SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Rat Fink, Lumbago, Wall-To-Wall, Store Bought

By Bob Weaver

Former Calhouner, the late Al Ball, wrote about words that make you realize how old you are.

He said "I haven't thought about "fender skirts" in years. When I was a kid, I considered it such a funny term. Made me think of a car in a dress."

He said thinking about "fender skirts" started him thinking about other words that quietly disappear from our language. Like "curb feelers" and "steering knobs."

Kids will probably have to find some "elderly" person over 65 to explain these terms.

Do you remember "continental kits?" They were rear bumper extenders and spare tire covers that were supposed to make any car as cool as a Lincoln Continental.

When did we quit calling them "emergency brakes?" asked Ball. At some point "parking brake" was the proper term. He said he missed the hint of drama that went with "emergency brake."

"I'm sad, too, that almost all the old folks are gone who would call the accelerator the "foot feed." Didn't you ever wait at the street for your daddy to come home, so you could ride the "running board" up to the house?"

Ball recalled an oft used phrase he heard frequently in his youth - "store-bought." Of course, just about everything is store-bought these days.

But once it was bragging material to have a store-bought dress or a store-bought bag of candy.

"Coast to coast" is a phrase that once held all sorts of excitement and now means almost nothing. Now we take the term "worldwide" for granted, Ball said.

On a smaller scale, "wall-to-wall" was once a magical term in our homes. In the '50s, everyone covered his or her hardwood floors with, wow, wall-to-wall carpeting! Today, everyone replaces their wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood floors. Go figure.

When's the last time you heard the quaint phrase "in a family way?"

"It's hard to imagine that the word "pregnant" was once considered a little too graphic, a little too clinical for use in polite company. So we had all that talk about stork visits and "being in a family way" or simply "expecting."

Apparently "brassiere" is a word no longer in usage. "I said it the other day and my daughter cracked up. I guess it's just bra now."

"Unmentionables" wouldn't be understood at all, because they are often mentioned a lot in recent years.

It's hard to recall that this word was once said in a whisper -"divorce."

My aunt Gladys Stump spoke with a whisper about her parents getting a divorce. "It was unheard of back then. She said a 'black mark' was placed across the whole family because of it."

No one is called a "divorcée" anymore. Certainly not a "gay divorce."

Come to think of it, "confirmed bachelors" and "career girls" are long gone, too.

In much of the last century people went to the "picture show."

There's a pure '60s phrase "rat fink." Ooh, what a nasty put-down!

Ball said he really misses the word "percolator."

What about phrases like "DynaFlow" and "ElectraLux" or that brand new 1963 Admiral TV with "SpectraVision!"

I bought a "colored TV" in 1964 for my mom and dad in downtown Hur, on which a peacock would spread his wings and present programming in "Living Color."

My favorite old commercial was for "Wildroot Cream Oil, Charlie," which gave every young man permission to make his hair a grease pit.

What ever happened to "lumbago?" Nobody complains of that anymore.