Kennedy: 14 random things I miss from the 20th century

Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / This vintage Wilson tennis racket, photographed on April 17, is a piece of sports equipment that baby boomers might remember from the 1970s.
Staff Photo by Mark Kennedy / This vintage Wilson tennis racket, photographed on April 17, is a piece of sports equipment that baby boomers might remember from the 1970s.

We have two 21st-century children: one born in 2001 and the other in 2006.

It has become obvious to me that we baby boomers are rooted in 20th-century culture, and people born after 2000 are — well — a different species.

In short, we boomers prefer old things. Sometimes my mind spins creating a list of things I miss. It's probably just old age, but I can't shake the impulse. Here are some random things I yearn for from the 20th century that my children don't understand:

— "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." For decades I have missed the Carson show, which was the late-night soundtrack of my youth. My father was always watching when I went to bed at night.

Happy day! I recently discovered there are many seasons of the Carson-era "Tonight Show" on the Peacock streaming service, and it feels like the clouds have parted and the sun is shining though. Cue Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Orchestra. (Bonus points if you can hum the first five notes of "Johnny's Theme.")

— 35-cent movie tickets. Every time I spend $50 on two movie tickets, drinks and popcorn these days, it makes me feel a little sad. It seems like theatrical movies should be cheaper and, therefore, more accessible. And spare me the suggestion to skip popcorn and Cokes. Ain't happening.

I remember paying 35 cents for a movie ticket in the 1960s. Accounting for inflation, that's $3.10 now. Good luck finding a matinee ticket these days for 3 bucks.

— V-8 engines. I realize I'm part of a small universe here. Eight-cylinder vehicle engines still exist but haven't been in wide distribution since the 1970s. But as as we sit at the starting line of the electric vehicle age, I find myself wanted to shift into "reverse" instead of "drive."

— Cheap medicine. According to the Congressional Budget Office: "Since 1980, the share of nationwide spending on health-care services overall that can be attributed to prescription drugs has nearly doubled." When I was a teenager, working at a small-town pharmacy, drugs were affordable — at least customers rarely complained. Now, with every visit to a pharmacy I sense anguish in the checkout line.

— That dial-up internet tone. OK, you have to remember the 1990s to recall the sound of modems connecting on dial-up internet. I found the tones strangely satisfying. Do you remember the sequence: conventional dial tone, the sound of touch-tone numbers being dialed, a synthesizer sequence, a set of sonar pings, a series of electric "boings" and then a blast of white noise.


— ABC's "Wide World of Sports." You have to get into the way-back machine to remember the opening sequence to ABC's "Wide World of Sports" anthology. In the 1960s and early 70s, before ESPN went on the air, "WWOS" was appointment viewing for sports fans.

A good age test is to to say "the thrill of victory ..." and then leave it hanging. If someone responds, "the agony of defeat," you know you've found a boomer.

— Moderate politicians. The late U.S. senators John Glenn (a Democrat) and Howard Baker (a Republican) come to mind. I would have trusted those two to put their heads together and solve any problem.

— "The Godfather" (I and II). Ah, '70s cinema. They just don't make movies like they used to.

— Wilson T3000 tennis rackets. I found one of these vintage steel tennis rackets in my garage, then noticed one on eBay today for $160, probably three times what I paid in the 1970s. Jimmy Connors and Billie Jean King used this bad boy.

— Zotz. I thought Zotz, those explode-in-your-mouth candies, were long gone, but Google says "not so fast." Apparently you can still buy them, including a flavor called Hot Zotz with Fiery Cinnamon Fizz.


— Kids' bikes with sissy bars and banana seats. Any baby boomer will know these terms. But here's a piece of advice: Boomers, never try to pop a wheelie on your grandchild's bike, unless you'd like a double hip replacement.

— Cellars. Before we had finished basements, we had cellars, which were basically just hollowed-out crawl spaces with dirt floors and spiders. But they did have their charms. They were a great place to read comic books under a single, naked light bulb.

— Litter bags. Before there were cup holders and map pockets, there were litter bags — plastic bags that dangled from a radio knob inside your aunt's Oldsmobile. I'm not sure when they went out of style, but I'd use one now.

— Stereos. Amps, receivers, tuners, speakers. Kids today have no idea. I spent the bulk of my disposable income in my teens and 20s on stereo components.

So boomers, what do you miss? Drop me an email.

Contact Mark Kennedy at  or 423-757-6645.

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