Readers Comments Senior Stories

Steering Knobs, Running Boards, and Shoe Store X-Rays


Memories of the “Was it that long ago?” life in the US

I received e-mail that had several words/phrases relating to automobiles and other things that are either extinct or nearly so: fender skirts, curb feelers, steering wheel knobs, Continental kits, etc.

The sentence that caught my eye, however, was this one: “I’m sad, too, that almost all the old folks are gone who would call the accelerator the foot feed.”

I must admit that I had not thought of the phrase, “foot feed,” for the gas pedal in many a moon. The sentence, though, somehow summoned up memories of O. Henry”s short story, “The Last Leaf.” I hope there are a few more “leaves” out there hanging on who remember the “foot feed.” And maybe “stepping on the starter.”

Do you recall that we had two kinds of antifreeze? One was called “permanent” and was more expensive than the other. I don’t remember what the cheaper one was called, but it had to be replenished more frequently. Some of us just drained the radiator before a freeze and hoped for the best.

We had a steering wheel knob on our 1952 Ford. Some of the “fast” crowd referred to them as “neckers’ knobs”?

Didn’t some of us have something (maybe a hard rubber strip) hanging down to the ground underneath the car so that we wouldn’t be shocked quite as much by static electricity from the plastic seat covers?

I almost forgot that the e-mail mentioned running boards, too. One of the worst pains I ever suffered in my life was caused by a running board and my stupidity. I was riding on one on my uncle’s car down a country road.

I was barefooted and saw what looked like a watermelon vine growing right next to the road up ahead. Perhaps if I stuck my foot out and dragged it through the vine, I might feel a small watermelon. I might have if it hadn’t been a bull nettle bush instead. Foot pain unrivaled in my lifetime except for putting on a shoe with a stinging scorpion in the toe.

It wasn’t that long ago (or was it?) that some filling stations gave you little gifts, such as glasses, plates, etc., when you bought your gas from them. And on certain days, perhaps “double S. and H. or Texas Gold stamps.”

Another phrase in this e-mail that stirred up a memory was “store-bought.” For any young ones reading this, I think the opposite of store-bought was “home-made.” That brought to mind: “hand-me-downs.” I would imagine many young people today, considering the raggedy clothes they wear out in public, might have loved hand-me-downs, unless they had had to wear them.

I bought some new blue jeans about 15-20 years ago and I’ll never forget what was printed on the tag: “Flaws and imperfections are part of the desired look.” (Not where I came from.) I think we called them “seconds.” And expected to get them cheaper.

Remember the shoe store on Houston Street here and/or in other towns that had what amounted to an x-ray machine in front of the store? You stuck your foot in it and I think I remember this correctly: you could see your foot bones. Wonder if it caused cancer. (That was long before the U. S. had one lawyer for every 200 citizens.)

The friend who sent me the e-mail that caused all this reminiscing figured I might remember some more words/phrases from the past that are going or have gone “extinct.” When you have time, send me some and I’ll make a list for him and send you one of the cumulative lists.

Charles Schrade, San Antonio, Texas

Some of my army friends and/or some of my ex-students (Burbank High School and San Antonio College, 1950-1987) will read this and be surprised that I am still among the living.



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