Open Phones: An Oral History of Nostalgia

Friday, October 25, 2013

We open the phones to have you answer the simple question: What was better back in the day? It's an oral history of nostalgia, starring you. Tell us about what you think was better from a previous era, why you miss it, and whether you think it's better because of nostalgia, or because things were, empirically, better back in the day. Call 212-433-9692 or post below.

Comments [56]

Charlie from Brooklyn, where else?

I miss the Dodgers playing in Ebbets field. Now that you have me feeling nostalgic, I even miss the NY Giants (the Polo Grounds Giants, not those brutes with shoulder pads).

Oct. 27 2013 08:26 PM
Estelle from Brooklyn

I miss the days when volunteers answered the phones during WNYC's fund raisers and Steve Post, Brian Lehrer, Sara Fisko, etc. would stroll past us as we answered the phones with "Are you listening to am or fm?"

Oct. 25 2013 01:39 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I miss the days when TV and Radio weren't flooded by INFOMERCIALS.

Oct. 25 2013 12:25 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentous Hudson Heights

I miss my Father and my departed relatives who were MUCH better than their offspring.

Oct. 25 2013 12:21 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

I miss the days when local TV, not cable, showed old movies from the 1930's and 40's.

I miss WCBS TV having the Late Show, Late Late Show and the introductory cartoon of styleized buildings and window lights going dark execpt for one (ours), with the accompanying music of Leroy Andersons "Syncopated Clock".

Oct. 25 2013 12:19 PM
Mike from Tribeca

Flosso-Hornmann's magic chop on Herald Square, where I once met the wonderful Senor Wences.

Oct. 25 2013 12:11 PM
kikakiki from wall street/harlem

When stores were closed on Sunday and families had time together, there was a dinner time when though my father worked second shift, we always had dinner together either my mother and I and when dad home my mom dad and me. saturdays at the movies we met our friends and stayed all day, the news, the comics, the series and then the feature film.

Oct. 25 2013 12:07 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

First Caller (Erich) from Inwood:

Lincoln's birthday is still celebrated separately and has Alternate Side Parking Suspended; Washington's birthday was incorporated with Presidents' Day. Doesn't make sense, but such is government.

Veteran's Day was slated to be a Monday holiday bill holiday, but they gave it up and it went back to Nov 11. However, if it occurs on Sunday, we get two consecutive Alternate Side Parking Suspension days, which is no bad thing. It's also my birthday, so I get a parade. :-)

What I think was better was getting a random day off in the middle of the week. A long weekend now and then is fine, but that random day off is like getting a really cool prize in a cereal box that doesn't even advertise that it has prizes. Maybe we should just have Thanksgiving Thursday and Friday so it leads into a long weekend. I think the schools do it so they don't have to open for the one day.

Speaking of which, I remember when Cracker Jacks had really cool prizes. Now they just have idiotic wash-off tattoos. Hey, Cracker Jacks People: Put the cool prizes back in the boxes and I promise I'll buy more Cracker Jacks!

And don't ask me how old I am because a) I remember the cool prizes - including the golf course, and b) I'm too old to want to eat Cracker Jack's for the prizes. Put it this way - when I was born, there was not yet a holiday on November 11.

Oct. 25 2013 12:04 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretentious Hudson Heights

What happened to playground staples?

- Seesaw
- Monkey Bars

lawyers have ruined America.

Oct. 25 2013 12:02 PM
frances from Manhattan

Something great that *hasn't* changed - In my neighborhood, besieged by the threat of a huge waste station and accusations of NIMBY, a Good Humor Truck sits by the playing fields of Asphalt Green, right where the garbage trucks will idle if De Blasio prevails. I almost fainted when I first moved here 12 yrs ago and saw it, my first in about 60 yrs! But here's the kicker: the vanilla ice-cream pop covered in chocolate coating? That exceptional taste? Still there, still wonderful.

