When I was growing up, the Petruzzo Family were not technology aficionados. We didn’t have a TV, our car didn’t have a cassette player, and we didn’t have camcorders capturing our lifelike movements for our future selves to be embarrassed about. It wasn’t because we were poor, My father took excellent care of us. But in our family culture, some things just weren’t necessary. And in fact sometimes their presence was a bigger problem then whatever benefit it was supposed to bestow on us. We used to have a television, but we couldn’t decide on what to watch and took the torment to mom and dad until they tossed it out. When that fancy new Windows 95 system came out, it was a couple years before we installed it and I could finally play with that copy of Microsoft 3D Movie Maker I was so desperate for.
But one piece of technology conspicuously stands out in my memory as continually mesmerizing to my adolescent mind. The Plug’n Talk by Realistic, a wireless intercom system that was already old by the time I was a fascinated little kid magically talking to the neighbors through the power lines. Or, at least that’s how I imagined it working.
When these intercoms turned up in an attic raid not long ago, I promptly plugged them in to see if they still worked. They did, kind of. Pressing the big “Talk” button makes a short crackling sound that brought back a flood of memories. That crackle can be heard on both ends of the intercom and it was the downfall of all my childhood spy operations. I can remember one morning, probably a Sunday because I’d been watching Beakman’s World at a friend’s house the night before, I snuck into mom & dad’s room, plugged in the intercom and put it under the bed. I ran back to the other end of the intercom. I was going to convince my parents there was a ghost in the room. *crackle*…. Boooooooooooooo… *crackle*… *crackle*… BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO… *crackle*. It didn’t work because I was and I was (still) an idiot.
These pieces of mid-century technology smell like my childhood. The nicks and scratches, the tactile feeling of the tiny holes on the speaker, the scuffs and bent prongs on the wall plug, all bring a rush of nostalgia. Once I had them in my hand, I didn’t want to let them go. They sat on a shelf in my room all of June while I wondered what I would do with these artifacts of years gone by and the memories they seem to be storing within their materials. So, as a photographer, doing what I do best, I thought I’d honor my memories in images.
They will now be promptly returned to the attic for rediscovery in another 10 years when, perhaps, I can convince some (still) idiot child of my own that the house is, in fact, haunted. No, they are not for sale.