For extra credit my History 341 professor asked us to interview an elderly relative about how history has changed in the last 50 or so years. I decided to interview Mary Meah, who is a longtime family friend and previously served as my brothers and I’s nanny back in the day.
Can you give me a quick rundown of your life and how you ended up in Florida?
I was born and raised in Portsmouth in southern England and grew up during World War II. My son was a soccer coach and he came to America 34 years ago. He coached in Chicago as part of an exchange program. At the end of the program he wanted to come back full time and he did, finishing high school and getting a soccer scholarship at a small college. I came to Florida for the warm weather after living in Colorado for a number of years. I’ve always wanted to come to America ever since I was a child. It started when I would see the American sailors in Portsmouth and that created an ambition to come and live in America.
What is the biggest change in technology for you in the last 50 years?
Definitely in the medical field, it phenomenal the way people live much longer now. Back in England sixty was really old and now many people live into their nineties. The MRIs, heart transplants, and such have been vast technological advancements.
How was the technology different in America than it was in England when you moved here?
- For a start obviously everybody had to have a car and they were much bigger than they were in England. The roads were very different and the freeways blew my mind.
- When I left England approximately half of the people had a telephone in their house while in America everyone had a phone.
- Television was very different, when I left England there were only two channels and they wouldn’t come on till the evening. But they seem to be catching up every time I go back. When I originally came England was 7 to 10 years behind America in technology.
- When I was growing up we didn’t have a fridge until I was 18 and it was so tiny that the only thing in it was a bottle of milk and butter. For food we would just go out buy it and then eat it immediately.
What one piece of technology do you wish you had 50 years ago?
Well I got to say the computer for the knowledge you can get. All we had was the library to get all of our knowledge.
Tell me a story about technology in your life?
We didn’t have a telephone when I was growing up. The first phone I had was for my hairdressing business. Most of us just used telephone boxes, which was within 3 or 4 miles of our house. The only people that had telephones were business and the wealthy. Cars and telephone seemed to go hand in hand. My father was extremely nervous about picking up the telephone, he basically wouldn’t. Even when I asked him at my business he wouldn’t pick it up because he was nervous of someone being on the other end of the line. It wasn’t just him, a lot of people felt the same way about phone because most of the time it was bad news that would be passed over the phone. The most important events were transmitted by telegrams and were delivered by a telegram boy, my family would be afraid to get the door because they didn’t want to hear bad news.