How Old is Grandma?

Stay with this — the answer is at the end — it will blow you away.

One evening a Grandson was talking to his Grandmother, about current events. The Grandson asked his Grandmother what she thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general.

Grandma replied, “Well, let me think a minute.”

I was born before: Gay-rights, computer-dating, dual careers, daycare centers, group therapy, and guy’s wearing earrings.. Our lives were governed by the Ten Commandments, good judgment, and common sense. We were taught to know the difference between right and wrong, and to stand up and take responsibility for our actions. Serving your country was a privilege; living in this country was a bigger privilege. We thought fast food was what people ate during Lent. Having a meaningful relationship meant getting along with your cousins. Draft dodgers were people who closed their front doors when the evening breeze started. Time-sharing meant time the family spent together in the evenings and weekends, not purchasing condominiums.

We listened to the Big Bands, Jack Benny, and the President’s speeches on our radios. And I don’t ever remember any kid blowing his brains out listening to Tommy Dorsey. If you saw anything with ‘Made in Japan ‘ on it, it was junk. The term ‘making out,’ referred to how you did on your school exam.

Clothes were hung out to dry in the fresh air and man hadn’t yet walked on the moon. Your Grandfather and I got married first-and then lived together. Every family had a Father and a Mother. Until I was 25, I called every man older than I, ‘Sir.’ And after I turned 25, I still called policemen and every man with a title, ‘Sir.’We had 5 &10-cent stores, where you could actually buy things for 5 and 10 cents. Ice-cream cones, phone calls, rides on a streetcar, a cup of coffee, and a Coke, were all a Nickel. And if you didn’t want to splurge, you could spend your nickel on enough stamps to mail 1 letter and 2 postcards. You could buy a new Chevy Coupe for $600. But who could afford one? Too bad, because gas was 11 cents a gallon.

In my day: ‘Grass’ was mowed, ‘coke’ was a cold drink, ‘pot’ was something your mother cooked in, and ‘rock music’ was your grandmother’s lullaby. ‘Aids’ were helpers in the Principal’s office, chip” meant a piece of wood, “hardware” was found in a hardware store, and “software” wasn’t even a word.

And we were the last generation, to actually believe that a lady needed a husband to have a baby. No wonder people call us “Old and Confused” and say there is a Generation Gap…

I Was Born Before: Television, penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, Xerox, contact lenses, Frisbees, and the pill. There was no: Radar, credit cards, laser beams, or ball-point pens.

We Never Heard Of: FM radios, tape decks, CDs, electric typewriters, yogurt, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, or Instant Coffee.

Man Had Not Invented: Pantyhose, air conditioners, dishwashers, or clothes dryers.

And How Old Do You Think I Am? I bet you have this old lady in mind. You are in for a shock!!!

This Woman Would Be Only 58 Years Old!!!!! (in 2006)

Pretty scary if you think about it and pretty sad at the same time.

The Facts:

While her personal reminisces about behavior and social customs might be right on for someone who is 58, Grandma is a little confused about when things came on the scene, or maybe she just does not want to admit her real age. But she gives us a few hints about her true age when she tells her grandson about things that came after her birthday. Lets see if we can figure out just how old Grandma really is.

Seems like Grandma says she was born about 1948, so her claim that she was born before credit cards seems true enough since the first credit card, Diners Club, was issued in 1950. So far she is still just 58.

She claims she was born before Frisbees. Well now she is cutting it thin, since Frisbees were introduced in 1948. But of course she could have been born early in the year and Frisbees came later. So she could still be just 58.

Ball Point pens were invented by Ladislo Biro in 1938 and first used by British RAF pilots who needed a reliable writing instrument. Seems fountain pens did not work well at high altitudes. If they thought to use a pencil perhaps we would still be staining our shirt pockets with leaking pens. Oh wait; we still do that, only now we use uncapped markers. The ballpoint pen was first launched commercially in 1945. So that makes Grandma about 61.