Oct. 25 2013 12:02 PM
Robert from NYC

Well I missed this, was in the shower but here's what I miss being a post-ww II child of the 50s... I miss seeing kids playing in the streets, you don't see any anymore, CEOs and Execs who got decently high not outrageously bloated salaries, 10 cent ice cream cones, penny and nickel candies and chips, the 5 and 10 cent stores, 50 cents for a whole watermelon, friendlier people, among many other things.

Oct. 25 2013 11:52 AM
First Caller (Erich) from Inwood

To Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn,

Yes there are many holidays that still keep their original day, but like Armistice's Day people don't actually remember them not celebrate them. If they do celebrate something it's with an outing to the park, watching a football game, or shopping. I don't think any of those actually honor the day.

I also thought it was interesting that Mr. Lehrer mentioned Washington's Birthday. Did he mean President's Day? Washington and Lincoln's birthdays were done away with to make room for another long weekend called Martin Luther King Junior's Day.

I wonder what will happen when the memorial of September Eleventh will be celebrated on the closest Monday and called 9/11 Day.

Oct. 25 2013 11:49 AM
Mike from Tribeca

A bathtub in the kitchen.

Seltzer in a blue seltzer bottle.

Little Italy when it was Italian.

Dusty used book stores.

Pre-millionaire Tribeca.

Oct. 25 2013 11:46 AM
Ana from UWS

Born in 1965. Manhattan in the '70s before chain stores. Even the storefronts on First Avenue in Stuy Town had mom and pop stores. I remember a five and dime with wooden floors and bins of toys!

Oct. 25 2013 11:44 AM
carl from queens

So called home cook peasant dishes. The way people dressed. Poppa had a suit and tie on every day, despite not having two nickel's to rub together.

Oct. 25 2013 11:44 AM
Joanne from boonton, nj

Laura has it right. You never see kids playing outside anymore. Don't know whether it's Lynne ears or ovescheduling, our computer, but it's sad.

Oct. 25 2013 11:42 AM
Joan from New Jersey

(I'm still 78)
Have to add a comment about the condition of our streets and bodies of water vis-à-vis garbage.
I remember when the roadside litter was only biodegradable paper, maybe a few bottles, but there was a 2 cent deposit, so not many. There wasn't any plastic junk in the water, except driftwood.

Oct. 25 2013 11:41 AM
Felice from Long Iskand

I am 57 and, dedpite all the effort, my education was far superior to the that which my daughters are receiving now.

Oct. 25 2013 11:41 AM
Jack Cazes from New Hyde park

I'm 63. I remember when people made an effort to hustle across the street. Today it seems like people are in their own bubbles. Every one around them is a picture. There also isn't much eye contact.

Oct. 25 2013 11:40 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

I miss sex. Does anyone do that anymore?

Oct. 25 2013 11:40 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Correction to my previous comment: I meant Joe Lhota. In my defense, he's easily forgettable.

Oct. 25 2013 11:40 AM
Estelle from Brooklyn

I'm 70. I miss children feeling safe. My mother would throw money out the window and send me go to the local grocery store. I was to ask some woman passerby to cross me. All the mothers did that.

Oct. 25 2013 11:39 AM
John A

Dannon yogurt, before about 1984. It was more natural and more sour, then they took down the fat content. Now theye up to their neck in competition trying to keep up. The competitors formula? More natural, like Dannon started.
The Super-Ball, when it was invented. Harder, heavier, supposedly it could shatter, but never did for me - *dangerous*. The safer version never could bounce as long or as high.

Oct. 25 2013 11:38 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Re Ray Lhoti's ad: Returning to the seventies, when one could be an artist and afford an apartment and hang out at the Mudd Club and CBGB's? The horror, the horror!

Oct. 25 2013 11:38 AM
Amy from Manhattan

You had to throw out a whole typewritten page to fix 1 error, Brian? That must have been not just before computers but before Wite-Out!

Oct. 25 2013 11:38 AM

I miss the old ninth avenue vendors with all the barrels of exotic (at least to me) outside and all the great little specialty food shops.

