Jun 30, 2011

When I Grew Up.....

When I grew up, my grandmother's rose with the sun, cooked breakfast, and then cleaned house until noon. Their main job was to take care of their families and their houses, and they took that job very seriously.  They put their hair up in bandannas to dust, vacuum, and do laundry, dishes, and wash windows until noon, when they prepared lunch (for their husbands, who came home for lunch), cleaned up, and then took a much deserved and very much needed nap. 
Afternoon's were for preparing to go downtown.  This meant washing your hands and face, putting on clean clothes, lipstick for the ladies. Often jewelry would be worn.  Brooches were popular, as were scarves, held in place by brooches. 
Going downtown would include a trip to the grocery store, the post office, the drugstore for an ice cream soda, and various businesses up and down a centrally located Main Street, where every business owner and a good percentage of the customers knew you and your entire family for generations.  There were few strangers, and no one was a stranger for long.

If you needed gas, you drove to a gas station, where you drove over an air pump, which rang a bell, which told the attendant that a customer was waiting.  You sat in the car and the attendant came out and pumped your gas, cleaned your windows, would check your oil and various fluids.  These attendants would even be able to tell if you had a belt that was looking worn, or a spark plug problem.  These were back in the days when you opened the hood of a car you could actually see the engine, of course.  These were also the days when most men knew the parts, what they did, and owned tools to work them.  The attendant would also take your money and bring your change to the car, if you didn't want to get out.  It was a long time ago.

We played in back yards and in creeks until our mothers called us in for supper, then we were right back out there until after dark.  We played games of hide and seek and statues.  We would spin ourselves around until we fell on the ground and then laugh and laugh at how dizzy we were.  Occasionally we would not get up, and instead stare at the clouds for hours, finding shapes and making up stories that usually starred ourselves.  We were the stars of our own world, and we often ruled that world from the tops of trees.  You would be astounded to know what all you can both hear and see from the top of a tree, especially if no one knows you are up there.

Going to a movie was a big deal, and usually would only occur at a drive-in.  You would be piled into the car with various sacks of popcorn prepared at home and a cooler with pop, blankets and pillows, only to be dragged out in the middle of the night, at least half asleep, by a parent.

Saturday nights you would have a babysitter because your parents would go "out".  "Out" often was a "supper club", where they would eat steak, dance, and drink.  It was referred to as a "supper club" because it sounded much better than "bar", but this did not concern me at all.  I was busy teaching myself to tap dance like the guy on Lawrence Welk, which was always just fine with my babysitter.  The babysitter was intimately known to you, if not your cousin.  She did dishes and supervised sibling fights, knowing all the house rules since birth herself, and having no qualms about being sued for child molestation or abuse.  By anyone, least of all the children.  It was a long time ago.

If you didn't have a babysitter for Saturday night, it was probably because it was your parent's turn to have everyone over to play cards until the wee hours of the morning.  This meant hours of running and screaming through dark yards, free reign of the record player, and cake pans full of popcorn, as many as you could eat, all night long.  This popcorn was prepared by using oil, popcorn, and a big pan, on a stove, and always left unpopped kernels, which were scorned by most, but not all, children.  Eventually you fell over and slept wherever you were.  If you were very lucky, you could fake being asleep so that your dad would carry you out at the end of the night, saving you the rude awakening and shuffling over other children's supposedly sleeping figures.

Occasionally, a teenager would do "something bad" and everybody would be upset for awhile.  The kids didn't know what happened, just that it was "something bad".  But then the next thing you knew everybody was celebrating a wedding and planning a chivaree.  A chivaree is an occasion whereupon the newly married couple is set upon by "surprise" and then have their new house basically trashed.  Most times, inexplicably, the husband was goaded into pushing his new wife somewhere in a wheel barrow.  I do not have an explanation for this, other than that you had to get the couple out of the house somehow so you could trash it.  The grown ups seemed to think that throwing oatmeal all over someone's bed was funny.  I thought it was terrible.  They said I would understand someday.  That day has yet to come.....  Possibly it is some kind of ceremonial placing of the new couple on the same side.  Against their family and friends who would trash their house and leave them with this mess to clean up together.  Anyway, after that things would settle down and be normal again, the upset seemingly forgotten.  I do not remember any couple ever taking revenge and trashing anyone else's house.  I guess it would have never ended then, and for the good of the entire town you had to sit up and take your medicine, like a grown up, which you were supposed to be if you were married.  Let's not examine that any further here.  I really don't have that kind of time.

There were no "designer" brands of anything to my knowledge.  This was back in the days when mother's were home and made clothes for their children.  What your mom couldn't make you could order from a catalog.  Catalogs were really big and would be kept in a special place to be poured over for an entire year.  Even after they were out of date, they made very good door stops if one had the patience to fold down every sheet, making a rounded bottom and a pointed top.  Many had such patience, instinctively "re-using" and "recycling" any given material.  I can remember little "rugs" in front of kitchen sinks woven entirely out of bread wrappers, saved for just such a use.

Going out to eat was a big treat, especially if you were a child, as most restaurants were for adults and not designed, even their menu's, for children.  It was more common to get to go to a Kentucky Fried Chicken, or a Dog 'N Suds, where a carhop on roller skates delivered hamburgers, hot dogs, and frosted mugs of Root Beer on a tray that hung right on your window.  There were no drive-thru windows, except on a few banks.

Saturdays downtown, many women would wear curlers in their hair, covered by headscarves.  This was before blow dryers, and I hear that far from being embarrassing, it was a mark of distinction (to be seen in public in curlers, that is) because it meant you had a date that night.   I am not making this up, although I do remember the first time I ever saw a blow dryer and a curling iron.  These items were very popular, sold like hot cakes, and whether by design or not, opened up a whole market for product to use on "damaged" hair that continues unabated to this very day.  The future would see small wars waged over whether these products were "tested" on animals, but that is another story, no less incredible than the rest of this strange story.

The Pledge of Allegiance started every school day.  Most everyone went to church on Sunday regardless of what they had done Saturday night, and no one ever, ever discussed how they voted.  It was considered bad manners not just to ask, but to tell.  I miss those days.

This Fourth of July weekend I hope you look around and examine the world.  Take a good hard look and compare it to what you grew up with.  Try not to cry.  How is America doing in your book?  You don't have to discuss it with anybody, just ask yourself.  That should keep you busy for awhile.  Think about having freedom and what it costs.  Then enjoy your holiday and teach your kids what really matters.  You know what it is, let's get back to it.