My Old Time Skillz

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I have a lot of skills that are very old-fashioned. I didn’t learn them recently to be retro, I learned them way back when they were still valued! Some of these skills have served me well. For example, I like being able to figure out discounts or sales tax without a calculator. I like knowing I can build a wood fire or bake a cake from scratch. But I am light years away from being self-sufficient.

Here’s a little round-up of things I can do:

  • Sew a button or a hem
  • Embroider
  • Knit
  • Hand wash a sweater
  • Polish a pair of boots
  • “Dial” a phone
  • Read a clock that has hands
  • Sharpen a pencil with a knife
  • Write in cursive
  • Play cards
  • Make pickles (new skill this year!)
  • Cook without a microwave
  • Pay with cash
  • Make correct change
  • Write a cheque
  • Use a phone book
  • Alphabetize
  • Swim
  • Skate

Meanwhile, here is just a small selection of things I can’t do:

  • Drive a stick shift
  • Jump a dead battery
  • Change a tire
  • Solder
  • Darn socks (could probably do)
  • Hook a rug
  • Crochet
  • Gut a chicken or a fish
  • Milk a cow; make butter
  • Make wine or beer
  • Identify edible mushrooms
  • Rom suggests: smoke a pipe

Just imagine, our recent ancestors were adept at medical care, carpentry, electrical and mechanical work, plumbing, cooking, baking, growing food, preserving food, raising and butchering animals, making clothes, repairing tools, birthing and rearing children, and everything else. They say it is time for us to be “re-skilled” and to re-learn the heirloom art of living. What do you think?

Just for fun I am including the following gallery of things that younger generations will not recognize.

This post is dedicated to the retired “iron” playing piece from the game of Monopoly.


  1. Well I’m going to show my age, I remember each of the things you listed as things the younger generation won’t know. A few are sadly missed but the electrical fuses were a pain I don’t miss. I will teach you to crochet if you teach me to knit 🙂 I’ve never been physically able to skate, doesn’t mean I didn’t try quite a bit when young but other than skate and knit your list could be mine. A few of the things on your list of “can’t dos” I know how to do. Most anything with a car before computers controlled them I could do and taught my boys how as well. Mushrooms I will never trust from the wild.

    • We’re the same age, I think 🙂 So maybe these skills were the norm when we were kids. There was definitely more of a culture of doing things for yourself then – partly because there were no easier options, and partly because of social pressure (it was “expected” that girls would learn needlework). While I don’t long for any “good old days,” I do think it was good for young people to have hands-on skills and to be able to see the results of their efforts.

      • I avoided the sewing and any needlework being a tomboy but then had to learn them as an adult. What I thought I would hate when young, I now find soothing, I know I’m weird.

      • It makes perfect sense that if you were a tomboy, you didn’t want to do things that were soothing! My tastes have changed, too, and I find I want to do some things that remind me of my mother and grandmothers. Except for the cooking with Velveeta cheese, LOL!

      • Isn’t velveeta gross? My grandfather loved it.

  2. Hello there
    Loved this post so I’m popping in to say ‘Some I can do – some I can’t’.
    I can match your ‘do’ list except for the card playing and also 4 of your can’
    I learnt to drive in a manual car but have never leant to crochet – my fingers just don’t seem to be able to hold the yarn correctly yet put a pair of knitting needles in my hand and I’m off like a rocket.
    All those country type things ( milking churning gutting brewing) are best left to others – same as changing tyres. Role reversal – thats men’s work which is why I pay RACV road side fees
    We do still have floppies and vinyl LPs in the cupboard!!
    Take care

    • Hi Cathy, Thanks for stopping by! I am sure the reason I can’t do some of these things is because when I was growing up, they were seen as men’s work, so I wasn’t taught. Although if I had shown an interest, I am sure I would have been taught. I have driven a manual transmission a few times (a couple of decades ago!) but would not want to be in a situation now where I had to! As for cards, I used to play rummy with my grandmother, and my mom’s friends used to play rummoli (tripoli). I don’t play cards now, but knew enough to teach my kid Crazy 8s, Go Fish, etc.!

      • We never played cards as children but The Golfer did, he also kept up his hand while in the air force. Tried to teach me cribbage once not long after we were married – never again he said lol
        When we visit his aunt in the Valley (yes the Annapolis one) I love to see them both sitting at the table earnestly trying to beat each other. She really comes alive at that time and reminds us of her sister ( his mother).

      • I see you are in Australia – you’ve really been to the Annapolis Valley? – wow, what a trip!

  3. I’m surprised you didn’t make butter in grade school by shaking cream in a jar. I love your lists and the photos. You’ve got me thinking about making my own lists. We solved the jump starting a car knowledge problem by printing out directions found on the internet and keeping them in the car. That was after we paid a hefty fine because we left a car with a dead battery in a parking lot and it was booted when we went back in the morning!

    • Thanks! That is so smart – I am going to do that! Otherwise I would be too afraid to connect it wrong. It is quite intimidating because you can cause damage by making a mistake.

      • I can’t believe I’m an electrical engineer, and I too would be scared to jump start a car. Weirdest coincidence – a friend (and colleague) asked one Sat if I had jumper leads (I did not), as his work car was dead. He subsequently bought some. Come Mon, my car would not start. But, I got roadside assistance onto it, being a work day and all, I was in no hurry 😀 But, nonetheless, I didn’t need to ‘learn’ as someone did it for me – and a diesel takes double the leads to get done

      • I also have roadside assistance to jump the battery and change tires!

  4. That post brought back memories! I learned to do many of those things from my grandparents and still use a few of those skills today.

  5. I still cook without a microwave! Did you mention skipping? I am surprised that I can do all the ones on your can do list and a few on your can’t do – drive a car with gears (your stick shift), darn socks, make wine…not saying I still can do these things apart from the car I drive a gear car every day but have never driven an automatic. Some of these things will be forgotten skills soon where we will go to see demonstrations in the local museums like we do now for butter making and spinning!

  6. How funny, I think I can do all your ‘can’ list except for skating (not much ice in Australia). I can’t do anything on your ‘cant’ list except for gutting a chicken. We had to do this as well as plucking a chicken at school for agriculture science. Yuk!

  7. “Read a clock that has hands”

    Ha, does this count as an old school skill? I remember trying to teach the kids I tutored/baby sat how to do this. What a mission.

    I can still write in nice cursive if I take it slow and some effort in. I can also sew, though not all that nicely 🙂

    • I work in a library and when kids ask us the time, we always have to remember to answer something like 6:15 and not quarter after 6. I wonder if kids can count by 5s and 10s any more?

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