In today’s world, we seem to have moved away from what might be called traditional or old-fashioned forms of entertainment.
With today’s streaming services, there is a constant stream of things to watch on TV. Video game achievements can take players to alternate universes and times in history where battles and life can take you away from your everyday routine. Just ask the parents who can’t get their kids to stop playing and get out of their rooms.
When I taught my history courses in a classroom, in pre-pandemic times, shortly before classes began, I looked at the sea of heads looking at their phones and no one was talking to the student next to them. The art of personal conversation seemed to have been lost by the current generation.
Of course, there was always a suggestion to go outside for some activity after one of your children came up to you and said the hackneyed phrase: “There is nothing to do.”
I am sure that parents heard the same phrase more than a century ago. While the phrase may be the same, the forms of entertainment have changed.
Instead of the PlayStation 5, children could spend time with their parents in the living room, viewing through a stereoscope (often called a stereo optic) slides that simulated three-dimensional scenes. Many of these were on international views, but the Broome County Historical Society has a collection of over 100 locality views dating from the late 1860s and early 1900s. If you’re unfamiliar with stereoscopic slides and in your 50s, consider the Viewmaster with its disk of images you’d pop in and click to take you on a trip.
Apart from this entertainment, residents of all ages could go somewhere like the Stone Opera House on Chenango Street to watch a show, or go nearby to watch a magic lantern show, or visit the Nickelodeon (it’s more than Teresa’s song) . Brewer).
The whole thing was like a stereoscopic performance where the audience could sit and watch the images being shown on the screen (these are pre-movies). It may have been their form of streaming services. However, the content was much less than what is found on our televisions today.
The costs for these services were also less than they are today—usually as little as a nickel (hence the nickelodeon). In today’s dollars, that would be worth over $1.70. While this may not sound like much, the pay rate was also much lower than it is today, so it was an investment in entertainment to enjoy these growing forms of fun.
Not all forms of entertainment could be found at home or in a small theatre. No, you can find other places to have fun, like play billiards in a nearby store or store. Billiards that starts with “B” and rhymes with “P” (I apologize to Merle Wilson). Games of billiards and pool could be found throughout the region, and this continued well into the 20th century.
If you were sometime in 1869 and had time at a quarter, you could have some fun riding a buggy in Cardiff, in the Syracuse area, and driving down the road to Stubb Newell’s farm. There, you will join thousands of others to see a prehistoric petrified man found on a farm.
Except it was a prank set up by Binghamton native George Hull. Hull’s Cardiff Giant was carved out of limestone, but the sheer number of suckers who paid quarters to view this “giant” earned Hull and his compatriots $30,000. He even made more money a few weeks later when the hoax was exposed in a newspaper interview with the two sculptors and then Hull himself.
Longer time:Wait, is that because it just split in half? Smile, Binghamton, you’re in Candid Camera.
Longer time:Heaviest hailstones in the Binghamton area, including at Vestal in 2011.
More:The Grove is the newest restaurant in downtown Binghamton that caters to everyone.
While it might seem silly that people could believe in finding a giant man and attract such an audience, think about some of the more lustful stories that have hit the airwaves in recent years and are watched by millions.
Maybe we should just go outside and enjoy the game of ball – this form of entertainment seems to have remained unchanged over the years.
Gerald Smith is a former Broome County Historian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.