Back in the Goo…

Back in the Good Ole Days

 I saw a Facebook post recently that started me thinking and reminiscing about how much things have changed in my lifetime.  I really am not that old-just shy of 60- born in 1952. I am calling my early childhood (the 50’s and early 60’s) the “good ole” days…. Well, let’s see how the story goes…..

We had diapers, you know, the real cloth kind that you rinsed out in the toilet, soaked in borax and washed in the washing machine before hanging on the line to dry. These diapers were also recycled for use on the succession of children until they were worn out.  They also made good burping cloths. I used these with my children in the late 70’s.

Wash days were Monday and Wednesday mornings. I can remember the old wringer washer in the basement. You had to be very careful not to get your arm caught in the wringer. The clothes were hung on the line to dry before being ironed and/or folded and put away.  Clothes that needed to be ironed were sprinkled with water and put into a huge plastic bag to absorb some of the water before ironing.  This was our steam setting on the iron! Almost everything was ironed, included bed linens.  Pants stretchers were inserted into the legs of pants as they dried to keep them from shrinking and wrinkle free.

In the mid 60’s, we remodeled the house and purchased a washer, dryer and dishwasher.  Daddy installed a wash tub in the laundry room that held a washing machine full of water. At the end of the wash cycle the water would empty into the tub to be reused on the next load of laundry.  The rinse cycle was always fresh.  We continued to hang our clothes on the line and used the dryer as a backup for rainy days.

All of our dresses and sleepwear were homemade.  We girls did not wear pants or shorts.  I can remember my first and only store bought dresses. I got two when I was in the fourth grade. I was so proud of them.  I especially cherished the brown plaid one with a long waist line. I felt very stylish and pretty!

Our curtains, bed covers and tablecloths were homemade. Mother crocheted doilies and potholders.  We each had a pair of rubber work boots and two pairs of shoes; everyday and Sunday. I can remember when we were required to have sneakers for school. It was a big deal for my parents to have to buy an extra pair of shoes.

Most of our food was homegrown.  Each year we raised several pigs, beef and chickens. Butchering day was a big day with Aunts, Uncles and friends coming to help.  We cured hams, bacon, and even made bologna and dried beef.  The lard was rendered and used for cooking. We ate the liver, heart and brains. They were a real treat.  We canned vegetables, fruits, applesauce, pickles and jellies. We made bread, candy, cakes, cookies, doughnuts and potato chips.  Potatoes were stored in the root cellar for the winter. On Saturday mornings we made several freezers of ice-cream. I can remember (and almost still taste) my first store bought ice-cream.  It was Hershey’s vanilla and I had never tasted anything so divine.  We did not eat snacks in between meals but occasionally we were allowed an apple or special treat at bedtime. On rare occasions we could talk daddy into making us egg sandwiches when we came home from church on Sunday evenings. That was the only thing I ever remember him “cooking” as cooking was mother’s job. We did not buy cereal as we always ate a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, pancakes, waffles, or hominy & puddings. When my youngest brother was born mother started buying KIX cereal to take along to church to keep him occupied. We were so jealous and only occasionally allowed to eat any of it.

We lived on a dairy farm and drank fresh, raw milk. Mother would skim the cream off to make whipped cream and occasionally soft cheese.

After meals we took turns washing and drying dishes.  We did not have an ice-maker, microwave or electric coffee maker. The few electrical appliances we did have such as a mixer or toaster were taken to a repair shop and fixed if they broke.  Watches and clocks were also repaired.

Anything that could be reused was.  Mayonnaise jars were used for canning and on the rare occasion you acquired a plastic container with a lid, it also was reused.  It was unthinkable not to reuse aluminum foil, plastic bags and bent nails. Bent nails were simply straightened.  We used handkerchiefs instead of tissues and rags instead of paper towels.

Store bought orange juice was a very special treat. We drank a lot of tomato juice, which we canned, and grape juice. I don’t remember ever buying sodas unless it was ginger ale for an unset stomach.  The glass bottles were always turned in for recycling.  A lot of grocery items came in tin cans which were put in a big barrel in the shed for recycling.

