February 19, 2012

Many inventions have changed our lives


---- — Kaye and I were testing each other recently at the breakfast table. It was Valentine's Day, and we had finished exchanging our 400,000 round of kisses and hugs. I tossed out a question across the coffee and toast: "Can you name an invention in your lifetime that made a big difference for you?"

Without missing a beat, she got up and began sorting dirty clothes. She answered: "The automatic washing machine." I scoured the Internet and learned that the first automatic clothes washer was introduced by Bendix in 1937. If you were lucky enough to have one, you had to screw it to the floor unless you wanted it to walk all over the place. It lacked a suspended tub.

Kaye didn't own a washing machine when she started her family in the late 1940s. It was a matter of washing clothes by hand in one tub and wringing them out in another.

Out back we still have an old wooden rack designed to hold the galvanized wash tubs. The first Laundromat opened in this country in 1934. I have no idea when they came to Plattsburgh, but I remember an early one on Brinkerhoff Street.

I didn't meet Kaye until 1966, and we weren't married until 1974. Modern wives and mothers have no clue what marvelous matriarchs such as Kaye went through to raise their large families without modern conveniences. She had to hand-wash cloth diapers and use safety pins to keep them on the little bottoms. Disposable diapers didn't come along until the '50s and weren't really in this area for many years after that.

Our children rode with us in cars without seat belts or baby carriers. Air bags weren't invented until 1952, and we certainly didn't have them in any of our cars for years. The automotive shoulder and seat-belt combinations were invented in 1959.

Homes didn't have smoke detectors until the '70s. We've all known people who died in woodstove fires where such devices were not installed.

I struggled through lawns with a reel-type push mower as a boy. Gas-powered mowers weren't invented until 1940. We never owned one back then.

Neither Kaye nor I can recall when we got our first microwave oven, but we remember that it was huge and heavy. They were invented in 1945.

Nylon came along in 1937, and nylon stockings were introduced to the public during the 1939 World's Fair. Most nylon went into parachutes after 1941, and Kaye remembers wearing cotton stockings until the war ended.

Our first TV set was a Fada model, and we had to get off the couch to change channels or volume. The remote control was invented in 1950, but I never saw one for at least a decade.

Sony came out with the personal stereo in 1979, and the CD appeared in the stores a year later. Kaye and I bought a portable CD player for one of our sons and included a Barbra Streisand album. The stereo sound was so overwhelming when I listened to it that tears ran down my face.

The mobile telephone was invented by Bell Laboratories after the war in 1946, but we didn't have them in our daily lives for many years. We later bought what was called a "bag phone" at the radio station where I worked, and it revolutionized the way I was able to be on the spot for news.

Speaking of radio, think for a moment about what the invention of the transistor meant to that business and many others with its invention in 1947. I still have a number of early transistor radios around here that work as well as they did the day I bought them.

Even though our kids are long-since grown with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of their own, we still appreciate the conveniences that have come along in our lifetimes. If it weren't for personal computers, laptops, the Internet, email, Facebook and all the rest, we'd have to find our fun somewhere else, wouldn't we?

Have a great day and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the "Our Little Corner" television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at