connected to the wall. As time went on, we got a cordless phone, but you could only talk on it for so long before the battery died. One thing that my children will never know is the frustration of hearing a busy signal or not knowing who is on the other end when your phone rings.

While the home phone is quickly becoming a thing of the past, the pay phone has straight up died. And who among us doesn’t remember searching for a quarter so we could make that away-from-the-house call? During my freshman year of playing football, practice would typically end around 5:30 p.m. and I would call for a ride home. Well, I wasn’t made of money (yeah, a quarter was a big deal to most teenagers), but I needed to let my mom know when practice was over. So, I came up with a system to have my call made and also stick it to the phone company.

I dialed 1-800-COLLECT. My mom would answer and a recorded voice on the other end said, “You have a collect call from …” and I would quickly yell, “Mom, I’m done with practice,” and hang up before she had an opportunity to accept the charges. My children will never have to scam the phone company and the juvenile pride that comes with it.

My kids will never have to learn how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission. The day I turned 16, I got my license and it was time to drive. I had a truck, a 1991 Chevy Durango. And yes, it was a Chevy Durango. My little Tonka Truck had a clutch, and if I wanted to drive it, I had to teach myself. After a few hours of grinding gears, killing it at every stop sign, and cursing in Italian gibberish, I figured it out. By the time I have kids, manual transmissions will go the way of the home phone.

But if there is a clutch for my kids to use, I will be the one teaching them. Not because of any gender role, rather, the lovely Mrs. Dossi is one of the many who can’t drive a manual. You could put $1 million in a bag, put it on the front seat and tell her she can have it if she drives 20 feet in five minutes. That money, much like the vehicle, wouldn’t be going anywhere.

My kids will never know about non-HDTV programing, pagers, CDs, football games without the yellow first down line, baseball without replays, the Milwaukee Brewers being an American League team, Pogs, shag carpet, the Motorola Razr phone, floppy discs, library card catalogs, disposable cameras, paper maps, mixtapes, Tower Records, dial-up internet, phone books, manual windows, tan M&Ms, “Celebrity Deathmatch” and a heart attack in a can, aka, Surge.

The world will be much different when my little bambinos are around. The good thing is that there is one aspect of life that will never go away – fathers telling stories about what it was like back in their day. And oh boy, I’ve got plenty of material.


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