THE NEFF ZONE -- BY JIM NEFF
CADILLAC NEWS -- AUGUST 14, 2021
We passed a milestone last week. “On August 6, 1991, the first website was introduced to the world.” There are 1.9 billion websites today. Can you even imagine life without the Internet?
Think about how far we've come in just thirty years. “There were ten websites by 1992, three thousand websites by 1994, and two million by the time the search engine Google made its debut in 1996.” (https://www.npr.org/2021/08/06/1025554426/a-look-back-at-the-very-first-website-ever-launched-30-years-later)
That got me wondering how other things got their starts. So, naturally, I went to the Internet to find out. What else would I do?
For instance, you can't walk into a store these days without seeing a kiosk with multiple lottery games enticing you to play. It turns out lotteries are nothing new. “It was in use in England before the British even colonized America. The Jamestown colony was partially financed by private lotteries in the 1600s. In early America, lotteries were commonly used as a way to raise funds for projects like paving roads.” Sound familiar? (https://www.backthenhistory.com/articles/the-history-of-the-lottery)
If you're reading this column in the morning, you might be dressed in nothing more than your unmentionables. Well, underwear is a fairly new development for the common person. “Until the nineteenth century, underwear was mainly used by rich people. “Its purpose was to protect the more expensive outer garments from dirt and sweat on the body because bathing was not regularly practiced.”
Underwear became more “common” when boxer shorts were issued to infantrymen for summer wear during World War I. For women, the first modern bra was introduced in 1913. (https://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/clothing-types-styles/origins-underwear)
Speaking of things you wear, some people like to wear fancy belt buckles. This is nothing new because belt buckles date back to the Bronze Age. However, it was not until the 1600s when the buckles were actually attached to belts. Up to then, they were just worn as decorations. (https://www.tiesncuffs.com.au/blogs/articles/the-history-of-belt-buckles)
Since it's summer, many of us enjoy a frosty ice cream cone. One of the most popular flavors is vanilla and we have Thomas Jefferson to thank for that. “President Thomas Jefferson wrote the first recorded recipe for ice cream in America. He brought the recipe for vanilla ice cream back with him after a trip to France. The recipe he wrote is now in the Library of Congress.” (https://www.secondshistory.com/home/6-facts-ice-cream)
If you don't want your ice cream in a cone, perhaps an ice cream sandwich would be more to your liking. “Around the turn of the twentieth century they were called 'hokey pokeys' and sold by street vendors on the Bowery in New York City. They were made up of ice cream held together with two pieces of paper and cost just a penny.”
It wasn't until the 1940s when the ice cream was placed between two cookies that they became really popular. They were sold at baseball games and became a fan favorite. (https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/594042/ice-cream-sandwich-facts)
Of course, another great way to enjoy ice cream is in a root beer float. For that, obviously you need some root beer. Curiously, there is no single recipe for root beer. “Early root beers contained different combinations of herbs, barks, and roots. Interestingly, many of these same ingredients are used in root beer today.”
“The first commercialized root beer was created by a Philadelphia pharmacist named Charles Hires. In 1893, the Hires family began selling bottled root beer. Soon after, other root beer brands popped up, including Barq’s, Dad’s, Mug and A&W (which is currently the top-selling root beer in the world).” (https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-root-beer-1992386)
Now, you can probably find a full menu of ice cream treats at many drive-thru restaurants. The first drive-ins date back to the 1920s, but it was not until the 1970s when the drive-thru became commonplace. “At that time, major fast-food restaurants began to add a drive-thru window, most notably McDonald’s, which opened its first drive-thru in 1975. Today, the drive-thru remains popular – in fact, approximately seventy percent of the billions of dollars that fast-food restaurants earn each year comes from drive-thrus.” (https://magazine.northeast.aaa.com/daily/life/cars-trucks/history-of-the-drive-thru/)
Ice cream is a good way to cool off on a hot summer day, but then again there is nothing quite like a good water balloon fight. Oddly, the water balloon has its origin in socks.
“English inventor Edgar Ellington decided in 1950 to create a waterproof sock using latex and cotton. But after filling his creation with water to test its quality, he noticed a small stream of water gushing from the side. As he threw the water-filled sock onto the table in anger, it burst — and so a second idea was born – water grenades. They were the first water balloons to hit the market.” (http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2049243_2048654_2049039,00.html)
Finally, a blast from the past for the more experienced readers of this column. Remember the days when summer meant kneeling down in the dirt and playing a rousing game of marbles? We did this for hours when Fred Flintstone and I were kids.
This was a tradition that dated back to cave dweller times. For cave dwellers, The trick was fining the right stones.
That quest changed around 1890. “German and American companies began producing machine made glass marbles. For over one hundred years, until about 1917, Akron, Ohio was the center of American marble manufacturing. At its peak, Akron had 32 marble factories.” Now there are collectors of vintage marbles. “The most expensive vintage marble sold for $13,200 in 2015.” (https://www.oregonlive.com/go-comics/?amu=/world-of-wonder/)
I once had a large collection of marbles – cat-eye, swirl, purie, sunburst and others. Alas, as my friends will tell you, I lost my marbles many years ago.
Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.