Weldon Reed mug.jpg

Dear Dad:

Well, there have been considerable changes since you left this mortal existence some 15 years ago and entered the immortal one. Society has certainly been changing at a rapid clip, but I will avoid the more distressing issues; there is no need to agitate you there in the after life. However, there are three physical entities that have undergone some startling transformations: TVs, telephones and cars, especially my current car contrasted to the cars you used to drive.

I remember the first family on Sabine Street to purchase a TV was the Crisp family, who lived in one of the shotgun houses, and the year was 1949 or 1950. For you city slickers out there, a shotgun house, at least those three on Sabine, were three former railroad dining cars that had been converted into livable houses. They were certainly sturdy and quite serviceable. Of course, like everyone else on the block, they had outdoor bathroom facilities. 

In addition, they were now the proud owners of a black-and-white TV with about a 15-inch screen, and on every Thursday night their family increased by about 10 or 12 as some of us kids invited ourselves over to watch wrestling. We would cheer mightily for our heroes like Cyclone Anaya, Killer Kowalski, Verne Gagne and Lou Thesz. On the other hand, we would boo loudly at the hated villains of the day like Duke Keomuka or Bull Curry. 

The only channels available, that I remember, were 4, 5, 8 and 11. A new TV, even in black and white, still cost around $300, a pretty stiff price in those days for most families, at least on our side of town. Color TVs did not come along until the mid-1950s. 

You remember the old antenna type we had to affix to the roof or erect a tall tower and attach it to the top? Then, of course, if the reception was fuzzy, one of us would have to go outside and turn the antenna a bit to see if it would help. Sometimes it did; sometimes it didn’t. 

Well, Dad, you won’t believe about TVs now. For that same $300 to $400 I can purchase a flat-screen, 52-inch TX. Furthermore, I can get about 350 channels, which costs about $200 a month. Some changes, right?

Now if you thought the TVs have changed, wait till you hear about the telephone. I think back to the old party lines of the 1940s and 1950s. I don’t remember if ours was a three- or four-party line, but I do know it was always pretty aggravating. 

Invariably, someone would be talking when one of us wanted to use it, and we would just have to wait until they finished. Of course, you were only supposed to talk about four to five minutes, out of courtesy, but that rarely happened, and I remember some times when unpleasantries were exchanged. 

I do remember our old black, heavy rotary dial with the 10 finger holes numbered 0 and 1 through 9. In addition, there were letters of the alphabet adjacent to the corresponding numbers except for the number 1, which was blank, but the number 2 represented a, b, c; 3 — d, e, f; and so on through 9, which listed w, x, y. 

For some reason I do not remember our phone number, but I do remember Grandma Bailey’s in Denison: Homestead 5-5098 or HO 5-5098. 

Well, today, Dad, we have cellphones or mobile phones or smartphones, and when I say “smart,” I do mean smart. 

Here are just some of the abilities of modern-day phones: talk (of course), text message, take pictures or videos, watch news, play games of all sorts, get maps and directions, play music, alarm clock, calculator, calendar, mobile banking, shopping lists from wives (Yuck!) or pictures of needed items to be sure harried husband bought the correct ones, appointments, pay bills, make reservations, shop online, check traffic ahead, etc. 

Dad, I probably left out 40 or 50 other capabilities; I don’t even use all of the ones I’ve listed.

However, Dad, I have saved the most important change — and shocking, probably, to you — for the last. You would not believe the transformations that cars have undergone. First, would you believe that some people are driving electric-powered cars? 

According to Google, prices for these babies range from $30,000 to $80,000, depending upon the range of the individual model. The cheaper cars travel only 60 to 100 miles before needing to be charged while the higher-priced ones can make up to 300 miles. Plus, depending upon the model, these recharging stops can take from four hours to 24 hours. 

Also, Dad, are you ready for this? — there are self-driving cars being experimented with! And the asking price is a real steal — only $300,000! Boy, sign me up! I might want two! Of course, they have already had a number of crashes with these and even a fatality. 

It seems they don’t mix well with pedestrians — oops! Moving targets, plus they don’t adjust well to bad weather, bad drivers or detours and rerouted roads. Yes, I’m sure these will sell like hotcakes.

Now, Dad, it’s time I told you about my current car — a 2017 Ford Fusion, dark grey, whom I have named Shadow. You absolutely will not believe the bells and whistles this chariot possesses. How about all-wheel drive instead of just front wheel? Also the steering wheel telescopes in and out and lowers and raises. 

In addition, the lights turn themselves off, so you won’t run down the battery. Plus there is a compass on the dash so I know what direction I’m headed, and I also have GPS (Global Positioning System) so I can see how to go from Point A to Point B. 

Finally, Dad, let me confess something to you regarding my car Shadow. Are you sitting down? I do not have a key to insert in the door to open it. I do not have a key to insert in the dash or steering column to start it up. I do not have a key period! 

Instead I have a handheld gizmo called a remote fob. Are you ready for this? You press one button on the fob to unlock the car, another button pops open the trunk, another button locks the car when you get out, and if you have forgotten where you parked the car, you can press the lock button again, and Shadow will honk at you to help you out. 

My last confession, Dad, is even more embarrassing — this car does not have a gear shift! Yes, that’s right! You turn a knob, of all things, to drive forward or in reverse. 

In addition, if I put the car in reverse, a little TV screen opens up on the dash and shows me where I am backing up, with two white lines to direct me. Boy, could I have used that when I was parallel parking on my driving test at age 16!

Well, so long for now, Dad. I’ll keep in touch. Tell Mom hello for me.

 

Weldon Reed can be reached at weldon.reed@att.net.

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