It's snowing outside this Thursday morning and, while it's not very deep (yet), I saw a guy clearing his sidewalk and driveway with a snowblower. And that made me think of what it was like to be a kid in the 1950s without all the things that many people have today. Even though there are people today, me included, who don't have a snowblower, that thought set me to making a partial list of things taken for granted today that weren't around back then.
I know, it'll make me appear to be old, but in just a few minutes I wrote down a list — and I'm sure there are many more things I didn't put on the list — that is fairly long. Part of the '50s for me was living in a small town in southwestern Minnesota, and the later years of that decade our family was about 14 miles west of the big city of Princeton, part of the trip to town coming on a gravel road.
How about some simple things? Yes, we had a phone. But you had to pick up the phone, wait for the operator and give her the number for someone across town. I think rotary phones — you know, with a dial — came to some places in the '50s but then when we lived in rural Princeton we had a phone where you had to crank out the number. Our ring was a short, short, long and a short and there were either 16 or 32 people on the line. There were a lot of people listening in to other people's conversations. One day, living in a parsonage as we did, we cranked out our own ring and heard 13 receivers come up. And long-distance calls were a chore, and expensive.
When we warmed up leftovers for a snack, or another meal, it was done on a stove. No microwaves. And our refrigerator in Tracy, Minn., was only good when the ice man made his deliveries. In the summer he'd come walking up with tongs holding the ice which would be dripping on a 90-degree day. Sometimes the ice didn't last very long during a hot spell because we, and most others, had no air conditioning. And, for many, the A/C made it too cold for some when those new-fangled things were in use. Central air meant having the windows in the middle of the house open and then hoping for some wind. Teens who thought they were cool spoke about their "460 air conditioners" — going 60 miles an hour in the car with all four windows open. Some of today's refrigerators are Wi-Fi connected, have slide-out drawers, deli drawers, brewing systems -— well, you get the idea.
Televisions — that's a whole different deal. Many didn't have television then. We finally got one late in the decade when a grandpa came through with one for our family. It was a black-and-whiite console. If you had a 21-inch TV, it was a big deal. We had only five channels - 4, 5, 9 and 11, and public television on Channel 2. Often some of our family entertainment came from gathering around a cabinet radio and listening to shows, or the Top 40 on WDGY on Saturday mornings, or Gopher football or basketball games. Later on, when we got rich (?), we managed to get a used record player.
There were no computers, thus no Google. There were no cell phones. A long-distance call, because of the cost, was a thing to cherish and they were quite rare. Just think - no computer, no cell phone. You had to find your own entertainment instead of staring at a computer or using a cell phone for about 3 1/2 hours a day as was the norm in 2019, according to a survey, And that was before the pandemic when the use of cell phones increased. Yes, there are good things about computers and cell phones but they're also used for a lot of bad things. Our "social media" involved walking or biking to someone else's house to play. We shot baskets in the summer by a tiny light on a neighbor's garage, summoned home by the sound of a whistle from our front porch.
Our Google involved going to the library, or, if lucky, maybe an old set of encyclopedias stashed in a corner of the house. Or maybe by listening to the radio or reading a newspaper, both of those our links to the outside world. My father encouraged — well, forced — me to get morning and evening routes to deliver the Minneapolis papers and I'd pick up my papers early and then sit on the curb and read as much as I could before going out on the routes. At age 10 I followed the Korean War daily, as well as devouring every baseball box score that was in the paper that day. And at night I'd go to bed and listen to the Minneapolis Lakers on WCCO Radio. Yes, the Lakers used to be in Minneapolis before moving to Los Angeles.
There were no ATMs (and little money to retrieve anyway), no bank cards, and if you were going on a trip you used maps (no GPS), with one person trying to read the map while another drove. Or, if the driver didn't trust the map reader, he'd have to do some planning ahead of time. Our family took summer camping trips to northern Minnesota, Canada, Iowa, Wisconsin and the Black Hills, all by using a map.
How about color film for our little Brownie camera? That was quite a step up. Nowadays most people use their phones to take pictures, instead of cameras, and then they send them to someone by phone or computer. And you can't find anyone to develop black-and-white film these days.
Homemakers had washing machines with wringers and then would hang the clothes on a clothesline. They would pick up the milk from the porch after the milkman delivered it, and they'd slave away in the garden, day after day, to help their families make it through the tough times with little money.
