Sweet Nostalgia: 18 Outdated Things Americans Wish Would Make a Comeback

New technology appears, trends emerge, and culture shifts, which means society is always evolving. While change is inevitable, it often leaves us nostalgic for the way things used to be. 

When things like Saturday morning cartoons or roller skating rinks seem to disappear, many older Americans are understandably sad. After all, these things were part of our childhood, which is often one of the happiest times of life. 

We can’t bring back arcades, Blockbuster movie rentals, or the Sears Wish Book, but we can help you reminisce. And, perhaps we can also convince the younger generations there are some things that should make a resurgence.  

1: Dropping In

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The thought of a neighbor or family member just dropping by is enough to cause some people anxiety, but there was a time when the practice was relatively common. It was well within social norms to stop by and say hello to friends or family if you found yourself in their area. 

While there are advantages to having fair warning before someone drops by, there is also something nice about having friends who knock on your door whenever they’re around. A friend dropping by could make an otherwise boring day memorable. 

2: Reading Physical Books

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Today, if you’re waiting at the hair salon, DMV, or doctor’s office, you’re probably scrolling through your phone. But, before cell phones existed, people spent all of that waiting time doing something arguably more fun: they read books. 

Sure, you can read a book on your tablet or pop in headphones and listen to an audiobook while you wait, but there’s something different about having a physical paperback in your lap. Older Americans will tell you that getting lost in a book wherever you pleased was a magical experience. 

3: Playing by Streetlights

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Researchers believe a lack of unsupervised play time could be hurting our children today. Many now-older Americans would play until the streetlights came on when they were kids. 

Not so very long ago, children ran outside without supervision. Parents often told them not to come home until the streetlights came on. Few children experience this freedom and independence today. While there are some good safety reasons for this, it also could be to their detriment. 

4: Taking Pictures Without Worry

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Before the days of Myspace and then Facebook and Instagram, you could take a picture with friends or family and not worry about it ending up online. Today, if someone snaps a pic, it’s likely only seconds away from the internet. 

Some older Americans miss the days when privacy was a normal expectation. And it seems many younger people feel the same way. As The Atlantic noted in 2022, the first social media babies have grown up, and they’re not happy that their childhood was publicly documented. 

5: Roller Skating Rinks

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You can still find an old roller skating rink once in a while, but they’re pretty rare. Though roller skating had a slight resurgence in the early 2000s, most people no longer participate in the activity. 

That’s too bad because roller skating isn’t just great exercise. Going to a roller skating rink was also a wonderful social activity outside of school, church, or sports. Just about anyone could participate, which made it extra fun.

6: Arcades

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Kids today sit in front of a screen at home to play their games. While the games are arguably more interactive, any older American will tell you there was a lot of joy in going to an arcade. 

Arcades let people play a variety of games together, in person rather than virtually. Nothing beat the whirring, dinging, and buzzing of arcade games or the feeling you got when you entered your initials for a high score. 

7: Blockbuster

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You don’t have to be that old to remember going to a Blockbuster to pick out a Friday night movie, but the experience certainly doesn’t exist for kids today. Physical movie rentals may not make sense in our entertainment streaming world, but many miss the experience. 

Renting a movie with family or friends was an activity in itself. You had to get to the rental place, everyone had to decide on one movie to rent, and then you only had a day or two to watch it together. The entire experience was far more social than picking a movie from the comfort of your home. 

8: Being Unreachable

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The idea of being unreachable in today’s society is almost unimaginable. People can call, text, direct message, or email you whenever they please.

Once upon a time, though, turning off the world was as simple as taking your home phone off the hook. No one worried if you didn’t answer for a few hours or even a day, and many older Americans would say they miss that. 

9: Waiting In Line for Concert Tickets

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In a recent BBC article, reporters asked concertgoers about their longest “queuing” experience. Some reported waiting in line for as long as five days. When asked how queuing compared to buying tickets for seats online, one person noted the queuing experience was part of the fun. 

Many older Americans would agree that waiting in line to snag tickets to their favorite show was an experience in itself. Camping out overnight with friends was really fun, and it’s something most young Americans don’t do anymore. 

10: Pen Pals

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Having an old-school pen pal is an experience the younger generations mostly miss out on. That’s too bad because almost anyone who’s had a pen pal will tell you it’s a rewarding experience. 

Unlike the instant gratification of email or instant messengers, pen pals had to rely on snail mail. Responses could take weeks or even months, but anticipating something in the mailbox was fun. 

11: Flipping Channels

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Americans have been cutting ties with their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming services for years. While streaming services make more sense in a lot of ways, older Americans sometimes reminisce about cable’s benefits. 

It might seem silly, but flipping channels to find something to watch sometimes leads to a real gem. You might end up viewing a show or movie you never would have picked but actually enjoy. 

12: The Sears Wish Book

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Today, some kids enjoy getting the Amazon Toy Book around the holidays, but older adults will tell you it doesn’t compare to the Sears Wish Book. The Sears Wish Book, which started in 1933, contained everything from jewelry and home goods to toys. 

The giant catalog usually shipped in August or September, giving Americans plenty of time to pick their top Christmas gifts. The sheer size of the publication fascinated many kids, and it wasn’t uncommon to pour over the pages and pages of toys for hours on end. 

13: Sewing

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Some people still sew today, but few kids make their own clothes. That wasn’t the case with older generations.

Even if teens and tweens didn’t sew an entire wardrobe for themselves in the 50s, 60s, or 70s, many knew how to use a needle and thread. This allowed them to customize designs, tailor clothes to fit, and make repairs when needed. Today’s younger generations would probably benefit from learning simple sewing techniques. 

14: Airplane Civility

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Traveling on an airplane today is similar to taking other forms of public transportation, but that wasn’t always the case. Many older Americans miss the days of airplane civility when people saw air travel as a real treat. 

There was a time when Americans dressed up for the occasion, men in full suits and women in their Sunday best. Because the trip was so expensive, people also expected top-notch service, including the best in-flight meals and beverages. 

15: Card Catalogs

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Library card catalogs might seem like an odd thing to miss, but some Americans get really nostalgic about them. Finding the book you want by using a card catalog is a science most young adults know nothing about. 

In their time, though, there was something satisfying about using library card catalogs. It was a thrill to find what you were looking for, like finishing a treasure hunt or finally working your way through a puzzle. 

16: Glass Bottle Sodas

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Before plastics infiltrated society, glass-bottled soda was the norm. Many older Americans miss the stuff, saying it tasted better than the plastic-wrapped pop we have today. 

Of course, it’s unclear whether the glass really made the taste different. It could also be that soda manufacturers used to rely more heavily on real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup and other sugar substitutes. 

17: Saturday Morning Cartoons

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Anyone growing up in the 90s or before remembers Saturday morning cartoons. There was something magical about rolling out of bed, turning on the TV, and zoning out to Scooby Doo. 

Today’s kids will never know the glory of the commercial break, the devilish antics of Tom and Jerry, or the wonder you felt just having control of the family screen. It was yours until whatever game started, and your father seized the remote. 

18: Listening to the Radio 

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Spotify and other music streaming apps have made radio music a thing of the past, but many older Americans miss it. When radio was the only option for hearing new songs, music had more of a community aspect. 

Everyone heard great artists like Whitney Houston or The Beatles, essentially at the same time. It was a shared experience, and that made it extra special. 

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From childhood classics to forgotten chocolates, these treats bring back memories of simpler times. Rediscover the joy of beloved confections that deserve to make a comeback.   

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