Old hobbies fade into obscurity as world changes

I have something that I call the “Library Rule of Life” that strikes a bit of awe in me anytime I walk through Winnipeg’s Millennium Library. It’s the realization that even though I might not have enough of a personal interest to take home a copy of The Last Cowboys at the End of the World: The story of the gauchos of Patagonia by Nick Reding, Biography of a Germ by Arno Karlen or Modern Soldering & Brazing Techniques by Eli Lieberman, every book represents a subject that so fascinates an author that he or she took the trouble to write that book.

In short: Everyone gets their kicks in their own unique way.

Sometimes there are some things, though, that don’t command as much public interest today as they did in years past.

With no further ado, here’s a rundown of some once-popular hobbies that are now starting to fade into the past as the number of people with a passion for them declines.

Model railroad

Model railroad

Model Railroading: Fans of the long-running comic strip For Better or For Worse might recall that one of Dr. John Patterson’s favourite hobbies was model railroading. Lots of good that did this hobby, which is in trouble according to this online discussion among model railroaders.  Perhaps it’s too peaceful a hobby for a generation used to Grand Theft Auto — a leftover from the days when most Canadians and Americans lived in small towns where trains were a vital lifeline to the outside world.

Amateur radio equipment

Amateur radio equipment

Shortwave and Amateur Radio: Once upon a time, the world felt like a much bigger place. For young Manitobans with an innate curiosity about the world, London, Paris and Sydney were distant, exotic places that most people could never afford to visit. Some people satisfied their curiosity by becoming amateur radio operators, which allowed them to use the shortwave bands to chat with Heikki in Helsinki, Nigel in Nottingham and Ted in Tulsa. Others, particularly expatriates, used shortwave radio to hear the news from the BBC World Service or Radio Portugal. Lower international Economy Class airfares (which used to cost the equivalent of a professional’s monthly gross income), e-mail, Facebook, online news sites and streaming audio have made it exponentially easier to get out and explore the world and for expatriates to keep in touch with what’s happening at home — and taken some of the mystique out of foreign lands.

CB Radio

Life in the '70s: CB Radio as "The In Thing!"

A similar hobby that has declined in popularity in recent years: Citizens’ Bank (or “CB”) Radio. CB Radio was, in some respects, a lower-budget alternative to amateur radio popularized in the ’70s by movies like Smokey and the Bandit and Citizens’ Band and by the hit TV shows B. J. and the Bear and The Dukes of Hazzard. The hobby lingered into the ’80s as a sort of pre-Internet radio chat room, but had faded into obscurity by the time the Internet hit the big time in 1993-94.

Brazilian stamp, 1969

Brazil celebrates the legendary Pele's 1,000th goal, 1969.

Stamp Collecting: This is another one of those hobbies that dates back to the days when foreign lands were much more mysterious and difficult to access than they are today. Stamps were at one time important marketing tools for a country, both domestically and abroad. They helped raise historical awareness, celebrate national milestones, and promote tourism and a positive image of the issuing country. The invention of postage meters and the decline of mail traffic with the rise of the Internet reduced the role of the postage stamp in the ordinary citizen’s life, leading to the increasing obscurity of the stamp collecting hobby.

Baseball card

1990 Chicago White Sox rookie stars Robin Ventura and Sammy Sosa

Baseball Card Collecting: If you’re old enough to remember the ’80s, you’ll remember some of the card promotions companies used to run to get people to buy their products, such as commercials on U.S. television offering free baseball cards with every meal purchase at Long John Silver’s. Whether it be because of the exorbitant prices demanded for the best cards, or the fact that the business has shifted to Ebay, or just the arrival of other ways for people to pass their time, baseball card collecting is no longer what it once was.


Sunday Smile: A collection of old bloopers from WBZ-TV in Boston

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