We did not have TV but we did have one radio and a stereo to play records. We read books, climbed trees, slid off the garage roof, played in the creek & hay loft, and imitated grownups in our make believe world with our dolls and the playhouse.  We had bike trails all over the farm and we were allowed to ride on the county road going past our farm and also on the main highway to go the local grocery store.

After we started going to school, we got a weekly allowance to spend on ice-cream or candy.  In first grade I got 5 cents a week and in third grade it was doubled to 10 cents.  I was in high school before I received a whooping $1.00 a week. I remember in first grade, hula-hoops were the rage and I really wanted one. They cost 60 cents. The agreement was I had to save my pennies until I had half and then I could purchase it and finished paying it off.  Several years later two of my cousins used it for tug of war and broke it apart. I was devastated. After that it never stayed together properly but I still treasured it and even took it with me when I got married.

To earn extra money we hoed thistles and swatted flies. If I remember correctly, we received a penny for every 50 flies. Occasionally we were paid extra for cleaning out the chicken house. One time we were rewarded with a special treat, an ice-cream cone from Dairy Queen for digging potatoes.  We were taught to tithe 10% to the church on the money we earned.  Money given to us as a gift had to go into our savings account.

We did not have air-conditioning in the house or car. In the summer we often slept on mattresses on the upstairs porch.

We took baths twice a week; Wednesday and Saturday evenings.  We always reused our towels and wash cloths.  On Saturdays we also washed our hair and polished our shoes. We wanted to look our best for church on Sundays.

We went to church every Sunday morning and evening and also on Wednesday nights.  The men sat on one right side and the women on the left. The only reason for not going was sickness, homework did not count.  Quite often on Sundays we either had guests for lunch or went visiting to grandparents, aunts & uncles, or friends in the afternoon. Friendships and family bonds were forged that have lasted through the years.

We never, ever went shopping on Sunday, not even to purchase gas.  Most stores were not open and but more importantly it was the Lord’s Day. I don’t ever remember eating out. Fast food restaurants didn’t exist. The few times we traveled we took along food in a cooler and made sandwiches along the way.

Our lot in life as children was to work, then play.  We never knew what it was to “sleep in”.  We ate breakfast as a family at 7 or 7:30 AM.  We always had devotions at the table before we ate.  Daddy would read from the Bible, we would sing a hymn, working our way through the hymnal, and pray. All three meals were eaten together as a family. You did not miss and you were not late.  I don’t remember ever having sandwiches at lunch time. By the time we were 8 or 9 (and maybe before) we had chores to do at the barn before breakfast (and before going to school!) and after we came home from school in the evenings. We fed baby calves and chickens or helped to milk the cows.  We did not have time to take baths (there were no showers in the house) before going to school.

We never played sports at school or on county league teams. We played softball, badminton and croquet on our front lawn with the neighbor children. We enjoyed board games such as Uncle Wiggley, Candy Land, Monopoly, and Life.

We burned our trash and only went to the dump on rare occasions. It would have been unthinkable to buy plastic trash bags just to burn! The dump was located on top of a wooded hill and the garbage was dumped over the side of the cliff.  It was an unsettling, almost scary experience as a very raggedy old man lived there and we would watch him picking through the trash scrounging for something of value.

I can remember when our phone was on a party line and shared with several neighbors. We bought refills for our ink pens and never used plastic plates and cups. The toes in socks were darned (another word for stitched by hand) including women’s hose. Shoes were taken to the repair shop to have their life extended.

“Wish lists” were real wish lists. We got two presents a year; birthday and Christmas. We would pour over the Sears and Pennys catalogs trying to decide what we wanted the “most”.  Toys were played with and valued. It was a sad day if one got broken or damaged.  I still have the doll I got for Christmas when I was in the third grade and it is in excellent condition.

These, my friend, were the “good ole” days!

Written by Pat Hertzler

January 6, 2012

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