When I venture out for an appointment or to go shopping, I am frequently approached by local senior citizens who offer comments on my biweekly articles about old-time Napa for the Register.
They thank me for the trips down memory lane, urge me to keep it up and then close by saying, “I miss the old days.” I always admit that I miss the old days, too.
For this essay, I decided to mention a few things that I miss from the days of yore in and about my hometown.
I miss the all-male barbershops of old where you got a haircut and plenty of male conversation. The barbers, customers in the chairs and those waiting all participated in discussions of the weather, sports and the problems of the country.
Unless they were taking a male child in for a haircut, women never entered the barbershops of old. Likewise, men never entered a ladies’ beauty salon.
For the past 25 years, I have been going to the local Supercuts, where there are all female barbers, and have Kelly cut my hair. She does a great job.
However, I miss the barber shop experience I once enjoyed at Kimball’s barber shop of the 1940s and 1950s. It was in the old Oberon building on Main Street (now Downtown Joe’s) and Bill Gambill’s shop on Second Street near Franklin in the 1970s.
Remember when downtown was where you found everything but you had to walk from store to store to get them? If you wanted something from a drug store, there were six of them within about three blocks of each other and you could take your pick. If you wanted something from a hardware store, there were four or five in the downtown area. If you wanted a jewelry store, there were several along First Street. If you needed groceries, you had your choice of five or six markets within the downtown core.
Now, all of that and more is available at one store and under one roof at several of the local big-box stores on the outskirts of town.
Shopping is just not the same. I miss our downtown.
Long ago, the valley floor was covered with fruit orchards. Orchards lined both sides of Highway 29 from north Napa to Yountville. They were mostly prune orchards with walnut and other kinds of fruits thrown in. In some areas, it was like driving in a tunnel of trees.
I love today’s vineyards, but I miss yesterday’s orchards.
Have you noticed, there are no more telephone booths? Not too long ago, they were on many corners and in most service stations.
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Those square boxes with windows and folding doors played an important role in the scheme of things in most cities, including Napa.
If you had to make a phone call while away from home you searched for a phone booth. Or, when looking for a person or business in a strange area, normal practice was to find a phone booth and look up the name, address or phone numbers in the booth’s phone book.
Phone booths are a thing of the past, and I miss them.
Yes, phone booths have disappeared and now phone books as we know them are on the way out.
When Ma Bell had the telephone monopoly, they furnished phone books that listed the name, address and phone number of all subscribers. They were a key resource for addresses and phone numbers.
Today, cellphones from multiple manufacturers and vendors have replaced the old Ma Bell phones. The cellphone companies do not furnish phone books.
I miss phone books.
Remember service stations, stations where the customer actually got service? The customer remained in the car and was served by a uniformed attendant who would add fuel, check the oil, water in the radiator and pressure in the tires — and wash the windshield. All so-called service stations of today are now self-serve.
Napa of yore had a lot of real service stations. The 1960 Napa City Directory listed 41 such stations in town.
People still call places that sell gas “service stations,” but unless you want to go inside the on-site mini-market and buy coffee, candy or cigarettes, there is no service.
I miss real, honest-to-goodness service stations.
Let’s face it. Our lifestyles and our surroundings are changing on a daily basis. I try to keep up with the changes but, to use an old colloquialism, the hurrier I go, the behinder I get.
I miss the old days.