I also miss the time when there was only one McDonald's in Manhattan.

I miss every block which lost a brownstone. I miss the Palladium and the variety of ethnic neighborhoods in Manhattan.

Oct. 25 2013 11:37 AM
carl from queens

Born in the 40's. Bing bands, Sinatra, Washington, Laine, Eckstine, Cornell, etc. Also, safe neighborhood. Could sleep on the roof on hot summer nights without worrying about finding yourself airborne.

Oct. 25 2013 11:36 AM

People who say music was better conveniently forget all the garbage that used to blare over the radio. Plenty of bubblegum music from 50s onward (and probably earlier).

Oct. 25 2013 11:36 AM
antonio from baySide

I wasn't around to enjoy them but I imagine the streetcars. I know that's where the 'Dodgers' got their names, and supposedly they were dangerous. But I would love them!
I do remember seeing the rails slightly peeking out of the streets in brooklyn...

Oct. 25 2013 11:36 AM
ellen diamond from Manhattan

73 here. Telephones you could actually cradle on your shoulder while you did things with both hands; kleenex that actually didn't shred when you blew your nose, toilet paper rolls that actually lasted for a whole week.

Oct. 25 2013 11:35 AM
Joan from New Jersey

Age 78
Two things: common courtesy, especially on the roads. People seem much more self-obsessed, rude, selfish, in a hurry.

Number 2: People used to take more care with their appearances, in the normal course of the day. Most people look better in clothes that don't show everything: flab, underarm hair, beer bellies, large butts.....well you get the picture.

Oct. 25 2013 11:35 AM
john from office

I remember when news programs were news programs, not commercials for the parent company's products. I remember when people did not use the term "back in the day".

Oct. 25 2013 11:35 AM
kikakiki26 from wall street/harlem

I'm 66 tomorrow I miss that the neighborhood helps raise the kids - kids belonged to the whole community - did anyone see the gentlemen running for office whose kid was at a party with alcohol and his explanation - couldn't get thru

Oct. 25 2013 11:34 AM
Nick from UWS

Yes, narcissism and lack of consideration has reached an all time high.

Oct. 25 2013 11:34 AM
Ed from Westchester

Education used to be better, for the student at least. It must be difficult to actually learn and absorb something when you have all the answers in your pocket (on the internet).

Oct. 25 2013 11:33 AM
Nick from UWS

I agree with Truth & Beauty From Brooklyn....cell phones are one of the most hateful things that has ever happened to general society. One of the worst. People are getting unbearably stupid.

Oct. 25 2013 11:32 AM
shari from ny

I'm 52. Conversation was better. We used to look and focus on one another rather than being distracted by phones, computers...

Oct. 25 2013 11:32 AM
lee from slopey

male brooklyn over 50 years,
marijuana was better.
way cheaper, dreamier, yummy, available and fun.
many strains pretty potent.
also weird crappy holoween candy like nickle nips wax bottle coated drinks edible harmonica and chalk cigarettes!

Oct. 25 2013 11:32 AM
Larry from Williamsburg

I am nostalgic for my students. I remember the joys of being unreachable (especially by my parents), of socializing without electronic devices, of not being photographed when doing stupid things, and of going to concerts and not feeling like I have to record it. I love my devices now but I know how to turn them off (well, most of the time), but to not know what that is like is kinda sad. I am 47.

Oct. 25 2013 11:32 AM
Dan from Sunset Park


Oct. 25 2013 11:32 AM
Hannah from Manhattan

I'm 35 and I think I was the last generation of kids that were left home alone without adult supervision. I have such fond memories of coming home from school with friends at the age of 8 or so and letting our imaginations run wild. Today, there's so much fear of leaving kids alone there is much less opportunity to experience that kind of independence.

Oct. 25 2013 11:31 AM
Nick from UWS

What was better back in the day? Music, and the music business. I'm talking the days of vinyl. The music business ended with the CD. The artists were of way higher quality, records were more's all corporate plastic crap now with fascistic dance routines and the rest of the crap.

