By Neal Wooten
I was four years old when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. It was a fabulous era. On Earth there were all kinds of things happening too. I was mesmerized by toys like the Etch-a-Sketch, Magic 8 Ball, Lite Bright, Spirograph, the Evel Knievel motorcycle, or that game where you tried to take body parts out of the guy without touching the metal sides.
I had a couple of friends who had the coolest thing in their homes. It was a rotary phone, much like ours, but it hung on the wall and had a long curly cord that would allow someone to walk into another room and still converse. I couldn’t even imagine having that kind of freedom.
My aunt in Fort Payne, Ester Layfield, had this awesome contraption in the window of her living room. It was basically a big metal box with a fake-wood front, and cold air blew through the vents. I’m not making this up. You could hang meat in there. Every time we visited in the summer, I didn’t want to leave.
The summer I turned 13, Junior Winkles gave me my first job outside of a potato shed. He drove a Coca-Cola truck and I worked with him all summer on his route. He would pick me up every day in a brand new, small, black Toyota pickup truck. As he drove, he would push a button on the steering wheel and it would maintain the speed without having to depress the gas pedal.
Right out of high school I was dating this gal from Fort Payne and I loved going to her house because of a gizmo they owned. It was an electronic box that sat on top of their TV. Beside the TV was a box full of flat plastic containers about the size of an album, and inside was a vinyl disc like an album, and you slid one in and it played a movie. Halfway through the movie you had to flip it over to play the rest.
I was a sophomore at Auburn University the first time I witnessed this new-age marvel. I was pulling an all-nighter at Dudley Hall, sitting in the student lounge, when this student took a small bag over to the microwave. Within a minute the entire room smelled like a movie theater lobby. I kid you not; he cooked a bag of popcorn right there. It was more awesome than Jiffy Pop.
Imagine what I thought the first time I saw someone change TV channels with a small box, or saw a calculator on a watch. I have witnessed some amazing stuff, or maybe I’m just easily impressed.