What Did We Do Before: Leg Tan

Along with manicures, pedicures, massages and hair colouring my grand-daughter is completely au fait with leg tans. My only experiment with leg tanning resulted in dark patches on my knees and ankles as well as yellow hands. My usual leg tan was the “pull up” type.

When I went to secondary school it was compulsory for us to wear 60 denier stockings. Not tights, stockings! Suspender belts are now considered racy things worn to titillate and often displayed in “Adult Only” shop windows but that’s certainly not how I remember them. I was slim and the only things that kept up my suspender belt were my hip bones. Not comfortable at all so when I discovered – horror of horrors – a girdle, I was happy. The whole thing was elastic so I no longer had to endure a belt cutting into me.

The 60 denier stockings were bad in summer but at least I never had to endure lisle stockings like one of my friends. They were some kind of knitted material and tended to sag around the ankles and knees. It didn’t take us long to discover we could get away with wearing 40 denier stockings, the uniform scrutineers at the school gates didn’t seem to spot the difference.

Sometime in the 1960s Pantyhose became available and that meant the girdle could be tossed out but along with pantyhose came a major issue for me. Sizing. As I said, I was slim so I didn’t think I needed “Large” or “Extra Large” but I soon discovered that buying “Average” meant that if they survived me pulling them up without ripping holes in them the crutch invariably headed straight to my knees as soon as I started walking. Buying “Large” often meant the waist band had to be rolled down so it didn’t extend to my armpits.

I rarely wear pantyhose now that women can wear slacks almost anywhere but I have discovered that they’re great under slacks when the weather is freezing.

I think pantyhose have now morphed into leggings and skinny jeans.



What did we do before: Direct Deposits?

I know some people still prefer to go to a Bank or Credit Union to do their banking but certainly here in Australia in many instances that option simply isn’t available. It’s not only because of great distances but also corporate policy.

For years my pay was deposited in my bank account and I only received a little square envelope which had heaps of information printed on the inside. It told me how much I’d earned so far that financial year, how much Super I’d paid and tax etc but there was no hard cash. I had to go to the bank for that. Some people had to create bank accounts just so they could get their pay.




Before the Direct Deposits became the official system I used to get a cheque which I took to the bank to cash. I used to get actual notes and coins which I tendered for all my purchases and to pay my rent. When I first started working though I was paid cash, it was given to me in a little brown Kalamazoo envelope. On the outside was simply written my name and the amount of money enclosed. No way could I have dreamt that in years to come I’d be using a single card to pay for just about everything only really needing coins to make the Dog Wash work.


pay pack2




What Did We Do Before – Plastic Bags?

When I see the number of plastic bags in our environment, from Doggie Doo bags to trendy, boutique bags it seems astonishing  that they’ve only come into common usage during my lifetime.

When I was a child dogs often roamed but I can’t ever remembering stepping in their disgusting poo nor can I remember seeing anyone ever picking up after their dog.

Garbage bags weren’t needed, we had an incinerator to burn our rubbish.

Our meat came from the Butchers wrapped in white paper, dog food and cat food came from our table scraps and bones from the Butcher so no plastic wrapped meat there either. The fruit and vegetables that we didn’t grow came from the market in brown paper bags.

I used to hate going to the shop for Mum, she always gave me a string bag to carry the things home. The problem with string bags is that when you’re a kid everything in it bangs against your leg and cereal  boxes with corners really hurt. Not only that but even all those years ago we knew the feeling,  if not the term, “uncool” and string bags were definitely not the things you wanted to be seen carrying.

Now that we’ve become used to buying just about everything wrapped in some kind of plastic our environment is becoming polluted with it. In South Australia supermarkets aren’t allowed to give away plastic bags, shoppers need to bring their own or buy a bag, usually one intended for multiple usage. You won’t be surprised to know that not one of my shopping bags is made of string!

string bag

A much fancier String Bag than we had.

What Did We Do Before – Air Conditioners?

