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Frisco STYLE Magazine

Changes - Good and Bad

Feb 01, 2023 ● By Bob Warren
by Bob Warren

Editor’s Note: A version of this column appeared in the April 2010 issue of Frisco STYLE. This month, Bob Warren celebrates his 102nd birthday.

Forgive me for being a little philosophical, but I just celebrated my 89th birthday and, at my age, birthdays have a way of making me stop and look two ways — backward, remembering where I’ve been, and forward, wondering what’s next.

Two recent, unrelated events made me realize how far technology has brought us in just my lifetime, and how much we have come to depend on “things” — things that were pretty much nonexistent here in Frisco 80 to 90 years ago.

The first memory-shaking event happened on one of last February’s frigid winter days. I jumped in the shower and lathered up under lukewarm water, only to have it suddenly turn icy cold. That woke me up and made me appreciate things in life that we have come to take for granted, like indoor plumbing and hot running water.

It turns out we had a leak under the slab and were without water for several days, taking sponge baths with water heated in a tea kettle. That brought memories of my early childhood when, with no bathtub in the house, I took my weekly Saturday night bath in a number three washtub in the middle of the kitchen floor. That water, too, was heated on the kitchen stove. Being an only child, I was always first in the tub, but I understand that, in large families, the bath water got pretty murky by the time the last bather got in.

A broken hot water line would not have happened in Frisco’s earliest days. Natural gas was first piped to Frisco homes in 1923, making it possible to have hot running water in our houses. Before that it was a luxury to get hot water from a reservoir on the side of a wood-burning kitchen stove.

Some of you may have shared our next event, when the big snowstorm left many of us without electricity. Our family spent 14 hours huddled in front of the fireplace, trying to read by candlelight, wishing we could watch television to see what was going on in the outside world. A power outage could not have happened here before 1913, when Brooks-Reinberg Electric Company was granted a franchise to install the first electric plant in Frisco.

Anyway, a few hours without electricity and a few days without hot water gave me plenty of time to reminisce about the many changes our generation has seen and how “spoiled” we have become as we enjoy life’s comforts.

Come with me as we look at a few of those changes, some positive and others negative. Some were induced by our generation while others were pretty much forced on us old timers.

Travel has seen dramatic changes. Our generation has come all the way from horse-and-buggy days to space travel. Land transportation has led the way with the evolution of trains and automobiles. Roads have improved from muddy trails to six- and eight-lane interstate highways. Air transportation has gone from nonexistent to the advent of giant jet liners — with open-cockpit airplanes, dirigibles and balloons in between.

Methods of correspondence have changed drastically. We have gone from handwritten letters and penny post cards to emails and Facebook.

Computers have changed the world. Our generation invented and improved them — and the Internet. They have replaced the encyclopedia as an information source. For directions to a location most anywhere in the civilized world, just go online and find a map — even a three-dimensional picture of many places. In your car, just type in an address, dial up a map and a “nice little lady” will tell you how to get to your destination. If you get off course, she will “recalculate” and get you back on track.

Telephones have, in our time, evolved from hand-cranked wall phones — answered by a “number please” operator who would connect you to a party line — to cell phones that text, tweet, take pictures and have computing and email capability. Cell phones can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the use and the user. Some people seemingly cannot do their grocery shopping without talking on their cell phone. Makes me wonder if they’re calling for advice on what to buy or if they’re asking about the choice of “paper or plastic” bags.

Our generation has seen automobiles go from a $400 open-aired Model T, without a heater or radio, to air-conditioned, computer-operated luxury vehicles equipped with power brakes, steering and windows, costing any amount you’re willing to pay.

In my lifetime, home entertainment has moved rapidly from straining to hear a crystal set radio with one set of earphones to theater-like media rooms equipped with easy chairs and big-screen, high-definition television sets with surround sound.

Housing has improved from very simple, small-frame houses to multi-room brick-and-stone mansions in gated communities; from homes cooled by open windows and heated by wood burning stoves to ones with central heat and air. We have gone from outdoor toilets to luxurious bathrooms with showers, Jacuzzis and walk-in closets larger than early bedrooms.

Our homes have seen many other changes. You have heard the expression, “The greatest thing since sliced bread.” Well, sliced bread is one of the positive changes our generation has witnessed. We have also seen the introduction of the microwave oven (how did we ever make it without them?), ice makers, steam irons, coffee makers, toasters, ceiling fans, gas log fireplaces, washing machines, clothes dryers, drip dry, no-iron clothes and the list goes on.

Call me old fashioned if you like, but I don’t see all changes as good. For example, some of today’s music has deteriorated from soothing “big band” sounds to loud, obnoxious rap. And, with church music, the modern 7-11 songs (seven words repeated 11 times) leave many of us old timers standing at the church door longing to hear the strains of King James Version hymns such as Rock of Ages and Amazing Grace.

Another disappointing change is our switch from a “fix it” to a “throw away” attitude. We, of the Depression era, are programmed to save everything from string and rags to old nuts and bolts because “We may, someday, need them to repair what’s broken.“ Armed with baling wire, Super Glue and duct tape, we will tackle anything. But today’s attitude is a lackadaisical, “Just toss it, we’ll get a new one.”

My wife, Wanda, recently told me her lavatory faucet was leaking. I replied, “I’ll buy a 10-cent washer and fix it.” At the store I was told, “Sir, we only sell repair kits for that faucet. The kit is $39.95, or you can replace the whole faucet for $65.” I took the kit and fixed it. That left me visualizing landfills full of perfectly good things that just need fixing.

Yes, our generation has seen many changes!

Now, young fellow, if you will put your video game aside a few minutes, I’ll show you how to repair that broken cell phone.

Hand me the pliers and duct tape, please.


Bob Warren is a local historian, former mayor of Frisco and formerly a regular contributor to Frisco STYLE Magazine.