We biked incessantly without helmets, or met neighbor kids from across the section at a pond where we skated for hours, sometimes making a fire on the ice to warm ourselves. And then when we got home I suppose we might have a cup of Ovaltine. We didn't have a McDonald's but if you were lucky enough to get to one, hamburgers were 15 cents. Or you might walk a block to the corner store and get a Tootsie Roll, Bazooka gum, Bit-O-Honey, Dad's root beer barrels or fireballs. And there was Wrigley's, Juicy Fruit and Black Jack gum. There were also candy cigarettes, which many parents didn't like for kids in an era when a lot more people smoked.
There were drive-in movies, first for movies that would be rated G today, and then, as you got older, racier movies. I think there might have been kids who hid in the trunk of a car, or in the back seat on the floor. Some didn't see much of the movie, truth be told. There were sock hops, hula hoops, jukeboxes — a restaurant in Princeton had personal ones in your booth — and rock 'n' roll songs on the radio, many parents thinking Elvis Presley was someone they didn't want their daughters to listen to or watch on TV.
Those were the good ol' days but the truth is that things are better today, many people having things like cell phones and computers that used to be considered a luxury. Social media invades many lives every day, some of it good, a lot of it bad. Somehow, we made it through the '50s and'60s without most of the things mentioned. But I don't think many of us would trade what we had then for what we have today.
Eden Betzler, a 2018 graduate of PHS where she was a two-sport athlete, began serving in the U.S. Navy in August of that year and recently was named Junior Sailor of the Year for the Black Knight Squadron stationed in Lemoore, Calif. She is on a six-month deployment with the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. Betzler was a defenseman on the girls hockey team at PHS and was a record-setting goalie for the girls soccer team . . . Tyler Wells of the PHS wrestling team is one of 11 high school wrestlers from Minnesota ranked nationally by TheOpenMat.com. Wells is a sophomore 103-pounder who took first place in the state tournament last February. He's been an important part of the resurgence the past few years of wrestling at PHS. Princeton is ranked No. 8 by the same source among Class 2A teams in the state, with Becker from the Mississippi 8 Conference ranked No. 10 . . . The fact that U of M football has been better the past few years is shown by the fact that four former Minnesota players are in the NFL playoffs. Defensive back Antoine Winfield and wide receiver Tyler Johnson, both Minnesota natives, are rookies with Tampa Bay. Winfield has been a starting safety all season, as one of the team's top tacklers, and Johnson,until the Bucs signed veteran Antoine Brown, was seeing a lot of time early in the season and had scored two touchdowns. Kamal Martin, from Burnsville, is a linebacker with the Packers and Damien Wilson is a starting linebacker for NFL champion Kansas City where he was third on the team in tackles this season with 73. And, while he's not in the playoffs, Rod Smith, who ran for a 4,125 yards at the U of M, was undrafted but made it to the roster of the Carolina Panthers in the middle of November and got 41 carries, scoring a touchdown late in the season. . . . When I was a 10-year-old kid in southern Minnesota I'd go to sleep at night listening to the (Minneapolis) Lakers NBA games on WCCO Radio. The Lakers were in the midst of winning five NBA titles in six years. They fell on hard times later in the '50s and left for Los Angeles after the 1959-60 season. I was lucky enough to see their last game in person in Minneapolis with rookie Elgin Baylor, my favorite all-time NBA player, in the lineup. Then in the first year the Lakers were in Los Angeles Jerry West came to the team and he and Baylor are two of the all-time greats of the NBA. If owner Bob Short had held on for one more year, Minneapolis might not have lost the team, what with Baylor and West there. So when the Timberwolves began playing here in their initial season of 1989-90, I was happy to share season tickets with three other guys. The first year, with crazy (in a good way) Bill Musselman as coach, the team somehow won 22 of 82 games playing at the Metrodome. The Wolves set an NBA attendance record with more than 1 million fans, including a record 49,551 at one game, those in the upper deck of the Metrodome barely being able to see the ball bounce, I would guess. Our seats were behind the basket on the south end and we were close to the action. Target Center opened the following year and our seats were upstairs but in a corner, not too bad. I was happy to see the NBA back in Minnesota. But I've gotten to the point where I hardly watch the NBA at all. Wednesday night I decided to give it a try and the Wolves spurted to a 12-point lead a minute into the fourth period. I left for two quick stops at local stores and when I came back 15 minutes later they were down after a 24-4 run by Memphis and eventually lost. That sort of thing has happened so many times in the last 20 years. I don't know if it's the coaching or just a lack of energy, throughout the years, that makes the players so bad on defense, as well as having terrible shot selection in many games. I do know that I have almost no interest after once being a big NBA fan. But for me there too many dunks and a lazy defense that leads to totally uncontested baskets.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
Jan. 26 1951 — Princeton beat Mora 50-39 as Richard Paulson scored 17 points and Greg Stende 15.
