Posted on Mon 28 May 2018

Things my kids will never understand

Inspired by thinking about Fog Horns, I decided to compile a short list of things my kids would simply never comprehend why they should ever have existed.

Party Lines

When I was a small child we shared our telephone line with our neighbours because there were not enough telephone lines available to meet demand.

In general there are loads of things around telephones in the olden days that may perplex the young...

  • Waiting until 6:00pm or 8:00pm to make calls.
  • Dragging the phone line under a door to have some privacy while phoning your girlfriend.
  • Having to sit on the stairs (or other fixed location) to make a phone call.
  • That we actually managed to meet up with friends despite there being no way to phone each other outside the home.

“Reversing the charges”

To my great surprise it’s still possible to do this! I asked my daughter about this phrase and she thought it probably came from TV shows such as Dr Who or Star Trek as in “quickly, reverse the neutron flow!”. Reversing the changes was what I had to do as a penniless student in order to telephone my parents for our occasional chats. It meant they picked up the cost of the telephone call.

SOS Messages on the radio

In an age when it wasn't possible to contact people easily, radio stations (such as Radio 4) were occasionally used to broadcast emergency messages to individuals. These would be similar to the example below:

“Will Martin Valentine, last heard of eight months ago in the Birmingham area, head to Leeds General Infirmary where his mother is dangerously ill,”

Whenever I heard one of these calls, I always wondered why people were out of touch with close family and whether they made it back to Leeds in time.

The Belt

Up until the early 1980s, Scottish school students were routinely punished by having the palms of their hands hit with a heavy leather strap called a ‘Tawse’.

Izal Toilet Paper

I thought I would end this list with something even more frightful that the Lochgelly Tawse — another form of punishment...

Izal toilet paper was generally used in institutions such as schools, public loos and bars. It is a non-absorbent, somewhat abrasive ‘medicated’ toilet paper. Even back when I was a child it seemed to be something evil that persisted from darker more austere times. Believe me, I’m only scratching the surface (it did that too) of how awful it was!

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