"My Adult Children Didn't Believe Me": 26 Normal Practices And Routines From The Past That Have Gen Z'ers Confused, Perplexed, And Puzzled

I am not that old, but one time, I was telling my younger cousins about how Netflix used to be a mailing service, and they were absolutely gobsmacked. I myself was kinda shocked, too, because I'd just assumed that was common knowledge. (Wait 'til I tell them about the mythical world of Blockbuster.) So, when redditor u/MrDNL asked the people of r/AskOldPeople to share the "common knowledge" things from their time that younger generations might have a hard time believing, I was all in. Here are some of the responses that will either make you feel totally nostalgic or completely puzzled:

1."When the internet first came out, you couldn't talk on the phone and be online at the same time."

Little boy on computer
Dorann Weber / Getty Images

2."Going to get gas was more of an experience. When you went, the gas station attendants would put gas in your car, clean your windshield, and check your oil. After that, you just paid them through your car window; you never had to get out of the car."


3."I'm just old enough to remember smoking on planes. It still blows my mind that that was a thing!"

Cigarette and seatbelt sign on airplane is lit up
Maxiphoto / Getty Images/iStockphoto

4."We used to make our Christmas or birthday wishlists from looking in store catalogs, like Sears. You could actually order and pay for things via 'snail mail,' and it was safe to do so."


5."This wasn't that long ago, but there used to be no security screenings at airports. You could literally walk the person to the boarding area and watch them board the plane."

Passengers are boarding an airplane
Aaron Mccoy / Getty Images

6."Whenever you wanted to download something online, you'd have to basically threaten everyone in the house with their lives if they picked up the phone during the amount of download time it took. It would take hours to download a game or an image, and if someone used the phone, the download would START OVER from the beginning. Plus, in the mid-'90s, you'd have to pay by the hour."


7."My 20-year-old son liked hearing this one: When driving in unfamiliar territory, you had to get directions by either stopping at the gas station and asking an attendant, or buying a map/atlas."

A couple is looking at a roadmap
Visualspace / Getty Images

8."Seatbelts weren't taken seriously by most people until the '90s."


9."There were ashtrays everywhere: Homes, businesses, restaurants, hospitals, malls, designated areas in schools, and more. Even if you didn't smoke, it was normal to have ashtrays available for your guests in the house — like on the coffee table or in the kitchen."

A woman is smoking a cigarette indoors
Pawel Wewiorski / Getty Images

10."My boss blew my young coworker's mind the other day when she explained that there is a special kind of black paper that you can put between two regular pieces of paper, and when you write on the top page, it also shows up on the bottom page."


11."Drunk driving wasn't a serious crime until a group of moms got together and advocated (MADD)."

Two teens are drinking while driving
Roy Morsch / Getty Images

12."There was a room called the 'coal room' in the basement of our house. We'd shovel coal from that room into a coal furnace whenever we needed to heat our house up. The coal was delivered by a truck that had a coal chute, which was inserted through a basement window in the coal room."


13."That it was normal for an entire household to share a single phone number."

A young woman is talking on the phone

14."The drinking age was 18 back in my day, but you could walk into a bar at 16 and order a drink. Nobody really cared."


15."People used to actually write letters, put a stamp on them, and mail them to their friends and relatives! As a kid, I would write letters to my school friends over summer break just to tell them how my summer was going, and most would write back telling me how things were with them. I still remember when stamps went from 18 cents to 20 cents, and my grandma complained about how outrageous that was. Today, a first-class stamp is 66 cents, and I only mail Christmas cards and thank you notes nowadays."

A postcard from Australia is being shown
Whitemay / Getty Images

16."If you misbehaved in school, the teacher could — and would — dish out some corporal punishment. I had a couple of teachers who absolutely loved punishing kids with those big wooden paddles."


17."When you watched TV, you had to watch what was on, and if you wanted to watch something in particular, you had to wait for it to come on."

A woman is talking on the phone while watching TV

18."Phone numbers were memorized, and there was no speed dial, caller ID, or voicemail. I still remember my home number and my best friend's number from over 50 years ago."


19."Kids could leave home, and people didn't bat an eye about it. My grandfather was eight when he left home and made his way into the world. He had no education and worked jobs for people, and no one even questioned why an eight-year-old was alone. He signed up for WWII when he was 17 because no one checked for identification."

A little girl is seated in a bus
Jena Ardell / Getty Images

20."Houses in the same area had to share a telephone 'party line' where you could listen in on everyone else's conversations."


21."I remember that you couldn't know the sex of your kid until the baby was born. Apparently, there were ways to tell, though. I remember my mom's friends would hold a necklace with a weight over the woman's belly. They thought that you could tell the sex by whether the necklace swung up and down or back and forth."

A baby girl is celebrating their birthday
Oscar Romero Ruiz / Getty Images

22."In the '50s, the milkman would come in through our always-unlocked backdoor and put the milk straight in our refrigerator. Unbelievable."


23."On the evening news, every night they would show the 'Doomsday Clock.' It's an analog clog that, when it hits midnight, it meant we would be in nuclear war. It was usually very close to midnight — like, five minutes before. Imagine having the very real threat of nuclear war looming over your head every single day."

The Doomsday Clock is shown

24."There were telephones EVERYWHERE: Streets, shops, sidewalk corners, etc. And you paid for calls with COINS."


25."Cigarette machines were pretty much everywhere. As long as you put the money in, you could get a pack of smokes no matter what age you were."

A cigarette vending machine is shown

26.Lastly: "My adult children and all of their friends didn't believe me when I first told them that married women weren't allowed to have a credit card in their own name until 1974. Before that, women could only have a card through their husband."


I don't know about you guys, but I'm still stuck on the fact that people were allowed to smoke on planes?! Alright, if you have some fascinating facts or experiences about life back then that younger people would be surprised to hear, drop them in the comments below, or you can submit anonymously using this form!