The excitement of a new century, a new millennium, has saturated the country with nostalgia. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television specials all have featured the ups and downs of the 20th century and gazed into crystal balls to see what the 21st century has in store.

Given the Incredible advances made In the vanishing century, especially the last 60 years, it is unimaginable to picture what will happen in the next 100 years, ByeLines, pleasing a case of bias, was pleased to read that among the top items Americans would like to see continued in the next century is newspapers. Newspapers received a 93 percent rating in a “take it to the next century” poll conducted by an independent polling firm. 

Younger generations no doubt have their plans well charted for closing out the century with festive rejoicing. Many of us old-timers never envisioned what it would be like to greet a new century.

While weighing all of the good and bad things that happened on our watch, there is plenty of sentiment to remember. Most of the reflections about the 20th century that I’ve read were major episodes in politics, religion, sports, technology, war, living habits and so forth. There’s a few teeny ones to remember. Others will have their own pet reminiscences to highlight.

How about the old 10-cent phone calls from a phone booth? We’d sometimes stuff a dime in our shoe so we had the right change to call a girl because we were too shy to do it at home where eavesdropping from family members and those sharing the same party line could monitor the calls. The teasing from an older brother or sister could turn ugly sometimes.

There are 2.1 million pay phones available today, about 2 million more than was available during our teen days. Callers can choose from a payphone for 35 cents, a cellular phone in their pocket or a pager. Credit cards and phone cards come in handy, too, if long-distance calls are the norm.

Why did we have to lose the downtowns of yesteryear? Some towns have worked hard to restore the once-famous shopping districts, but the sprawling malls at the outskirts of towns have raised havoc with the downtowns my generation appreciated.

The old downtowns were more than a collection for department stores and specialty shops for men and women browsing for clothes, shoes and hats. The corner drug store was not only a place for having a prescription filled. The hot fudge sundaes and root beer floats were special. Some of the best armchair quarterbacks of local football gathered there on Sunday mornings while picking up their favorite newspaper or nickel cigars. If coaches think they are second-guessed nowadays, they should have been around in the 1940s and ‘50s when high school football was the only talk in town — from one season to the next. 

A choice of two or three movie theaters was available in the downtowns, and you could pick from three or more restaurants or “snack eateries” after a movie. A movie, ranging in price from 15 cents to 40 cents, included a double feature, cartoons, highlight reels of news and sports, plus a preview of upcoming movies. The theaters were packed on the weekends.

Banks, insurance agents furniture stores, barbershops, beauty saloons, pool rooms, bowling alleys, taverns and full service gasoline stations were a part of the downtowns. Housewives did grocery shopping at a downtown site.

Need a doctor, dentist or a lawyer? No problem. Most of them were located in downtown offices, many on the second or third floor of the buildings they occupied. Many of the structures included apartments on the upper floors with clotheslines strung over the rear balcony to give the wash a fresh aroma that only a soft breeze on a sunny day could provide. The apartments were without air conditioners, security systems and elevators. An alley or vacant lot provided for recreational grounds for the kids. 

Those were the days when teenage girls thought they were queens when they rolled their jeans up to their knees and strut around town in saddle shoes and bobby socks. It’s when kids salvaged the tops of cereal boxes so they could send for prizes from their favorite radio show starring Jack Armstrong, Captain Midnight, The Lone Ranger, Superman or Little Orphan Annie. 

Remember the bygone Morse Code, a system of dots and dashes that pleaded SOS? The code was the official language of the sea before it was replaced by communications technology. We used an impromptu code in our grade school classrooms to signal our afterschool agenda. Sometimes the code helped us when our tests were devoted to “yes” or “no” questions. If the nuns intercepted our code, though, we looked for the “Mayday” distress call that meant “help me.”

The door-to-door salesman couldn’t survive today. For one thing, the disturbing noise from deafening stereo equipment, video games and multiple television sets would make it impossible to hear the salesman’s knock on the door. Only the luxury homes had doorbells in those days. If a salesman, accustomed to working neighborhoods in an era when the doors were left unlocked and often wide open, did find someone at home today, the resident would be reluctant to unlock the bolted door.

A salesman who took the Dale Carnegie course had an edge in peddling insurance, shoes, rugs, vacuum cleaners, books, magazines or household wares. Even farmers took up the fad of door-to­-door merchandising by selling eggs, potatoes, fruit and vegetables. A dying breed, the backslap­ping salesman who wouldn’t take a ‘no’” for an answer, has been replaced by telemarketing and the Internet.

The scrapbooks of nostalgic memories are endless. Some seem like an eternity, and vary from reader­-to-reader, family-to-family. Just because a new century is approaching doesn’t mean old­-timers have to forget about the good ‘ol days.

An author named R.W. Whitney left us with this reminder: “In the advance of civilization, it is new knowledge which paves the way; and the pavement is eternal.”