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Silver Threads: The more things change …

My grandson Jack’s feet are getting so long that he’s either going to be very tall, or a short guy who looks as though he’s always on skateboards. He wears those plastic shoes with holes in them, or a black and white pair of Converse sneakers that he usually outgrows before they rip in the sides.

His footwear has never been to a shoe repair shop, not even his dress loafers, because, rarely worn, they begin to pinch his toes while still looking like new. Whoever his mom gives them to needn’t complain about getting hand-me-downs.

I used to visit shoe repair shops about once a week when I was a young reporter, walking all day to cover events in the CBD. I would regularly almost wear off those little leather pieces at the base of my high heels.

When I got an office job this stopped happening, and so it was a long time before I noticed that these little businesses were becoming a thing of the past. Why? Are shoes so much sturdier, do we have so many more of them that we don’t just wear out one or two pairs, or do we simply throw away the damaged goods?

I got to thinking about shoe repair shops when one of my email correspondents forwarded a list of things predicted to become obsolete or undergo drastic changes in our lifetime. One of them was the U. S. Post Office, but if the forecaster could see the long line at our branch at any given time, he might change his mind. To be sure, it’s been a long time since I wrote a letter on paper, but until my entire generation goes to its reward, I can’t see things like invitations, thank you notes and birthday cards writ by hand disappearing entirely. Packages, of course, can go by UPS or FedEx — how long has it been since you ordered something and it was delivered by our postal service? And when did the mailbox on the corner go missing?

Another thing predicted to be doomed for extinction is the handwritten check. I only write about four a month myself and hand them to the payee; the deal could be done in cash just as easily. Our household bills have long been automatically withdrawn from our bank accounts.

Books and newspapers, sadly, are an endangered species, and television as we knew it has already changed. Remember when the new season kicked off in September and we had new shows through the middle of May? Now we’re shown about 12 or maybe 15 episodes of a prime-time drama, then the re-runs go to cable, where new, original shows number only about six per season. (In the meantime, we’re presented with cheesy reality shows or travesties like “Wipe Out,” in which big foam plastic do-hickeys knock people into pools of water.)

We older folks can survive change, even though we’re not always crazy about it. Asked to tell me some things missing from New Orleans since he was a boy, my husband got nostalgic about the people who sold blackberries on the streets of his Carrollton neighborhood; the corner bars, restaurants, grocery and drug stores, and — yes– dentists; the little movie houses; the newspaper vendor on St. Charles Avenue.

It will establish me as a bona fide dinosaur, but I’ll mention the wagonloads of cotton that used to pass the country home where I grew up. We kids used to wait for them and hitch rides to the gin. I also remember hot tamale vendors on the streets of the next big town, and, in New Orleans, the car-hops who came out to customers of Morning Call.

I remember radio shows — “Young Widow Brown” saw me through the measles and “Let’s Pretend” was a Saturday morning staple. And skating rinks and drive-in movies.

Can you imagine a future in which Tweet and Twitter and Facebook are only fond memories? Things change. And they, too, shall pass.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of The Times Picayune Living section, for which she wrote Silver Threads until her retirement. Email her at


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