Jan. 26, 1956 — Princeton lost 77-69 to Braham as Don Muller and Roger Wahlquist each scored 20 points.
Jan.19, 1961 — Bob Nick scored 21 points in a 61-51 loss to Milaca and 26 in a 66-63 loss to Mora. Jim Knutson had 15 and 14 points in the two games.
Jan. 27, 1966 — Minnesota Twins pitcher Jim Kaat was in town and visited students at the senior and junior highs, and also visited grocery stores . . . Jim Haubenschild and Bob
Backlund won titles at the first-ever PHS wrestling invitational.
Jan. 27, 1971 — It was supposed to be the first Princeton swim meet ever but it became a scrimmage because Cambridge hadn't turned in its eligibility roster to the state . . . Princeton (7-2, 5-1 in the Rum River) beat Braham 80-62 as Bob Hedenstrom scored 15 points.
Jan. 21, 1976 — Scott Kelley (21 points, 15 rebounds) and Scott Erickson (20 points, 16 rebounds) led Princeton to a 75-55 win over Foley . .. Michelle Ziegler and Kelly Durelle had first places as the gymnastics team beat Buffalo.
Jan. 22, 1981 — Les Nelson made seven straight shots, the last of which gave Princeton a 59-58 win over Pine City in the last two seconds. He scored 26 points . . . Princeton beat Sauk Rapids on an outdoor rink, 3-1, as Dale Perbix scored two goals.
Jan. 23, 1986 — Pitcher Ron Davis and catcher Tim Laudner came to town as part of the Minnesota Twins promotional tour . . . Todd Davis scored three goals and goalie Terry Seifert got the shutout in a 4-0 win over Mora.
Jan. 24, 1991 — The 36-33 win over Meadow Creek/Alliance Academy ended a five-year losing streak for the PHS wrestling team . . . Jamie Cox had 21 points in a 79-65 win over Foley..
Jan. 25 1996 — North Branch won its 31st straight girls basketball game in the Rum River Conference, breaking the record of Princeton's 30-game streak from 1991 to 1993 that topped a 25-game streak by Princeton in the 1980s . . . After 13 games Chris Opskar led the PHS hockey team in scoring with 32 points (15 goals).
Jan. 18, 2001 — Eric Hannan and Derek Ashe won titles at the Hopkins wrestling invitational and the team placed third among eight teams . . . Princeton beat Chisago Lakes 3-0 in boys hockey as Kyle Hidlebaugh got the shutout. The team then was outshot 49-15 in an overtime 1-1 tie with Delano as Hidlebaugh made 48 saves.
Jan. 19, 2006 — Scott Roehl scored 22 points in a 72-69 win over Becker and he broke the school scoring record of 1,001 held by Tom Blomberg, his point total going to 1,013. Roehl had 27 in a 75-69 loss to Buffalo . . . Howard Solheim, Princeton's longtime high school baseball coach, Legion baseball coach, and athletic director, died at age 81. The baseball field in town is named Solheim Veterans Field. Solhieim had been named to the Minnesota American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jan. 20, 2011 — A half-court three-pointer at the buzzer gave Cambridge a 54-52 win over Princeton. Joss Jondahl led with 16 points and Domenic Fraboni and John Jedneak each had 12 . . . The wrestling team won an invitational in Zimmerman for the second straight year, edging Grand Rapids by 12 points. Eight Prnceton wrestlers made it to the finals and Zach Pederson, Andrew Barthel and Karl Eichinger (17-0 for the season) won individual titles.
Jan. 21, 2016 —The boys basketball team (6-10, 2-4 in the M8) beat Duluth Denfeld 62-57 as Brady Peterson led with 24 points and Reed Mitchell had 13 . . . The girls basketball team (7-5, 3-1 in the M8) beat Chisago Lakes 62-41 as Julia Bjurman had 21 points and Taylor Laabs 17 . . . The girls hockey team (12-6, 5-3 in the M8) beat conference leaders Rogers (3-1) and Buffalo (4-2), Kenzie Skuza getting the goal that broke a 2-2 tie.