Oct. 25 2013 11:31 AM
Bernhard from Upper West Side

Curtis Sliwa's piano playing was a lot better in the 80s. He's really gone way too "bubble gum" pop for my tastes now.

Oct. 25 2013 11:31 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

I'm in my mid forties. Chinese take-out

Oct. 25 2013 11:31 AM
Lori from New York

Going out used to be better-- restaurants, concerts, plays, etc. Collective civility is almost gone now because of cellphones and general narcissism, and it's difficult now to have a good time in a public setting without someone ruining it. I'm 40.

Oct. 25 2013 11:31 AM

I'm 47. Pre ATM machines when if you didn't make it to the bank by Friday for weekend cash, you were out of luck. Meaning, the days when retail wasn't 24/7. Also, FM radio!!!

Oct. 25 2013 11:29 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

1. I miss 4-digit phone numbers.
2. I also miss fixing things as opposed to throwing them away and ruining the environment with the extra trash.
3. I miss walking down the street and NOT bumping into people because they had their noses buried in their cell phones.
4. I miss REAL phones that had decent sound, instead of walking around in circles with a cell phone yelling, "Can you hear me?"

To the current caller: They didn't change Veterans' Day, either. They tried, but it didn't stick.

Oct. 25 2013 11:29 AM
fuva from harlemworld

And kids' street culture. Doubledutch. Stoop ball. Etc.

Oct. 25 2013 11:29 AM

Great topic for jgarbuz! Living the past. Take it away, jg.

Oct. 25 2013 11:29 AM
Brock from Manhattan

There were always promiscuous women and that was convenient for single men. Nowadays, there are so many promiscuous women and its more of a challenge to weed out the wife material.

Oct. 25 2013 11:28 AM
Steve from New Jersey

How about way back when we had a government that could make compromises on decisive issues for the good of the country... Ahhhh, those were the days.

Oct. 25 2013 11:28 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Born in the 70s.
Of course, music.

Oct. 25 2013 11:27 AM
Stephan Cox from Manhattan

Remember how much work it used to take to find a favorite new, obscure band? Reading the reviews, slogging through record stores. The thrill of the hunt!

Oct. 25 2013 11:24 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Before "urban renewal" and the government getting involved in housing and everything else, we lived in tenements, played stickball, "stoop" ball, and "Chinese" handball on the streets and in the midst of traffic. We got our summer "showers" from fire hydrants :) We played with marbles on the sidewalk, hopscotch and skippink rope was mainly for the girls, and
so on. Actually, as a kid, it didn't seem all that bad in retrospect :) I think kids enjoyed themselves more then than today with all the gadgets and the videogames. Yes, we were densely packed into rat-infested tenements, but that forced us to find recreation on the streets, for better and for worse. But it was more sociable. It had to be. But most neighborhoods were ethnic "turfs" and that might have been a downside. You didn't freely venture into someone else's turf, as in "West Side Story." That where the street gang business came in. The problem of "juvenile delinquency." Somehow most of us survived.

Oct. 25 2013 11:22 AM
Susan from nyc

I remember when Fleers Double Bubble Gum tasted really good during WWII. After the war it was not good and Bazooka gum took over and was not good. It just had baseball cards. I remember when we could look up at the night sky and see the milky way. Now we just have light pollution.

Oct. 25 2013 10:50 AM

Born in 1963 - raised in Manhattan. What I remember is the Upper Madison Avenue shops. The wonderful signage, the gold lettering at the shoe repair shop, Sally's bike shop, Leo's Deli, the fix-it shop, sawdust on the floor at Gristede's Market, Epstien's, the button shop and the hardware store - I remember walking with my mother in her Jackie suits and gloves and running all our errands within 10 blocks. The smells and sense memories and squeaky floors of very shop are with me still.

Oct. 25 2013 10:25 AM

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