In My Life

My children and grandchildren grow tired of me complaining about all the newfangled doodads and whatsits they keep showing off to their grandmother.  I try to tell them about the old tube and the newer transistor radios, the development of stereo, and long play records.  “What’s a record?” They’ll say.  Well, who can blame them?  The march of technology as some commentators love to term progress.  Pardon me for living but I can still remember when a washing machine was an enameled barrel with a lid and a wringer.  My mother hung the wash out on a clothes line in the back yard.  And if it rained, she hung them in the house.  Fall was canning season, time to break out the cases of mason jars and the big pots.  Every fall she and her sister would cook up the various vegetables and put away a couple of cases for use during the winter when fresh vegetables were expensive and scarce.

Of course my father love to tell me and my brother all about the old days.  How he and his older brother would rebuild Model Ts and had to mow the lawn with the old push reel mowers.  He said we were lucky to have a gasoline push mower, how much easier it was.  Kids!  Don’t know anything these days!  Actually we did but much of that didn’t count.  My older brother was one of those ham operators, had a license and receiver transmitter set up he build from a Heathkit kit.  I was constantly tinkering with bicycles and other such things but mostly I read a lot.  Like most of our crowd, I build models, most anything really.  I had a collection of military models, ship models, and airplane models.  Then I took a shine to flying model aircraft that used the control wires.  I never could get the hang of that, called for better small muscle control than I had.  But I liked to build them.  I guess that satisfied dad since he was an aircraft engineer.

Then there was the time he was talking to Pop, his father, about the new 53 Chevy he had purchased.  He was going on how the transmission was automatic, didn’t have to shift it.  “You can leave a hand free for other things while you drove.”  His brother had bought a 51 Studebaker Starlight, the one with the wrap around rear window and was so stylish.  “Robert spent all that money on show, still has a three speed on the column.  He’ll have to change the clutch in twenty thousand miles or so.”  On and on dad went.  He had a radio in the car with push button selection and twin spotlights on the front doors with hand controls to aim the lights.  Finally Pop had about enough.

“You children think your new toys are so great, don’t you.  Well, let me tell you.  Back in my day when I was courting your mother all we had was a horse and buggy.  Now I had that horse trained, not perfectly, mind you, but he was trained.  Me and your mother would go out spooning while the horse would walk about the dirt lanes and roads.  Now that’s convenience!  Of course I had to watch the horse and keep an eye out where he was headed.  One night he pulled up to the house of the girl I had been sparking.  But I managed to get him turned around and headed down the road before your mother could suspect what had happened.”

Yeah, all us old folk have stories to tell.  How many times did I have to listed to my grandmother tell us the story of moving from Virginia to Missouri by way of covered wagon.  How she had to dip her brains into the molasses barrel when the level got too low to stick her arm in it.  “I had to walk beside the wagon the entire way there.   You children have it easy, you should be out playing and going on long walks.”  Actually, we wanted to watch cartoons and her soaps were on at the time.  Lord, that woman could sit and tat like nobody’s business while watching her soaps.  Of course she had a different side we never saw and didn’t learn about until later.

My father had broken his leg about the age of twelve and spent quite a bit of time in the hospital due to an infection.  But as he recovered Nana, that was the name we used, would take him out to see the Washington Senators play when the games were in town.  She would get in free on ladies day and dad, because he was on crutches got in free as well.  They always sat behind third base and Nana was quite the baseball aficionado.  Babe Ruth would have given dad an autographed ball but for the time Nana and the ump got into it.  “Kill the umpire!” Was her favorite cry.  The men always gave dad a bottle of soda pop and a bag of peanuts, sometimes a hotdog.  Times were different then, a lot more friendly.  He said her altercations with the umpires got to a point in one game that the ump came over and threatened personally throw her out of the stadium.  I guess walking to Missouri next to a wagon puts a little iron in your spine.

True, kids now days don’t have the same chances I did or my father or his parents.  My aunt taught me how to milk a cow, my uncle how to mow and rake hay.  Automobiles and trucks were very simple to work on in my youth, unlike today where one needs twenty thousand dollars of electronic equipment just to see what is wrong with a vehicle.  Of course I have seen a blaze of progress, unlike the present generations.  To go from digging ditches to climbing poles as a lineman to working in electronics, to design of computers and information nets and writing computer programs, well, that covers quite a range of technology.  Funny, we still have the automatic transmission, it’s standard where once it was a luxury.  Now the stick shift i8s all the rage and costs more.  what will they think of next?

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