Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good Old Days

In the last few days, there have been a rash of "the good old days" posts on various Facebook walls. You know the ones about playing outside until the street lights came on and so forth. Like all things we view through the nostalgic prism of time, we choose to remember the good and forget the bad.

I don't think that's selective memory. It's just a yearning for a time when things were simpler. At least that's our perception. But if you take a man or woman out of their familiar surroundings and place them back...oh about fifty years, most wouldn't have a clue how to accomplish some of the most basic tasks.

Then food preparation took place in the kitchen--on a stove. The proliferation of kitchen appliances was barely beginning. A few kitchens had mixers, big heavy machines you used to make cake and cookie batters. The overall machine was durable enough for my two year old daughter to use it when she need a stepping stone from the kitchen counter to the top of the refrigerator. You don't want to know the rest of that story...

Other than the mixer, there were no other appliances. No microwave. No George Foreman grill. Nothing. We (the hunk and I) acquired our first microwave when our oldest child was ten. He's forty-one now. You do the math. It was a tiny little box we didn't really use much for another five years. And dishes? Dishes were washed by hand.

Laundry...laundry was an all day process--usually performed on Monday. We had a wringer washer. The process went something like this: Fill the washer with the hottest water you could get. Add bluing. Wash the "white" clothes. Run them through the wringer. Soak in a big washtub/sink to rinse. Run them through the wringer again one piece at a time. Hang on the line outside to dry. Wash the sheets. Repeat the wringer/rinse process. Wash the "colored" clothes. Repeat. Wash the towels. Wash the "dark" clothes. Wash the "dirty/muddy" clothes. Empty washer and sink. Clean any residue from washer. Repeat next week.

Notice. You used the same water for the entire washing process. By the time you reached the last load, the water was cool and...dirty.

Tuesday. Ironing day. Some of you probably don't know what an iron is, but when I was growing up, everything was ironed. Everything, including the sheets and pillowcases. You got a free pass on the underwear and bras, but not slips. (That's probably another item most women don't remember.) All the clothes were sprinkled with starch water, rolled up in little logs to keep them damp, and if you didn't plan to iron them immediately, they were kept in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator.

Ironing was an art. A woman (or man) who ironed well could actually make a living at it. It was also hot (no air conditioners back then), rough on your back and legs, and if you were careless, you could end up with singed fingers.

In the summer, you prayed for a cool rainy day when you had to iron. There were no air conditioners. If you were fortunate your family owned a couple "box" fans. They were set in the window (blowing out) on the sunny side of the house/apartment to draw in the supposedly cool breezes from the shady side of the house. Sometimes it even worked.

Cars didn't have seat belts or door locks. I know. I opened the back door the Easter I was about five and rolled my oldest brother (who was around two) out the back door. While we were moving. He ended up in an irrigation ditch by the side of the road.

When I brought my first baby home from the hospital, I held him in my arms--in the front seat. We didn't have car seats until my third child was born. Try traveling anywhere with a bunch of little kids riding unrestrained in the back seat.

Of course we weren't distracted by telephones or texting. When I was small, we had a "wind-up" box on the wall. First you cranked the box. Then you asked the operator to connect you to the person you wanted. It was a party-line (which just means more that one family shared the line). Any one could listen in to the conversation at anytime--and did so frequently. The operator knew everybody's business in the entire town.

By the time I was around ten, you could pay extra to have a private line. It was easy for others to determine your financial state simply by knowing whether or not you had a party-line.

The phone was generally on the wall in the kitchen. When I was engaged I was permitted to speak to the hunk for twenty minutes twice a week. While my parents listened to the conversation.

Yep. Those were the good old days.



  1. Your memories are priceless, Anny. The stories make me smile.

  2. I do remember how wringer washer and put rubber diapers through that wringer diapers and explodes, and garments sometimes get stuck going around and around and around those wringers. I remember having to disassemble the whole wringer head to get something untangled. and I ruined a couple of shirts
    Did you ever get anything caught in a wringer?or ruined a couple of shirts? Thanks for the reminders .

  3. Thank you, Julia!

    Oh, yeah, Anne. Including fingers caught in the wringer! Cracked buttons. Yeah.