"It Blew Her Mind When I Told Her": Older Adults Are Sharing The "Common Knowledge" Practices From The Past That Have Become Obsolete Over Time

I'll truly never forget the surprised faces of my younger cousins when I explained to them that I used to have a phone that wasn't touchscreen. I can't believe we've gotten to this point, but I won't lie by saying that I haven't been shocked by things that were normal "back in the day." So when members of the BuzzFeed Community shared the facts and experiences from the past that are not so common today, I was completely captivated. Here are some of the responses that might leave you feeling nostalgic or genuinely confused:

1."We smoked everywhere — I mean EVERYWHERE. I remember going to the doctor as a kid, and they would even smoke in the exam room."

Person's hand with red nails holding a cigarette and a box of matches
Irina Marwan / Getty Images

2."'Cut and paste' meant you cut out the actual paragraph from the actual piece of paper and pasted it into a new one. Also, does anyone remember the mimeograph machine? You would type on this special paper with several layers, and if you made a mistake, you had to paint over it with a pink liquid that never dried and always smeared everywhere. Then you would insert that stack of paper into a machine and crank it to pump out however many copies you needed."


3."I remember when ice cream came in a square container, and we used to have to slice it."

Retro square "Neapolitan" ice cream box with three flavors: strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate

4."I remember when homes used to have 'milk chutes' near the side door, where the milkman would leave the milk. There also used to be a 'paper/rags' man who drove by the house in a horse-drawn cart collecting paper and rags. That was in the late '50s, and I was about 4 or 5. There was also a man who would come around and sell waffles. Best waffles ever!"


5."Home fax machines. They were kind of like instant messaging...only not as instant. Also, you had to unplug your phone from the line and plug the line into the fax machine to use it. AND if you forgot to plug the cable back into the phone, people couldn't reach you at all."

A dusty old fax machine with buttons and a display screen, sitting on a wooden desk next to a modem
Iqbal Wahyudi / Getty Images

6."I remember when telephone numbers consisted of letters AND numbers. For example, I lived in a city called Globe. My phone was GL7-2242. The next town over was Diamond, so everyone's phone number in that town started with DI."


7."My almost 5-year-old recently asked me what kind of phone I had when I was 5. It blew her mind when I told her that I didn't have a phone. I told her that the only phone we had was used solely for making calls and that it was plugged in and had a cord. Then I had to explain what a smartphone is and that I didn't have one until I was like 23. That blew her mind even more."

Woman on a corded phone making a face, caught off guard, with a towel in her hand, standing in a bathroom
Jena Ardell / Getty Images

8."In Melbourne, Australia, we had a dedicated 'book of the roads' called 'Melways.' The damn thing was stupidly heavy and confusing to read. It would fall apart the second you got it, but it was essential to have in every car."


9."All soft drinks were sold in glass bottles, and you could pick up the empty bottles and turn them in at the store, where you could trade them in for either a new soda or money. I used to pull my red Radio Flyer wagon with my bike around our neighborhood and pick up empty bottles to take back to the store so that I could redeem them for change to supplement my allowance. The local bottlers would take the bottles, wash and sanitize them, and then put fresh soda and a new cap on them. Nowadays, all glass bottles are disposable."

Woman from the past holding a Coca-Cola bottle, wearing a vintage suit, with a natural backdrop
Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

10."Need to write a school paper? Pull out the typewriter. Need to choose a font? Surprise — you only get one! Did you make a mistake? Hope you have a steady hand for that tiny Wite-Out brush that will leave giant white blobs on the page."


11."I showed my 19-year-old coworker a cassette tape. She had no idea what it was and didn't believe me when I told her."

Cassette tape with "MIXTAPE" label, evoking nostalgia for past music recording practices
Richard Newstead / Getty Images

12."Until the very late 1990s or early 2000s, my parents were still using a landline phone that was on a party line. They lived in a very rural area. I remember having to 'listen in' to make sure someone in the neighborhood wasn't using the phone line before placing a call. You could literally pick up the phone and listen to your neighbors' phone conversations if you wanted to."


13."When it came to taking pictures, we were careful about what pictures we took because processing them was expensive. For my family, it wasn't unusual to have a film roll last one to two years before being developed. And if your pictures came back blurry, overexposed, or just plain horrible, there was nothing you could do but be disappointed."

