Before the advent of computerized telephone dialing systems, making a phone call required a switchboard operator. Some of you may have even held this job at one point, so we won’t go into too much detail, but the switchboard operator would connect calls by inserting a phone plugs into corresponding, appropriate jacks.
From Seattle Municipal Archives via Wiki Commons
9. GANDY DANCER
Don’t let the name fool you; being a Gandy Dancer is a tough job! Gandy dancer is a slang term used for early railroad workers. Before machines became capable of laying and maintaining railroad tracks, that work was done by hand. The term’s origins are unknown, but many think it comes from a “Gandy Shovel Company.”
From Edward Hungerford via Wiki Commons
Here’s one that we were surprised to learn about. Before Gottfried Schmidt invented the mechanical pinsetter in 1936, bowling alleys employed pinsetters. Yep, a pinsetter would set the bowling pins back up after they were knocked down, hence the name (the position was also known as a pinboy, since many pinsetters were teenage boys given the nature of the job).
From Lewis Wickes Hine via Wiki Commons
7. SODA JERKS
If there’s one position that’s near and dear to our hearts, it’s the soda jerk. These were the servers who would make the ice cream sodas and soda water at the drugstores up until the 1960s. Though a soda jerk was formally called a soda clerk, the name came from the motion the server would use to swing the soda handle back and forth while adding the soda water.
From Alan Fisher via Wiki Commons
6. RADIO ACTORS
While this position might technically still exist in the form of radio commercials, gone are the days of radio actors entertaining us on shows like The Lone Ranger or The Burns and Allen Show. Not only were the actors amazing, but the way they created sound effects was quite clever. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes clip.
Electricity sure did change a lot of things, including the way we lit our streets at night! Before light bulbs, the common means of illuminating the dark sky were by candle, oil or gas. These lights needed to be manually lit, hence the lamplighter. Most lamplighters used a giant pole to reach the light, and would come back in the early hours of the morning to extinguish it.
From Klearchos Kapoutsis via Wiki Commons
OK, so here’s another profession that might technically still exist, but not in the way we remember it! Growing up, there was nothing better than waking up to a bottle of fresh milk waiting on your doorstep. The milkman was always friendly, wearing that trademark uniform and ready to deliver the day’s fresh milk. Sure, there are still services that will deliver milk to your door, but it’s just not the same.
3. ICE CUTTER
Before the mechanical refrigerator, we had the icebox. In order to keep an icebox cool, you needed ice (who’da thunk it, right?). In the colder parts of the country, ice cutters would travel out onto the frozen bodies of water and cut out large blocks of ice to be used in the warmer months. While some ice cutting was seen as a chore for farmers, some operations were quite large, containing a crew of several dozens of men and harvesting up to 1500 tons of ice a day.
From the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration via Wiki Commons
2. FOOD SAFETY TESTERS
Believe it or not, before the FDA existed, people were basically allowed to put whatever they wanted into food products. In order to determine if the food was safe, it had to be tested. In fact, we have a great story about one chemist’s work in testing food safety, and the formation of what became known as the Poison Squad (Click Here to read that fascinating story).
1. LOG DRIVER
In the early days of the logging industry, the cheapest and most efficient way to transport logs from the forest to the sawmill was via log driving. Log driving was the process of binding several logs together, sometimes attached to a raft, and floating them down a river or a body of water to their intended destination. A log driver was the pilot of this makeshift log boat; and these boats could get quite big.
Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from
around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With
fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my
Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In
addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history.
Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even,
over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as
entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings,
photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of
humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us
striving for an improved future.