January isn’t just the month of resolutions for the year ahead. It can also be a good time to reminisce the days back when and now I wish I had the intuition years ago to ask my parents and grandparents, “What was it like when you was a kid?
I remember the many times as a kid looking through family photo albums and asking my mom who this was or who that person was, but I never wondered as a kid what it was like when they were kids. Now that I’m older, let’s say between a half and three quarters of a century of age, it’s not possible to ask that question, unfortunately. So, any of you whose parents are with you and of sound mind, take a day, a notepad, put on a pot of coffee or tea and sit down and ask them, “What was it like when you was a kid”, and let them tell you “their” story.
I recently started a journal writing down what it was like when I was growing up, the changes between my childhood surroundings and what the surroundings are today. It’s amazing what has changed over the 60+ years, not just technologically, but about everything across the board, from then till now.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was nothing like kids growing up today. We could walk with friends without worry of abduction or having drugs pushed on us. We were taught to respect our parents, elders, ministers, police, yourself and the belongings of others. If someone gave you their word, you could count on it, as your word and trust had value.
We didn’t have video games, computers, internet, or cell phones to occupy our time. We had to be creative and learned how to use our imaginations to keep from being bored. If you could get more than one channel on the black & white TV, you were lucky. Parents were parents, not a friend, and if you got in trouble at school or elsewhere, you were in bigger trouble when you got home. We had weekly chores at home to earn allowances, which taught us the value of a dollar, and if your chores weren’t done, you didn’t get that allowance and you were grounded till the end of next weeks chores. That wasn’t abuse, it was good parental upbringing. There was no entitlement as kids today expect.
A telephone wasn’t a necessity, it was convenience. The first phone I remember was the black desk phone on a stand, exactly like the one above, in the living room. A party line. For those not knowing what a party line was, it was one phone line shared by two or three other homes, so you had to wait till there was a dial tone before you could make a call. Making a call was different too. All calls were placed by an operator. You picked up the phone, dialed zero, then gave the operator the number you wanted to call. This number began with the town then a five digit number. Our first number, and I can still remember it, was Clearfield-23865. Later, as telephone service progressed, phone numbers changed and private lines became available, but my parents never changed out the old black desk phone until I went into junior high school, which was due to newer phone equipment by the Bell Telephone Company. The first of the “Next Big Thing to come” you could say.
Washing machines had wringers, pots and pans were cast iron (aluminum wasn’t invented yet), coffee was perked on top of the stove, dishes washed by hand, grocery shopping consisted of purchasing staples such as flour, sugar, salt or other items to make meals from scratch. Meat was purchased from a neighboring farm, butchered, and froze. Vegetables, berries and fruits were home grown, hand picked, canned and stored on shelves in the basement. Kitchen appliances consisted of a Sunbeam stand mixer, a hand cranked potato or apple peeler, a hand cranked coffee grinder (unless 8 O’clock coffee ground at the store was purchased) and a Hoover or Electolux vacuum cleaner. There were no dishwashers, microwaves, drip coffee makers or Keurigs, Kitchen Aid mixers with attachments, blenders, or juicers. My God! How did our mothers manage? In fact, I remember my grandmother used a gasoline powered washing machine that had a foot crank to get it started.
Heating the house was so different then too. We had a cast iron pot belly stove in the living room to heat the entire house. Wood had to be racked, kindling chopped, and coal shoveled into the coal bin in the basement. Needless to say, heat to the bedrooms upstairs was gravity fed so many winter nights the windows were frosted over, snow drifted onto the sills and floor, and you shivered under the blankets until they warmed up from body heat. I used to put my clothes under the blankets when I went to bed, and get dressed under the blankets in the morning.
It wasn’t until the early 70’s we finally got a coal furnace installed with forced air heat..It was heaven. However, another chore was added to my weekly list which was to haul the ashes out of the basement on Saturdays and wheelbarrow them to the edge of the woods. Believe me, a weeks worth of coal ashes seems to take all day to get rid of.
There’s a lot of changes that happened as the world progressed over the years, and a lot more I could list on here. The object of this post though, is to give a view of what I’m including in my journal so that one day, when I’m old and feeble, lost my memory, and sitting in a nursing home, my kids or my grandchildren will find this journal and not wish they had asked me, “What was it like when you was a kid?”
Add a comment or photos and share what it was like when you was a kid.
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One thought on “What was it like when you were a kid?”
Oh my! What memories come forth!!! I think a lot of “older” folks long for the “good ol’ days” more so when they do become grandparents or “older” themselves. If only there was a way to keep the younger generation in touch with “way back when”. Maybe the reason we keep pictures, journals, and movies, etc. is to try to update–or backdate–the next generation to keep them in touch with our values. I watch the younger “next” generation with wonderment–sometimes AMAZEMENT!–because I can see there is very little sentimental value. They are too busy–like we were–living their lives to care about what happened yesterday. It is sad, but true. I have seen this generation toss the things that might have meant the most to their parents or grandparents only because there wasn’t enough “room” in their lives for it. But, there will be a day, when they are watching their children living their lives and moving on when they look back and wish they had asked the question What was it like when you were a kid? I have kept pictures, journals, family trees, for years. I only hope my efforts were worth the angst and lovingly painstaking time it took to do them. I actually found out some information through this blog that I didn’t know… My family’s phone number before I was born. It never occurred to me that there was life BEFORE I was born! And, I don’t know what the number was when we lived in Ohio! However, I had always thought that our earliest telephone number was area code 814 and the number 857-7106. (I don’t know who has this number now; so, please don’t call it!) As I stated earlier, the next generation seems more interested in living NOW and not in the past. I’m sure that is how we felt, too; when we were raising our families. My connection with family history started long ago. I would sit and listen to my Great Aunt Vida tell me stories of her life and how she lived it long ago. My Dad and Mom would tell me about things they did as kids and about the community and life lived during the Great Depression. I also had my grandfathers–both–who would tell me of their lives working in the coal mines, etc. Recently, my Dad’s younger sister has been helping me with searching my genealogical roots on their side of the family. What interesting things I have found out about their childhoods, too. In summary, the next generation will ask that question I’m sure. And, when they do… I intend to be ready with the answers! LOL!
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