We’re in the most fantastic period of progress in the history of the human race! 52



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I sat in our living room last night, enjoying the warmth of the air conditioning and playing with my iPad, when it occurred to me what vast changes had taken place in my lifetime, possibly the most fantastic period of progress in the history of the human race!

In 1935 when I first appeared on the scene, the majority of civil aircraft had two pairs of wings instead of one and were powered by a single petrol engine mounted in the nose. A flight from London to Melbourne in the larger, commercial sea-planes of the day, could take a week or more, at a price very few could have afforded. Computers had until very recently, been figments in the minds of people like H.G. Wells and were imagined as mechanical, like adding machines, rather than electronic. Even the experts of the time pronounced the computer as little more than a toy, and that the world would never find any general uses for them!

Many men still wore their watches on a chain spread across their waistcoat fronts, and clothing for both sexes was virtually all made out of natural fibres like cotton and wool, subject to shrinkage if not treated with a great deal of respect. The motor car was just starting to enter the modern world, with the introduction of mass production techniques, but were still largely hand built, and used basically the same form of ignition, etc., that had been in use for forty years or more. Television was little more than a twinkle in some boffin’s eye and the jet engine was only being developed in deepest secrecy for military purposes.

Very few homes possessed the luxury of a telephone, and those that did usually had to share the service with at least one other customer, on what was styled a ‘party line’. A telephone call, made over distances as short as 20 miles, had to be connected by an operator, while overseas calls were virtually unheard of. Plastics, as we know them today were still to be invented; the nearest thing to it in 1935 was Bakelite, a material manufactured from cellulose, highly inflammable, and not really a true plastic because natural materials were used in its manufacture, instead of chemicals. Even the supermarket was yet to be thought of and that monster wouldn’t be with us for another 20 years or more. In 1935 the local grocer, butcher and vegetable shop provided for our needs, along with a myriad of other small businesses.

It was also still the era when traders, etc., came to you, rather than you having to go to them. The milk was delivered every day to your doorstep, often by a man who ran his business from premises just up the road from where you lived. The postman made two deliveries a day, including Saturdays, one in the early morning and another just after lunch; coal was brought to the coal-shed near the back door; even paraffin oil was poured into your one-gallon can, right outside your home, from a mini-tanker.

Transport was so much friendlier in those days too, as well as much more popular, because so few of us possessed a car. Trains, buses and trams all had conductors, as well as the driver, to look after us, collect our fares and tell us when we were nearing our destination. Trips tended to take rather longer then than they do today of course, there were no freeways to speed us on our way, while on town-roads there was still a good smattering of horse-drawn traffic which could slow motor traffic down considerably.

But no-one seemed to mind in those days, the whole world moved at a much slower pace than today, and yet we all seemed to get to where we wanted to be, on the road and in life, just as successfully, if not more so, than we do today. It seems that the more wonderful machines we design, to make life easier and things move faster, the more we want; greed and ambition has replaced satisfaction and happiness. We, in the luckier parts of the world, live in the best, most wonderful environment there has ever been but despite all, that we are representatives of only a minority of the world’s population. There are still vast numbers of people who don’t even live today, as well as we did when I was born; for all our successes, that is a rather sad statistic isn’t it.


Share your thoughts below – do you miss the days when everything was different or do you prefer our more fast paced way of life?

Brian Lee

  1. I look back at my simplistic childhood and in some instances wish l still had that experience. Today is too rushed too many gadgets and families so widely spread apart. I know we cant stop progress but wish my grandkids could experience my childhood pleasures of playing in crystal clear creeks catching yabbies in glass milk bottles with bread inside and string tied around the neck to quickly pull it up. We did not know what to do with any we caught so put them back. As kids we frolicked in these creeks on hot days and picnicking on the banks. We were never bored and rarely went on holidays but were happy.

    3 REPLY
    • I also liked what you had to say ,I also feel the grandchildren have missed out.on so much ,especially there freedom .i worry the way children are treated today ,you can’t take your eyes of them for fear of something happening ,I know I enjoyed my childhood days ,but I have an iPad and waste so much time ,like I like to read but don’t get time ,have to do something about that ,Cheers ,

  2. Technology is wonderful however I believe the simple lives we had as children were truly amazing and we spent most of out time outdoors mixing with our friends and SOCIALISING, it’s sad to see so many young people hide away in their rooms, unless they have their iPads or iPods in their hands just don’t know how to communicate adequately, I’m not saying ALL young people however there are many.

  3. I am sure each generation has marveled at the achievements that mankind has made in their time, come back in 100 years and they will probably think the devices we use now are primitive

    2 REPLY
    • True David each generation as its triumphs the other day I found my grandfathers letter sent from Sydney to America writing to his brother in law, he was explaining how incredible the new harbour bridge was a brilliant piece of engineering, and he had just installed a gas oven imported from the USA. After the war he made his money from sapphires in Queensland Built his house in Bankstown unfortunately not long after that letter was penned he shot himself, results suffered from the war, he was involved on hill 60.

  4. I remember when the postman came twice a day and once on Saturday. The milkman and bakwr had a horse and cart. The fish vendor came every Friday. Coal heaters in the school room. Nib pens and inkwells. Milk every morning. No TV, no phone for a long time. Outside toilet with the dunny man. Lots of good food but only one tiny over head pantry cupboard. Old copper with stick and wringer. Great Mum and Dad.

  5. My husband and I were discussing this very thing, our generation ,I am 77, has probably seen more changes than any other generation, still believe that our younger days were so good, not musc money but a good life.

  6. No my grand mother saw first flight to a man on the moon telephones tv cars think that generation out does us

  7. I think our generation has had it all, we haven’t lived through the depression years, or any world wars. In our ageing years we have technology at our finger tips to keep us in touch with family and friends, keep up to date with world events, are able to shop on line, and order groceries on line and have them delivered to our door, what else could we ask for.

    2 REPLY
    • we have had no world war, but in many ways the world is so much worse than it was in those days & now it is all in your face 14/7….we have continual unrest around the world, terrorist attacks, there is good & bad of every generation

    • You expressed exactly what I was thinking. It is exciting isn’t it, living in this age of inventions and advancement, what wonders lie ahead. I have been reading about these robot vacuums that are being developed, how wonderful! A neighbour has one, loves it. It even empties itself, amazing
      . Of course in life there is always the dark with the light.,
      even the horrible wars etc. have always been occuring somewhere , but now we know about them, so I think it curbs some excesses that might have previously gone unchecked.

  8. Great article! Many memories 🙂 I also remember the ice man coming with blocks of ice for the frig. We used to go behind to pick up any chips of ice that fell on the road. They went straight into our mouths, how hygienic but I have survived to be nearly 70 🙂

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