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Country Roads: Where were you when?

Arvid Huisman huismaniowa@msn.com
Arvid Huisman huismaniowa@msn.com

On an anniversary of a significant historical event, people often ask, “Where were you when…” There are events in our lives that leave a lasting memory. Some are tragic, some joyful and others less significant in the big picture.

I can remember several less significant events, like the first time I ever watched a color television set. While I can’t remember the exact date it was in the fall of 1958 (maybe 1959.) The Jewell Co-op Elevator, where my father worked at the time, sold Felco brand feeds and hosted a Felco Freddie Day sales promotion. Employees cleaned up a bagged feed storage area, set up 2” thick planks on cement blocks for benches and offered free popcorn and beverages to their farmer customers.

I wasn’t farmer customer but I heard that there was going to be a color TV –and free food – and that it would be tuned to an Iowa Hawkeye football game. Udell Gabrielson, owner of the local TV store, set up a new console color TV set inside the feed shed and connected it to a makeshift antenna outside the building. I remember watching the Hawkeye game in awe. Black and gold uniforms playing on a green football field. Amazingly better than a black, white and gray picture. It would be another 13 or 14 years before I would own a color TV but I have never forgotten the first look at such at Felco Freddie Day.

Do you remember the first time you heard a stereophonic recording? I do. My Uncle Floyd was an electronics aficionado and I was developing an interest in electronics. One Sunday afternoon in the early ’60s he demonstrated his latest interest – a home built stereo system. I heard one sound coming out of the right hand speaker and another out of the left hand speaker. It sounded like I was right there in the music hall where the recording was made. At age 14 or so I was hooked and old fashioned monaural records just didn’t cut it for me anymore.

When did you first see a microwave oven in action? Again, I can’t remember the exact date but it was in the early ’70s at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds in Webster City. The merchants of the community staged a home show in an exhibition building on the fairgrounds and as a young radio reporter I was conducting interviews with some of the vendors. At the Home Appliance booth I was introduced to an Amana Radarange™ microwave oven. One of the store employees put some popcorn kernels in a paper bag, set the timer and pushed the start button. Within a matter of seconds I could hear popcorn popping. I could smell it, too!

Amazing. Simply amazing. Again, it would be a few years before I could afford a microwave oven. I won a sales contest at work and using the proceeds to purchase what was then still a very expensive appliance for my wife for Christmas.

It’s difficult for me to believe you can purchase a pocket calculator for a buck or two these days. I remember the first one I ever saw. It was much more expensive.

This, too, was in the early ’70s. My boss came back to the office one afternoon with a big smile and something in his hand. “Look at this,” he beamed. He showed me an object about 3” x 4.5” with a numeric keypad and a digital screen at the top. This was still the day of the bulky mechanical adding machines but here in my boss’ hand was an instrument that could add, subtract, multiply and divide. I was impressed and wanted one for myself until my boss told me he had paid nearly $100 for the device.

About five years later I purchased my own pocket calculator. The price had fallen to about $65 and I had to have one. Or so I told myself.

Nowadays, I have a couple of pocket calculators that were given to me free as an advertising specialty item… just like a ballpoint pen. I have seen a lot of new things in my lifetime and I’m looking forward to seeing even more.

I’m waiting for Amazon to deliver my next order with a drone aircraft!

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