Dick Tracy’s wristwatch | NevadaAppeal.com

Dick Tracy’s wristwatch

It was back in the early 1930s that Dick Tracy first began the “Dick Tracy Show.” Dick Tracy was famous for using his “two way radio wristwatch.” Back then, we thought that something like this was always going to be impossible; little did we know.

Today our lives are surrounded with all kinds of new electronic gadgets that envelope our very lives. Who among us doesn’t have a computer, doesn’t have at least one or two television sets, or doesn’t have a cell phone? Probably more than one of those in each family if I can guess right. As someone pushing 90, slowly but surely, it blows my mind.

This electronic life we lead may be fine for some; however, I seem to be stuck in the way distant past, thank you. When my oldest son, Don, visits, he’s always installing a newer computer in my office. I let out a gentle sigh and try to use it. But when a message comes up saying I need to do this or that I turn that darned thing off and go back to my crewel designs and television. Often, my articles discuss “the good old day” or “in that day.”

It’s true, however. Things were so very different in the 1930s that it boggles my mind to think how very different life is today. Have we really improved our lives with all of this technology? We old folks complain about it, but we really do know that all this “new stuff” has improved our lives tremendously. We’re just a little confused about how quickly and completely it has taken over our lives.

Just imagine, if you can and you’re young, what it feels like to be riding in a plane that is carrying over 300 passengers and is flying from Seattle, Wash. to London, England without stopping. I still remember the first time I saw a World War I type Lindberg plane fly over my home; all of this in my lifetime. I hope you can appreciate why it’s so difficult to get my mind around the whole idea?

If I were raising my boys now, instead of back in the dark ages, I would be worried about their activities. It’s just too easy today for children to plunk down in front of a computer or a television set and vegetate. Yes, I realize that they can get a lot of excellent knowledge from the above, but all too often I feel they are letting their young bodies stagnate.

In my day — how many times have you heard that phrase — we played outside, even in bitter cold snowy days in Pennsylvania, and we had a lot of those. We built snow forts and had snowball fights, and went back into our basements to hang up our wet clothes. We’d wait for them to dry so that we could go back outside and do it all over again.

In the summer we played hide and seek and hop scotch and go over to red rover and other games. I don’t think that all the time, growing up from seven till 11, that I ever had unscratched knees. My sister, Jeanne, and I loved to roller skate and we either skated up and down the sidewalks, or if we lived where the city streets were smooth we were out there going back and forth up and down the block.

But we were outside, that is until the evening hours and the radio came on in the living room. I remember reading those Dick Tracy comics, especially the big ones on Sunday when we were very young and still living close to our grandparents in South Philly. Our grandmother would set out a dish of graham crackers and Pennsylvania Dutch baloney for us to nibble on as we read the comics at her dining room table.

Evenings were spent listening to “Jack Benny” or “George Burns and Gracie Allen.” or one of the mystery shows like “The Shadow Knows.” Early in the evening we had “Little Orphan Annie” or other children shows. But we sat and listened; there was no television. Those were the days when you had to envision something and use your imagination.

Now the seemingly impossible has happened. Dick Tracy’s two-way wristwatch has become Samsung’s “smartwatch”, which is really a mini-computer. It boggles my mind when I think about kids on bikes talking on cell phones, texting or telling all on Facebook. Are we really that much better off?

Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer.