Sunday, January 29, 2017

10 Jobs That No Longer Exist

This is certainly far removed from a complete list of obsolete jobs, but it's an interesting cross-section. Some of these jobs were prominent centuries ago and have been gone for a long time, some are much more recent. One or two of them may have existed in your lifetime. But either way, they are jobs that no longer exist.

Pre-Radar Listener
World War II (and World War I)…during times of war in the days before radar, listeners were people assigned to detect enemy aircraft. They did this by using acoustic mirrors and listening devices to detect the sounds of engines. (above picture)

We've all seen photographs from back in the day showing the photographer taking a picture, whether a portrait in a studio or Matthew Brady engaged in his landmark history changing photographs from the Civil War. Prior to modern cameras and selfies, daguerreotypes were one of the earliest forms of photography. These images were made by daguerreotypists, who treated a silver-coated copper plate with light-sensitive chemicals. After exposing it in a camera and developing it with mercury, a detailed image appeared.

Ice Cutter
Back when today's electric refrigerators were referred to as ice boxes, there was a reason for it.  Highly insulated 'boxes' held a large block of ice and kept food cold (until the ice melted).  The ice man delivered the large blocks of ice door to door.  These blocks were provided by people known as ice cutters who would literally cut the huge blocks from frozen lakes. And in the summer? Mostly it was 'tough luck.'

Before you become shocked or start laughing, that's not what I'm talking about here. The knocker-up was literally a human alarm clock. A knocker-up would visit your house to make sure you got to work on time. They used a long, light stick to hit their client's doors or windows to wake them.

Rat Catcher
From several centuries ago to even just a couple of centuries ago, cities (both residential neighborhoods and industrial areas) were plagued by disease-carrying rodents. Rat catchers were the people employed to remove the vermin off the streets.

Back in the day when street lights were gas, before the days of electric lamps, lamplighters would use long poles to light, extinguish and refuel street lamps to illuminate the night streets.

Before refrigerators existed, and even in the day of the ice box, it was hard to keep milk from going bad, especially in summer. The milkman made regular neighborhood deliveries. With the advent of home refrigeration and the convenience of modern supermarkets, the need for the milkman disappeared.

Switchboard Operator
At one time switchboard operators were a key part of a telephone network’s operation. Initially, anyone wanting to make even a local call needed the operator to put it through. After local dial was the norm, the operator was still required for long distance. And in businesses where numerous employees were all connected to the same company phone number, the switchboard operator was needed to direct incoming calls. But now, with billions of phone calls made every day, the job of switchboard operator would be virtually impossible.

Before you wrinkle your forehead into a frown and formulate an immediate objection to the concept of computer belonging on a 'no longer exists' list, I'm not talking about the hardware/software combination that is vital to today's society. I'm talking about a person rather than a machine. Computer was an actual job title. Before computers (the machine) became commercially available, these computers (the human workers—commonly women) performed mathematical calculations, converting and crunching numbers by hand. These 'computers' were invaluable during World War II calculating firing logistics for the artillery units at the front.

Also known as 'body snatchers' as well as grave robbers. Resurrectionists were hired to dig newly buried, fresh corpses from graveyards and sell them to universities to be used as cadavers for medical research and instruction.

And as is obvious, many of today's jobs will be obsolete at some point in time. Some of them not that far away.


Ashantay said...

I must be really old. We had a milkman when I was a kid - he let us have ice chips in the summer when he could (unless it was really hot and he still had lots of deliveries). Sweet man. I also remember seeing switchboards in operation, particularly on television shows like Peter Gunn. And just yesterday I was thinking about the number of photography studios and film labs that no longer exist thanks to digital cameras. Thanks for getting me thinking this morning!

Christina Hollis said...

My brother-in-law is a milkman, employed along with many others to do daily rounds in town. They're still kept busy, although out here in the sticks we lost our milkman (actually, it was a pair of milkLADIES!), and our coalman years ago. Our brilliant village shop does grocery deliveries only at Christmas now, so most people get weekly deliveries from the supermarket, or drive there themselves. Rats are still with us, and with dustbin collections now being reduced to once every two weeks or sometimes once a month in the UK, Pest Control Officers (that's rat catchers to you and me!) are doing a roaring trade :(

Samantha Gentry said...

Ashantay: Me, too, on remembering the milk man deliveries and switchboards. I'm sure there are places to buy film and get it developed, but to the best of my knowledge exposed film has to be sent off to a major city for development unless you have your own darkroom. I got rid of all my film cameras years ago and now shoot only digital.

Thanks for your comment.

Samantha Gentry said...

Christina: I should have prefaced my blog post by saying "in the US". :)

And even at that, I'm sure there are some very rural places here where those type of deliveries might still exist. As far as rats are concerned, I think that probably comes under the heading of 'exterminator' in general for all types of bugs/insects/vermin/rodents rather than specifically rats.

I have some pictures I took not that long ago in England showing a small milk delivery truck (lory?) with lots of glass bottles and in Ireland showing a small trailer holding 2 large metal milk cans.

Thanks for your comment.