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Out of the Blue

In My Time Capsule

What would Indiana Jones say?

By Deborah Salomon

Old folks are guardians of the past . . . now, especially, when life moves at the speed of Google. I don’t mean important things like electric cars and ticket stubs from a Taylor Swift concert. Rather, everyday stuff that after surviving tag sales emerges valuable. Just read about a first edition Corning casserole with cornflower design bringing $1,000 at auction. Not all icons are tangible, however. Some are behaviors, norms, happenings that unless relegated to the cloud, risk extinction.

When archeologists/social historians sifted through Pompeian ruins they weren’t looking for fine art. Rather a pot, a chair, coins. Just as valuable, however, are ancient clay scrolls containing lists, recipes and correspondence. Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library keeps a collection.

Clay is more durable than thumb drives. The human brain is a likely repository but with an expiration date. Mine, approaching that date, has lately dredged up stuff from a life lived half “up North,” as New York and New England were once called, the rest in North Carolina.

Surely, if the Smithsonian Institution enshrines a Swanson turkey TV dinner I can have a go at . . .

  • “Y’all want coffee?” Only in the mid-20th century South would a waitress holding a coffee pot descend upon a just-seated table at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in-betweens. I can’t remember if it was free. Probably, since coffee was all one flavor and cost about 25 cents. Folks with “Mr. Coffee Nerves” ordered Sanka or Postum, not “decaf.”
  • Comic strips: Bankers, senators and surgeons read them, sans ridicule. Whether Blondie or the more cerebral Doonesbury, which still runs in The Washington Post, nobody chided followers. Then, on Sunday, New York newspapers put the funnies section on the outside, so readers could pre-empt the bad news with Penny and The Katzenjammer Kids. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia read the K-Kids on the radio to children during a 1945 newspaper delivery strike. Why else would the Big Apple name an airport after him? Oh, Charlie Brown, we need your wisdom.
  • Cafeterias, another Southern delight pre-fast food drive-thrus, are now fewer, fancier, much more expensive. S&W, K&W, J&S once dominated the state. Some are making a comeback with seniors and lonelyhearts with their still-satisfying experience, especially the mashed potatoes, country-fried steak, biscuits, cornbread and pie. Get on it, Smithsonian.
  • Green Stamps have become collectors’ items: We got them at the supermarket check-out, then pasted them in books to be exchanged for housewares (like that thousand-dollar Corning dish) at Green Stamp redemption stores.
  • What could be more worth remembering than gas at 25 cents a gallon with a complimentary windshield wipe?
  • How I long for Saturday curb markets held in dusty vacant lots, where sun-wizened farmers in overalls sold produce from pickup trucks. The non-organic tomatoes! The corn! The runner beans! These days, too many farmers markets resemble foodie boutiques displaying herbs, baby zucchini, purple lettuce, white eggplant to fill shoppers’ French string shopping bags. Anybody for a grilled goat cheese sandwich?
  • I can no longer reconcile “personal” seedless watermelon, too often pale and flavorless. Mother Nature intended watermelon to be sized for a crowd, with sweet, deep red flesh and slippery black seeds. Nothing tops off a fried chicken picnic better.
  • Cash: Greenbacks. Two bits. Folding money. A fin. Modern shoppers can go weeks, maybe months, without “breaking” a crisp $20. Just swipe a card, read a chip.
  • We pride ourselves on time-saving inventions that make life “easier.” Long live the ones that cure disease, feed the hungry. As for the rest, thanks for the memories.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She can be reached at