A stroll through any pre-1980 REI catalog (for our younger readers, probably pre-1995) is a stroll down memory lane. Jennifer Lind, an REI spokesperson, faxed me 15 pages from the 1955 catalog, one of the oldest in the company library. It has Sno-Seal (50 cents per can), but interestingly no Swiss Army knives. Primus-type stoves such as the Svea sold for $12. Thommen mechanical barometers/altimeters were $35their descendant, the TX-20, sells at REI for $399.
For some real antiques, the shoe section is required reading. Much of it is devoted to Tricouni nails, metal cleats that mountaineers fastened to their boots for traction on slick terrain. You can imagine what it was like clambering over rocks with these metal-studded boots. In clothing, of course there was no Gore-Tex or anything "waterproof-breathable." In those days, you could buy a "very water-repellent" Co-op Mountain Parka, made with a nylon-cotton blend (both materials are superb sponges), for $12. Wool military surplus pantswhich I wore when I started to climb; they were superb, particularly the coveted Air Force summer uniform pantswent for $6.50.
Nostalgia and old-fashioned gear aside, it must be said that hiking or climbing was just as fun then as it is now. Great gear is helpful, but the main thing is to just get out there!