It ain’t what it used to be

Three Authentic Vintage Family Photographs Hanging on a Rope By Clothespins


Everything changes….
Is it good or is it bad?

“Bring the sheets off the line and try not to drag them on the ground.” I can still hear my mother calling me from play to see if the clothes were dry enough to come in.

I was always fearful of wash day which then was always on Monday. It was for everybody! I never had to help with the washing, but then there was that late afternoon cry for my unable assistance. I always wondered why my mother was so particular with the washing part and yet wanted me to “drag” in the sheets.

I had learned words to a hymn at church which was “Bringing in the Sheaves.” I wondered when I would come rejoicing in “Bringing in the Sheets,” for I thought that this was what the hymn was saying.

Well, it was sort of a memorized ordeal. If they were dry I somehow got them off the line and sort of folded. I remember my daddy’s starched white shirts were dry and almost standing alone. I was always grateful for the grass beneath the clothes line. You were always careful to put the wooden clothes pins back in their bag hanging on the line. When all the other clothes were down and in the house, it was “hallelujah” till next time.
I was never allowed to get in on the clothes sprinkling, and they had to be dampened with a hand sprinkler, rolled up and placed in waiting till the ironing day tomorrow. Thank goodness we had electricity for the ironing, but many a family did not at that time.

These days were just after the Great Depression when fathers had lost their jobs nationwide, or gone into some branch of service. The world was just getting back on its feet. There was not much money, but kids didn’t know it.

This era of the late 1930s and 1940s was where most women did not work outside the home, and as I look back, they probably just slaved at home. This was also an era of old time ways until we could progress and have more modern conveniences.

We were not asked what we wanted to eat for supper. Mothers cooked a good meal, and kids sat down to eat it. We were served meats and vegetables and learned to eat just about everything. If we didn’t eat it, we had to do without. We ate it!

Once I came home from my friend’s house and told my mother that I would be glad when daddy got rich. She asked me why. I said, “So we could have baloney sandwiches for lunch!”

When it came to snacks, we hardly knew what they were. Maybe an occasional ice cream or coke. Junk foods were never stocked at home, so they were a special treat.

During this era most people had a garden and did extensive canning of their produce for winter use. My grandfather always killed a hog and a beef every winter, so nobody was ever hungry. We lived in an apple orchard so fruit was also plentiful. So much more blessed than some families.

In the summer the children played outside. There was not much entertainment inside the house, and anyway, kids wanted to get with the neighbor kids and stay outside most of the day.

When we were rather young, we rode broomsticks for horses and scampered all over the neighborhood. When we were tired, one of the mothers would fix us some Kool-Aid and a peanut and butter sandwich. Once, a mother did not have any peanut butter so she made us a mustard sandwich. It was good and taught me to like mustard. Mothers never worried about us as some mother would see to us. One girl liked to eat with us because she liked “Turney (turnip) Greens.”

I especially loved the swing from the old oak tree in my girl friend’s yard. I was passing it the other day, and like the rest of us, it is showing its age, and I wondered how long it would last.

When we were older, we made playhouses upstairs in one of the homes. Many pretends took place in that setting. What I am saying, children had some toys but were very creative in making up games and events.
We would always write and put on plays with lots of singing, dancing and poem reading. Actually, all these experiences were teaching us something, though to us it was just playing.

We stayed pretty much around home for none of us had bicycles or scooters or anything but a broomstick! We never knew the difference!

When I was in the first few lower grades, I rode the bus to school. I had to be at the bus stop out at the road before dark, but back then there was no need to be afraid for nobody would bother you.

I had a scary experience one afternoon at bus time. I started to the bus and realized that I had forgotten to put on my overshoes to keep the mud out. I was afraid someone would get them, so I ran back to pick them up. Oh, no, the bus was pulling out.

There were no telephones much there, and I didn’t know what to do about telling my parents. I went down the hill to my friend’s home and called for daddy to come get me. Lesson learned…I never forgot my shoes again. My friends took me in. Only problem was that I had to clean up my regular shoes from the school’s red mud!

At school we had a routine every morning, which taught children so much. We had a scripture reading by the teacher, the pledge to the American flag, and a prayer. After this there was the roll call. I’m sure the teacher knew if anyone was absent because we had to sit in the same seat. We then went into our lessons.

There was no commotion or much talking on the school bus, but occasionally a little fight would break out with some of the boys on the playground. There was no bullying or hard feelings among the children for we knew that was forbidden. Everyone was a friend.

When we went to church on Sunday we wore our “Sunday best.” We had classes by age groups and the whole Sunday School kept extensive records. When another year had passed we had Promotion Day and we passed on to another class. We had a two-week Vacation Bible School, and I can remember our pastor leading us wearing a black suit with tie and vest outside in the hot weather.

Today, it is hard to believe that companies sold their wares door to door with salesmen coming often to show their products. I especially remember Jewel T and Fuller Brush. Also calling at your door were insurance people collecting your bill instead of mailing it.

Entertainment was at a minimum except for the radio and a very few movies. Most people did not have a telephone much less all these new devices that are so popular today.

We did have a telephone, but kids did not call their friends on it like today. It was used for business and adult use. We were on a party line, which meant we had a letter after our same number and every other person on that line had a different letter. Our first number was 35-W and when we moved it was 214-W. If you had to make an important call, you might pick up the phone and someone else was on there talking. You had to wait until they hung up and cleared the line. This is hard to realize today when most people have their own phone.

On the radio, which was not used all the time, kids heard Henry Aldridge and Intersanctum to name a few. In the newspaper we faithfully kept up with Dagwood Bumstead and Snuffy Smith. When we were older there was Dick Tracy to entertain us. To mimic Dagwood, we would make huge sandwiches with lots of variety, and this was our junkfood Dagwood sandwich.

Remember when all the stores were closed on Sunday? If you didn’t get all of your supplies by Saturday, you did without until Monday. This was a Holy Day and a day of rest. You certainly could not go to a movie though I think they were open.

I liked Sunday to an extent, but I was so active I thought my daddy was wasting his time while sitting around reading that big Sunday newspaper after we ate. He would tell us he would take us somewhere when he finished reading. Big paper……long wait!

Sometimes we would just go riding around, and he would take us way out in the country and through the mountains. Some of these trips were to notify men that they could come to work on Monday.

Occasionally we would have a little picnic somewhere where we could wade in a branch and play. When we were older and my grandfather had the farm, we could go swimming in that cold, cold creek.

We visited family and had a few vacations, but trips were not as popular then as they are now. There was not time, money or paid entertainment venues.

Oh, and most every family had just one car. Going somewhere and living out of town was an engineering process. Mother would sometimes take daddy back to work at lunch and keep the car. We would do our business and pick him up after work.

Speaking of cars, most folks know that you did not ever pump your own gas. You drove up to the station or store and a clerk would fill your car, check the oil, wash the windshield, and check your tires. Top that, where we bought gas and groceries, it was charged until payday. Most good customers could do this as it was handy and the kids got an ice cream treat when the bill was paid!

Like I told you, it used to be that way. Progress has come a long way, and some would not believe these stories since things are so different. Though things have progressed and changed, and we are grateful that they have, I still believe that some things today would be better if they remained like they used to be.

So many are missing the joy of growing up in the neighborhood with children who have remained friends for a lifetime. This is my greatest and most lasting treasure. I am grateful for everything, but even more grateful for the progress that has been made. Time and progress will change things, but it cannot erase the memories of growing up, for these memories helped to make me who I am and will last a lifetime.