Grandma claims she was around before Penicillin. Well that depends on what her definition of “before” is. Penicillin was discovered in 1928 but couldn’t be made in commercial quantities. This problem was solved in the late thirty’s and by D-Day 1944 allied troops were being treated with the miracle drug. So we’ll give Grandma some leeway and consider she was born in early 1944. This would make her approaching 62 right now.

FM radio was invented in 1933. One of the first broadcasts was an experimental station, W3XO, on 8/28/1939 in Washington DC. The station went commercial as WINX-FM in 1943. Others quickly followed. Most stations broadcast classical music in those days, due to the superior, static free quality of the reception. Not any more though. Now its Hard-rock, Punk, Rap, and frequent commercial breaks. So much for superior reception. But Grandma just aged another year. She is now at least 63.

Radar was successfully developed by the British just prior to WWII. They kept it secret and the outnumbered RAF used it successfully against the numerically superior Luftwaff during the Battle of Britain in 1940. The heroic action of the RAF fighter pilots is what inspired Winston Churchill to remark “Never have so many owed so much to so few”.

The British did eventually share it with us though, later in the war. (Probably a payment of sorts against the lease part of the Lend-Lease Act.) By 1942 or so the word Radar had entered common usage. Another year for Grandma. She’s ready for Medicare now- 65.

The first working television was demonstrated in 1925. It was a mechanical monster with perforated revolving disks at the transmitter and receiver that had to be kept in perfect synchronization. But it worked. Two years later Philo T. Farnsworth invented an electronic TV that did away with the spinning disks. It was demonstrated at the New York Worlds Fair in 1939. WWII slowed commercial development, though there were a few stations broadcasting a few hours a day. But Grandma says she was born before TV (We’ll give ol’ Grandma a break and ignore the 1925 and 1927 demonstrations of TV.) so 1939 makes her at least 67.

Nescafe, developed instant coffee in 1938 as a solution to a Brazilian coffee surplus. And, if you’ll pardon the pun, it was an instant success. So if Grandma was around before instant coffee she is 68 now.

Practical electric typewriters appeared in the 1920’s. They became more common in the 1930’s so lets give Grandma another break and pick 1935. This makes Grandma about 71 now. More or less.

Clarence Birdseye invented Frozen Food in 1930. I guess the trouble was few people had refrigerator-freezers in their homes. So even if Grandma did not use frozen food, if she pre-dated them she is almost 76 now.

The first home Air Conditioners were marketed in 1928. If Grandma means any Air Conditioner she is even older. The first commercial use of a modern Air Conditioning unit came in 1902, installed in a printshop to control the humidity that caused paper jams and mis-registration. So we’ll give the old lady a break again and use the home air conditioner date. Grandma’s now 78.

We should probably stop here. Grandma’s old enough now and a woman does have the right to lie about her age. I think it’s in the Constitution or the Bible.

But just so you know, Grandma could be much, much older.

The Dishwasher was invented in 1893 by–no surprise here–a women. Josephine Cochran started a company to manufacture and market her machine. That company eventually became Kitchenaid. At first dishwashers were used mainly by hotels and restaurants but shortly after WWII they began to become essential home appliances.

A patent for a clothes dryer was issued in 1892. By 1915 they were electrified and used in laundries. It took a while for them to appear in any noticeable quantity in America’s homes. We have a lot of sun and a lot of clothesline.

Washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers were not that common in homes around 1948 but they certainly were not unknown. You’ll find them causing all kinds of problems for Laurel & Hardy or the Three Stooges in comedies from the twenty’s and thirty’s. So Grandma could hardly escape knowing such things were around. There is even an occasional small screen (big console) TV in some of the Stooges films

And lets not even consider yogurt. If we did we’d have to call her Grandmummy.

“A huge lie repeated often enough is soon accepted as truth.”…Herr Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister.