Pretty much everything around you that you take for granted was not, at one time or another, actually here.
This kind of topic comes up every so often in a newsroom because of the differences in age between some of us, such as young, fresh-out-of-school reporters and old, nearly-dead editors.
Every profession has this phenomenon, of course, in which the boring old guys sit around and try to captivate the youngsters with their tales of how it used to be. It happens in the military, in academia, in show business, in fire stations, in the health-care industry - anywhere you have a mixture of young and old people trying to co-exist in the same profession.
And, in most of those professions, the young people roll their eyes and give each other secret signals (can you believe he's telling that story again?) whenever the geezers hold court. We were reminded of this last week when one of our younger people pointed out that one of our older people likes to talk about the time before there was fast food.
Of course, everybody laughs because they think he made that up. But that's exactly what the old-timers are going for: trying to come up with a story so outrageous the kids never heard it before. They want them to wonder, 'Is this for real, or has he been into the liquor already?'
In the interest of disclosure, I must point out, as I do periodically, that I am no longer young. I've been eligible for the senior discount at the all-you-can-eat Panda Buffet in Tigard since last September.
So, yes, I am one of those boring geezers who remembers before most people had TV, before phones had push buttons, before men and women cursed in the presence of each other, before Snickers bars cost 10 cents, before cars had seatbelts and before there were ethnic restaurants, if you don't count the Chinese joints next door to every bowling alley in America.
At my first newspaper job, at the Tigard Times in 1974, there was a typewriter on every desk along with a quart bottle of rubber cement, which allowed you to make major changes in a story by cutting your page apart and gluing in a new section - kind of like your cut and paste computer maneuver, only much sloppier.
You could also smoke in the newsroom, which I did constantly. In fact, it was years before I figured out that I could actually write a story without a cigarette going (most of which just burned up in the ashtray).
The cameras they gave us to shoot parades and mug shots and ribbon cuttings in the old days were clunky, boxy things that you held at waist level and peered down into the top, at a square image that was upside down and backward. Our level of newspaper photography in those days was not very good, but I was amazed that any pictures of anything turned out, considering the limitations we were working with.
Also, the men's restroom doubled as our darkroom, so it was not uncommon to hear a couple of loud bangs on the door followed by, 'You about done in there? I need to develop film!'
Today we try to impress the newcomers by reminiscing about the days before computers, before digital cameras, before e-mail, before the Internet, before cell phones and other handheld devices and before electronic pagination of news pages.
Nobody's impressed. Last summer an intern laughed at us because we were still designing the Times papers on QuarkXpress instead of InDesign.
Hey, it wasn't that long ago that when we finished the paper somebody ran out to their car with a large flat box full of paste-up pages and drove the whole shebang to Eagle Web Press in Salem. In fact, if you were the one tardy writer or editor who caused the paper to be late, the scariest thing the publisher or the production manager could say was, 'If you don't finish that page right now, you will be driving this newspaper to Salem!'
I drove more than my share of papers to Salem, but part of that was because I (then) lived in Woodburn and they figured, hey, he's going that way anyway.
Now we send the whole newspaper to press electronically in a sort of highfalutin e-mail attachment.
I remember before there were a lot of things - before there was sunscreen, instant oatmeal, calculators, wash-and-wear clothes, microwave ovens, Post-it notes, pizza, recycled paper, rock and roll music - and yes, fast food.
And that information, plus a couple of bucks, will buy you a cup of coffee - which, of course, used to cost a dime.
Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.