This week, we had an assignment to interview someone 65 or older and ask him or her questions about their memory of different media forms and how it has altered their life and changed throughout the course of their life. I am lucky to have two amazing grandparents: my grandfather Angelo Salvatore is 90 years old, and my grandmother, Dolores Salvatore is 88. In their lifetimes, they have seen media expand from the early days of radio to smart phones. My grandmother thinks that Siri is an amazing concept and finds it hilarious that my cell phone will talk to me, and my grandfather is equally amazed at FaceTime and how you can see the other person you are talking to. I asked them some questions about what they remember of media throughout their lives.
My grandfather was about 14 years old when his father brought home their first radio. He told me “it looked like a piece of furniture, it was so big!” He remembered listening the fights of Joe Louis, an American professional boxer and World Heavyweight Champion from 1937-1949. He specifically remembered listening to the fight between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling who was from Germany. My grandfather remembered the outcome of both matches: Schmeling was victorious the first time they fought in 1936, but Louis came out on top the second time in 1938. My grandmother was about 12 years old when she remembers her family getting their first radio. She said that when her parents weren’t listening to it, her and her siblings would fight for what station they wanted to listen to. They would all listen together when they were home because there was only one.
My grandparents were married in 1947, and did not have their first television until after they were married. Their first television was black and white. My grandparents each remember watching a different TV show with their parents: my grandfather said that in his fathers house, it always had to be silent when the news was on. Conversely, my grandmother said that in her mothers home, it always had to be quiet when The Lawrence Welk Show was on which debuted in 1955.
My grandparents don’t remember specific dates, so I asked my mom to fill in some of the gaps. My grandparents had one television set until the early 70s when my mother was a young teenager. Growing up, the one television they had only reached three channels. They did not have cable until they got their first color television set in 1972. My mother and my grandparents agreed that a second TV set made a difference in their lives. My mother said it meant she got to watch more of what she wanted because she did not have to watch the same thing as her parents. Although, she did say she often fought with her two older brothers over what programs to watch.
My grandparents enjoyed going to see live theater in the 60s and early 70s more than going to a movie theater. When my grandfather was younger, he would clean his older sisters basement for a nickel, which, at the time, was enough money to go down the street and see a movie. He has not been to a movie theater in years. I think it is amazing how much the price of a movie has so drastically changed since my grandfather was young. My mother has memories of going to the drive-in movies with her parents and brothers when she was a young girl. The first movie she remembers seeing in theaters was The Singing Nun which my grandmother took her to see when it came out in 1966. My mother was six years old.
My grandparents have never owned a VCR or DVD player or TiVo/DVR, so instead I turned to my parents. My parents bought their first VCR when they were first married in the 1980s. It cost over $500, which seems ridiculously expensive to us now, but back then it was the newest technology. My mother said that VCR/DVD players greatly changed her quality of life. She remembered being a little girl and waiting all year to watch The Wizard of Oz because it only played once a year. She said they were very careful to only get snacks and use the bathroom during commercial breaks so they did not miss any part of the movie–if they missed some, they could not rewind or pause, they had to wait a whole year to see it again. Because I grew up with VHS tapes, this concept seems crazy to me! I can’t imagine having to wait a whole year to see a movie. My biggest inconvenience as a child was rewinding my VHS tapes when they were over. We got our first DVD player in my house in the early 2000s, and I remember being sad because some of my favorite movies were still on VHS tapes.
My grandfather is adorably stubborn and does not like to change his routine, so new technology is always hard for him to adjust to. My parents told me that it took years to convince him to get a remote for his television when they came out. He kept saying he didn’t need one and that he didn’t mind getting up to change the channels himself but my parents got him one anyway, and he loved it. The same thing happened recently. We had been talking to my grandparents about getting a cell phone for several years, and they always refused. Two years ago, my parents insisted and got them a very basic phone. My brother and I programmed all their phone numbers in it and taught them how to use it, however they still have a hand-written hard copy of all their family and friends phone numbers on the inside of their kitchen cabinet. Even though my grandfather was hesitant about a cell phone at first, I asked him if he thought it improved his quality of life and he said absolutely. “Now I wonder how I got along without it!” He thinks it is smart to have because we live two hours away and when he drives to visit us, it is important that he has a way to contact someone if he gets stuck or his car were to break down. He says it is a plus to have a cell phone and makes him feel better because if something were to happen to him or my grandmother, he could call a doctor or for help no matter where they are.
Although they are recent owners of a cell phone, my grandparents have never had a computer or anything of the sort. They say that they do not understand anything about computers and gadgets and wouldn’t know how to work one. My parents got our first computer in the early 1990s.
Overall, my grandparents said their quality of life has improved. They are always amazed by the technology we have today and how many different things I can do with my iPhone. My grandmother said life is so fast today; you can’t sit still because everything is different and always changing and you have to keep up. I definitely agree with her! It is sometimes difficult to stay on top of all the current technologies, but it has changed our lives and the way we communicate in so many ways.
I loved doing this assignment because I always love talking to my grandparents about their lives as children and trying to understand the differences in the way we grew up. I think back to the world they lived in when they were children and how amazing it is that they have seen virtually every version of technology grow and develop.