Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


A VINTAGE AD on Sirius XM’s “Radio Classics” reminds us of things not missed: The ad advised making sure we had enough flash bulbs for vacation.

Flash Bulbs. What’s a flash bulb, Grandpa?

Well, my dears, imagine having to fit a little bulb, good for only a single flash of bright light, before taking a photo in less than ideal lighting.

This is when the kids look at their smart phones and wonder why I’m making this stuff up.

Flash bulbs. Image from Film Photography Project.

Plus, what did we do with all those flash bulbs, both before and after their one-shot use?

Party Lines for Telephones. These days, when a family of four may well possess six or more different phone numbers, it seems odd that there was a time, within living memory of many of us, when party telephone lines were shared with strangers.

A Bremen, Indiana, telephone ad from 1959.

Indeed, party line users didn’t remain strangers for long: You’d pick up your phone to make a call and you’d be listening to the lady with the whiny voice complaining about her husband’s drinking again.

“I’m using the line,” she’d tell you impatiently. You’d hang up and try again later. “And then I told him…,” she’d be saying.

Automotive Grease Jobs. Back in the good old days, cars may have been simple, but they weren’t particularly durable. Just about everything moving in a car called for periodic greasing.

Richard Lentinello’s “Lubrication Charts—Chassis Maintenance Sure Isn’t What It Used To Be” described this in Hemmings Daily, August 20, 2015.

Lentinello cited components requiring a grease job: steering U-joints, stub axles, front and rear wheel hubs, axle tubes, water pumps, castor rods, tie rods, ball joints, universal joints, prop shafts, spring shackles, pedal shafts, clutch release forks, distributor shafts, steering boxes, and brake cables.

Some of these components are gone: What’s a “spring shackle,” Grandpa? But plenty of others remain.

Image from Hemmings Daily, August 20, 2015.

The periodicity of grease jobs tended to be mileage-based, every thousand miles for a good many components. Over the years, improved materials and enhanced engineering lengthened intervals between grease jobs. Even cars from the 1960s, though, had their grease job charts.

On modern cars, just about any component profiting from lubrication is permanently sealed with it. Even engine oil change intervals have been vastly extended through synthetic lubricants. Maybe door hinges and the like profit from an occasional hit.

A Car’s Curb Feelers. These aftermarket springy wires, perhaps five inches long, clipped to fenders at appropriate height to announce the nearness of the curb during parking maneuvers.

A curb feeler mounted to a 1950s’ Rambler American. Image by CZMartin.

Curb feelers saved many a whitewall tire from scuffing. However, they cost money (albeit, not a lot) and looked tacky. What’s more, curb feelers displayed your lack of confidence to one and all. Sort of like training wheels on a grownup’s bicycle.

Today, a goodly number of cars feature automated parallel parking. Is this to be celebrated? Or is its use suggesting one’s lack of skill in another way?

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

7 comments on “NOSTALGIA? NOT!

  1. Wm. Urban
    July 13, 2019

    Grease jobs / lube jobs take me back to an old entry on the UK heavy truck website BigLorryBlog.
    One unfortunate bloke laid his truck over on a farm lane. He arranged for a tow truck, but being a conscientious employee he retrieved his grease gun from the cab while he waited and lubed the now easily accessible chassis.
    Carried his own grease gun? Now you know how old this BigLorryPost entry was.
    And related, if your vehicle is shiny side up, remember to take the weight off the front axle when lubing the kingpins.

    • simanaitissays
      July 13, 2019

      Though the ’65 Morgan Four-Passenger Family Tourer has gone on to another custodian, I still have the little jack used to elevate its front end when lubricating its sliding pillars.

  2. Chris Keck
    July 13, 2019

    The 2-party line only saves you $0.60 a month over a private line. After inflation that’s just $5.28. Hardly seems worth the trouble.

  3. sabresoftware
    July 14, 2019

    My grandson still doesn’t believe me when I tell him that we didn’t have video games when I was his age when he asks me what games I played as a kid.

    • MikeB
      July 16, 2019

      Did you get Pong for your black & white TV? Big deal when it came out.

      You did have Captain Kangaroo to show you little games you could play, though, right? On your b/w TV and rabbit ears or “Channel Master” antenna. Our DuMont TV actually had both VHF and UHF tuners in the 1950s, though there were no usable UHF channels in our area.

      And checkers, chinese checkers, Monopoly, Life, and other board and card games that are still around. And building forts using chairs and blankets? Oh yes, and that party line – my parents got a private line as soon as they could afford it. Later on, we got extensions in different parts of the house – return of the party line!

      • sabresoftware
        July 16, 2019

        There was no pong when I was a kid. Board games for sure and we have a few now (newer ones than when I was a kid). My wife and siblings spent a number of summers on a family farm (her maternal grandparents), and they quickly learned to never say they were bored, because there was a long list of chores that could be assigned at short notice.

  4. MikeB
    July 16, 2019

    There were the old VW beetles: oil change every 750-1000 miles because they had no oil filter. Adding a filter was a common mod; extended the oil change interval to 1500 miles or so. VW (and ’57 Chevy family wagon, 6 cyl, Powerglide, nonpower everything) were usually in the shop for something about every 1000 miles. Tires lasted, if you were lucky, 10-15K miles, and were pretty useless in the rain even if not technically worn out if they had more than 5000 miles on them. VWs had a reputation for being really good on tires because they were so light – a set of tires often lasted 20K miles.

    So what’s changed? The original tires on my 2003 Protege 5 lasted 15K – and even when new they were basically dry-smooth-road-only gumballs. Spit in front of the car and it would hydroplane. Replacements from a different brand are not as sticky but work better in non-dry conditions; they don’t last a *lot* longer (usually 25-30K), though, due to the strange alignment that’s spec, but it does handle well.

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