Woman smiling at the camera holding a camera, outdoors with people in the background
Marco_piunti / Getty Images

14."When your parents sent you to the grocery store, they would give you a written list of what was needed. The grocer would then take the list, collect the items from the shelves, then bag them for you. Nobody — kids or grown-ups — was allowed to take items off the shelves because the grocer did it for everyone. At the time, there was no such thing as a grocery cart."


15."In junior high, girls could only wear dresses. Also, during school dances, we had to have a ruler because we couldn't be less than 6 inches away from our dance partners."

1950s classroom scene with students seated and a girl writing on the chalkboard as the teacher observes

—Sheri, 71, Washington

Dennis Hallinan

16."Listening to the radio and hoping they would play the song you liked. Because if you didn't own the record, that was the only way to hear the song. Of course, you could maybe try taping the song whenever it came on, but most of the time, you were just left with a sloppy tape filled with incomplete songs because the beginnings were cut off."


17."People who traveled on airplanes dressed up. Men wore dress shirts and suits or sport jackets, and women wore nice dresses and heels."

Group of people standing outside the Anchorage International Airport in a historical photo

—Anonymous, 78, California

Harvey Meston / Getty Images

18."It's not an exaggeration whenever we say that smoking was allowed everywhere. Just a few years before I was in high school, there was a smoking section for students to smoke so long as they had a permission slip from their parents on file. Also, planes used to have bars in them. I have a memory of flying to England with my grandma, and I remember her getting up for a while to go get a drink from the bar."


19."Back in the 1970s and 1980s, owned dogs were allowed to roam around a lot. I grew up in a city, and owned dogs were everywhere — unchained and unfenced. Our dog would visit the neighbors every day and catch some sun in their backyard. Sometimes he would go visit the vet hospital, which was about eight blocks away. (He was car and street savvy.) But sometimes the 'pound dog catchers' would drive through the neighborhood, and we kids were always scared by how they caught the dogs and euthanized them. There weren't any 'dog rescues' back then, just the pound, so we'd all hide our dogs inside. I feel like dogs nowadays are generally safer, but they're also more bored and less social."

Woman in a floral dress sitting with a German shepherd on grass, both posing for the camera


Jena Ardell / Getty Images

20."Whenever you went shopping for new shoes, there would be an X-ray machine in the store. You'd stick your feet in the machine and look into the viewer at the top to see if the shoes fit properly. You could wiggle your toes and see the bones move."


21."In the '50s, my mother had to have my father's permission to use birth control. Even in the '60s, my aunt had to have my uncle's permission to go on the Pill too."

A vintage photo of a family with a baby, standing next to a classic car, smiling and waving at the camera
Pnc / Getty Images

22."The house I grew up in had an incinerator in the basement. Every evening after dinner, I would bring the paper bag full of trash to the basement and burn it in the incinerator. On Saturdays, it was my job to empty the ashes from the week's worth of burning and haul it out to the 55-gallon drum that served as our trash can."

—Bud, 65, Arizona

23."If we wanted to straighten our hair, we would lay our heads on the ironing board, get our hair wrapped in waxed paper, and have someone iron it!"

An iron on an ironing board with a washing machine in the background


Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

24."I remember making clay ashtrays in my second-grade art class in the early 1980s. It seemed like a good project to the teacher, since virtually everyone had ashtrays in their homes — even nonsmoking households."


25."Kids either walked to school or took the bus. It was rare for a parent to take their child to school."

Woman holding young child, both looking at the camera with a natural backdrop

—Dave, 70, Pennsylvania

Sergio Mendoza Hochmann / Getty Images

26.Last but not least: "In the '60s, I was in grade school, and the Cold War was still going on. As part of our war drills, my class would practice hiding under our desks and covering our heads. Like, what? As if doing that would matter amid a nuclear war."

Children lining up to board school buses, supervised by an adult; vintage setting


FPG / Getty Images

All I can say is that I'm glad smoking everywhere is no longer a normalized thing. Like, the second-hand smoke must have been so wild?! Anyway, what are some other fascinating experiences or facts from "back in the day" that you'd like to share? As a Gen Z'er myself, I'd truly love to know. Share your stories down below in the comments, or you can anonymously submit them using this Google form!