After another night where the minimum temperature was 22 deg. C the day has heated up again and I’ve come in from watering the garden to a nice cool room. I can’t imagine how I’d cope now without air conditioning but I grew up without it. Most of my childhood was spent living in a brick house built around 1900, it had very high ceilings and in summer it took a while to heat up but it took an equal amount of time to cool down. On hot nights we often slept outside on the lawn, I don’t remember being attacked by mosquitoes but I do remember the stars. I’d feel vulnerable doing that these days.

During summer days we’d often play under the sprinkler, we had a long bar one on a stand and sometimes we’d just lie under it. We also spent a lot of time at the beach. Sunburn was an issue!

I don’t remember us having any fans at all.

Dad lived in the house until he was 98 and even after my brother installed an evaporative cooler in the lounge room window Dad was reluctant to use it preferring instead to lie on his bed with a fan blowing over him.

No school I attended ever had any air conditioning. Cars didn’t have any either so the only option was opening a window which didn’t help much when the outside air was stifling.

Air conditioning units now usually offer the option to heat but instead of that we had an open fire. Because the old fires burnt so much wood we only had a fire in the lounge room, the door was kept shut to keep the warmth in and the rest of the house was cold! Before we had air conditioning in our current house we relied on a slow combustion fire in winter and ceiling fans in summer.

I can’t remember when I bought my first car with air conditioning but I certainly remember the 4 hours of driving my old Morris Oxford from my parents’ home to the country town where I worked. In winter that meant setting out wrapped in a blanket with a hot water bottle in my lap!

We’ve fitted roller shutters and good curtains to our windows to help insulate us from the harshest weather but it’s lovely to have the luxury of air conditioning when we need it now.

Holiday in the sun?

Holiday in the sun?

What did we do before – Cling Film

I think just about every day I use some cling film whether to seal the end of a cucumber or to cover a bowl in the microwave. Sandwiches get wrapped in the stuff and plates get covered, I can’t imagine a modern kitchen without it so what did we use before?

I can remember seeing gingham cloths fitted over jam jars and even some gauze ones with little beads sewn around the edges to keep the cloth in place. I’m sure in our house Mum never had to worry about covering left-overs, there were 5 children so I’ll bet there was never anything left to cover.

We don’t just use cling film in the kitchen though, we cover paint brushes with it when we need to take a break before the job is finished. I’ve used it to cover the end of my caulking gun and my hairdresser even uses it to cover the bleach when I’m having my hair streaked.

I guess when you have a versatile product you find new ways to use it.

I still ask myself though, how did we stop fish smelling out the fridge and how were sandwiches kept fresh and contained before Cling Film?

What did we do before – Shampoo

When you walk into a supermarket and are confronted by a confusing array of shampoos, conditioners, mousses, waxes and gels it’s hard to imagine any person living in the “developed world” could remember a time when they didn’t exist but I do, almost.

As I child I think we always had Sunsilk Shampoo though I know Mum used Halo because that attracted bees which meant I had to extract them from her permed hair! It didn’t matter if your hair was oily, dry, thick or fine there was just the one type of shampoo. When I went to stay with my auntie for holidays though there was no shampoo and we just lathered up soap in our hands then massaged it into our hair. Certainly for me there was no silky-soft feel to it for a while after that but it was only about a weekly occurrence. Mum used to rinse our hair in lemon juice which she said made it shiny but recently I’ve been wondering about that. Was she really trying to make us blonder?

I don’t think we ever had “baby shampoo” so it was definitely a case of keeping your eyes screwed tightly shut until every bit was rinsed out, shampoo in the eyes stings! We didn’t have a shower until I was in my teens so we washed our hair in the bath and slid down under the water to rinse it off. The final rinse was the lemon juice one.

The first dandruff shampoo wasn’t invented until 1963 and you could tell who had the problem because of telltale white flakes on their shoulders, I can’t remember the last time I saw that.