Escape from the Digital World | The Triangle

Escape from the Digital World

By Jonathan Liss

With the digital age lurching ahead at breakneck speed, I thought this would be a good opportunity to look backward a bit. Perhaps it would be beneficial to slow down and consider reintroducing certain non-digital things into today’s popular culture. What do you think? Here are a few suggestions for you to mull over. 

Stingray bicycles, with banana seats and sissy bars — this one is for children and adults that have never grown up. In the 1960s and into the 1970s, Stingrays were the epitome of coolness for boys and girls. The banana seat was ideal for sharing a ride with your best friend while wreaking havoc in the neighborhood. And with the flashy sissy bar, it was easy to pretend you were rolling down the highway with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. I am not sure why the Stingray lost its popularity, but I think we should definitely bring it back to life.

A good bike ride always makes me hungry, which brings back fond memories of Horn & Hardart. Horn & Hardart restaurants, based in Philadelphia and New York City, were extremely popular until they fell out of favor due to the rise of fast-food eateries. The iconic restaurant chain was known for its delicacies such as creamed spinach, Salisbury steak, roast chicken, and baked beans, along with its quality drip-brewed coffee. Yet, by far, the best part of a visit to Horn & Hardart was indulging in a plate of creamy macaroni and cheese. Being a mac and cheese aficionado, in my opinion the Horn & Hardart version was the best in the world!

Fortunately for me, vinyl record albums have become popular again. I have quite a collection at home, including many prized albums from my Drexel University days. As a commuter student, I would regularly take the commuter train from my home in Cheltenham to the renowned Reading Terminal (before the Center City commuter connection tunnel was constructed). From Reading Terminal, it was a quick five-minute trip to campus via the train. On the way home from campus, I would often stop at Jerry’s Records on Market Street to kill time while waiting for my train. Jerry’s was my nirvana; a well-stocked record store that sold used record albums for $2.99. As you can guess, I was so absorbed in browsing through the huge selection of rock and roll records that I occasionally missed my train home. 

Finally, as we look forward to warmer weather, who wouldn’t like to partake in a Good Humor strawberry shortcake or chocolate éclair ice cream bar? As a child, the high point of a lazy summer day was the late afternoon arrival of the Good Humor ice cream truck. Unfortunately, in the late 1960s, Good Humor started experiencing competition from Mister Softee trucks and repeated strikes by the Teamsters union. In 1978, after a period of unprofitability, Good Humor sold its fleet of trucks to focus on selling its ice cream in grocery stores. Many of the trucks were sold to former Good Humor vendors who began running their own ice cream businesses. Trivia alert: In 1950, the film “The Good Humor Man” was released: a comedy film about a Good Humor ice cream salesman who becomes involved in a murder. 

Perhaps these simple pleasures for previous generations can become fashionable again. Maybe we are all suffering digital exhaustion and need an alternative to cell phones, iPads, and the like. What do you think?