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Walt’s Way: Did someone just dial O for obsolete?



Although I have always enjoyed occasional visits to the National Museum of American History-Smithsonian Institution in D.C., I have a very good reason for not returning there when I’m visiting our nation’s capital.

No, it’s not because I’m too cheap to pay the entrance fee. (Admission is free.) It’s because, at my age, I’m afraid of being mistaken for one of the historical exhibits.

Visitors might think I just got off a replica of the boat which carried Gen. George Washington across the Delaware.

The last time I visited the museum many years ago, I felt like an antique and I was much younger then.

My brother Dave, his wife Holly, their toddler son Christian and my wife Jo Ann were enjoying ourselves until we turned a corner. Their good time continued, but mine did not.

We came upon a recreation of what an elementary school classroom looked like at the turn of the 20th century. It looked almost exactly like the classrooms in my old school.

The only difference was that a lighted Pepsi Cola clock did not hang next to a print of Gilbert Stuart’s unfinished portrait of George Washington.

These days, though, there are plenty of reminders of my rapidly advancing age even if I can avoid being seen as an escapee from a history museum.

Strange is a relative term in this column, but it seems that my age is probably easier to see in terms of what is not seen anymore instead of what is.

For example, I don’t know when the last telephone booth disappeared, but it has to be more than a year or two ago.

Superman would never have been a hero of comic books, TV shows and movies if he had the misfortune to come along now.

Clark Kent always ducked into a phone booth to change into the cape and leotards that were his look as Superman. It wouldn’t have the same effect if he had to sprint over to service station bathroom to change whenever he was needed.

Besides, he would have probably been late for any event needing a superhero. Superman would first have to return the restroom key attached to a car muffler to the counter at the service station.

Phones also figure in the disappearance of another common sight of my youth — rotary dial phones. It’s been years since I’ve seen one, although I’m sure some exist.

In doing research for this column (You don’t think I make this stuff up, do you?), I discovered something that made me sad. One website published detailed instructions and illustrations about how to dial a rotary phone.

They actually had to tell you to put your finger in the number you wish to dial, rotate the dial clockwise until your finger touches the metal stop and then remove your finger.

I wonder if someone used a smartphone to look up instructions on how to use a rotary phone.

When Jo Ann and I were out for a car ride last week, we saw something I had also thought had become obsolete. Clothes were being used with the original solar-powered dryer — the sun.

When I was a kid, no one would have given clothes hanging on clothesline a second glance. I take that back. My Mom would have.

As a matter of fact, she gave our clothes-pinned laundry more than a glance every Monday. She kept a pretty sharp eye on the lines so my two brothers and I didn’t try to play backyard football before she unpinned the dry clothes.

In winter, Mother used a set of clotheslines hung in the basement. She kept a close eye on those drying clothes, too. She was afraid Phil, Dave and I would play basement football.

We certainly didn’t think anything was wrong with that. After all, it was too cold to play in the backyard.