by John StrakaI was asked my age recently and when I said 88, the young man said, "Oh! The things you must have seen." Sometimes I'm asked, "How do you know all that?" I remind them that a person is bound to accumulate knowledge in 88 years.I believe the most important part of my 88 years of learning is "change." Some things have not changed and others have. If asked, "What was it like before?" sometimes the answer is "The same as now." Most often it is not. People tend to think things always were the way they are now.During a visit to the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum, a fifth-grade boy asked why everything was made of wood. He could not understand a world without plastics. During a kite making demonstration, another boy could not believe what he was hearing and asked his father, "Did you have to make your own toys?"What things have not changed? Sunshine and moonlight, rain and snow, tears and laughter, birth and death are as much a part of daily life as they always were. We may get less snow and fewer babies are born per family, and we laugh at different jokes, but the sun comes up every morning as it always has.WHEN I was born, electricity was new and just beginning to replace kerosene lamps for lighting homes and gas lamps for street lighting.Believe it or not, men were employed to go through a neighborhood and, one by one, turn on the gas valve of each light for night lighting.They came back in the morning to turn off all the lights. They carried a tool to reach the valve and a short ladder to reach higher when replacing a mantle. If you don't know what a mantle is, look it up.Along with electricity came radio. The crystal set with a cat's whisker, radio tubes, earphones and loudspeakers were like adult toys. People stayed up late to tune in far away stations and when shortwave radio was new, I could listen to Big Ben direct from London.Very early in the morning I could get Czech music from Nebraska, hear pilots flying overhead when they contacted the airport and listen in on ham operators in Maple Heights talking to other amateurs near and far.The automobile was pretty new in 1917. I vividly recall the thrill of going 40 miles an hour on Northfield Road for the first time. Riding in a rumble seat on bumpy McCracken caused me to worry about being bounced onto the road.I remember seeing a car with its rear wheel replaced by a pulley being used to cut logs into firewood. ALCOHOL WAS used to keep radiators from freezing and some owners would drain the water and refill it again rather than buy antifreeze and keep checking and adding more.When I was born, there were still many horses used to deliver ice, milk and baked goods door-to-door. Horsepower dug basements, plowed fields and mowed hay.Just 10 years after I was born, Charles Lindbergh -- nicknamed "Lucky Lindy" -- flew by himself across the Atlantic. My first airplane ride was in a 21-passenger DC3 a few years later.I was about 15 when my grandma died and I walked from Theodore to Joseph Street to tell my Aunt Mary about it. That's how it was done then. Now just about everyone has a phone in his or her pocket.Some of the old terminology is used today even though it doesn't actually apply anymore. We still "hang up" the phone, but we don't actually hang the receiver on the hook like before.We still "crank" the car's starter to start the engine, but I remember when drivers used a real crank that was stored under the front seat. WE "DIAL" a phone number, but many people have never seen or used a rotary dial telephone. We "tune in" a radio or TV station, not knowing the early receivers required tuning with one or more rotary knobs and calibrated dials.Horses used a "feed bag," were called oat burners and decorated the streets with "road apples." I'm sure many readers remember other words and phrases that once were common and are now seldom used.This column was prompted by my newest toy -- a cell phone. It's nothing like our first telephone around 1930.This one includes an alarm clock, loudspeaker, flashlight, calculator, phone book of stored numbers, GPS chip that sends my location when I call 911, and it weights about four ounces.I've had fun "playing" with it. I'm also enjoying my GPS receiver. In fact, I was geocaching and found the cache on my second attempt.It's a lot like when we roamed the woods north of McCracken and hunted for sassafras roots, hickory and beech nuts, paw paws and bird nests, pollywogs and blackberries.Editor's note: Straka is a correspondent for the Bedford Times-Register and Maple Heights Press.