Friday, March 29, 2013

The Old Days --Memoirs Week 5

When I was a little girl, World War II was going on. We had ration books, green stamps, oleo that my mother mixed with yellow food coloring to make it look like butter, and not much money. We didn't get a toy every time we went to the store, like kids today do. We waited until Christmas or our birthday to get a new toy. Many of our toys were homemade.  I remember a rocking doll cradle made from an oatmeal box. Kids roamed the neighborhood playing with other kids. When it was time for us to come in, our mothers stood on the front porch, yelling our names. And we came running.

 An icebox in our kitchen held a big block of ice, which we chipped with an ice pick when we wanted a cold drink. On the day when the iceman came, mother would put a sign in the window telling the iceman how much ice to bring in the house--a 25 or 50 pound block. My grandmother made all my clothes, even my underwear, and my mother was a whiz at making good nutritional meals with very little money. We raised chickens and rabbits for meat, and I never saw the inside of a restaurant until I was grown.

My grandmother did take me to town once a week, riding the old "interurban," a streetcar with an aerial on top connected to cables installed over prescribed routes of travel in Dallas. We ate lunch in a cafeteria or at a food counter downtown, did some shopping, and usually saw a movie. In the plush Dallas theaters called "The Palace," "The Grand," or the "Rialto" we watched many of the elaborate old-time musicals with Doris Day, Deanna Durbin, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, and other movie stars.

We had a radio, but didn't get a television until I was about eleven or twelve.  Sometimes on Saturdays my little brother and I would go to a neighborhood theater and see a "kid's show." The theaters showed "serials" that were continued each week. The hero or heroine was always left in some precarious situation, to ensure that we kids would come back to find out what happened next week. And if we didn't get there, there was no TiVo or computer to call up that episode and discover the ending. If we missed it, we were out in the cold, not knowing how the characters solved their problems.

We did not have an indoor bathroom. We had a path to the outhouse far out in the back yard, and we bathed in the kitchen in a #3 washtub. One day my dad came home with a long galvanized tub and we were ecstatic. We could heat the water, pour it in, and take a bath without having our knees up to our chin. It was long enough to stretch out your legs while you bathed, and we felt privileged.

Whenever someone was taking a bath in the kitchen next to the warm stove, everybody else in the family had to stay out to provide a little privacy. Once one of my grandpa's sisters came for an extended stay, and I didn't know she was in the kitchen taking a bath. I ran through the kitchen just as she stood up from her bath and was startled to see a wrinkled, old lady standing there in the tub. I'm sure I startled her just as much. I got out of there fast.

People never locked their houses in those days. If it was too hot to sleep in the house, we took our quilts and pillows outside and spread them on the lawn and slept there. I remember many nights when we searched the skies for the big dipper or other star formations before going to sleep, while the cool breezes refreshed us. The next morning the sun would wake us up.

Sometimes an old tramp would come to the back door, asking for a plate of food in exchange for some work. My mother would give him some food and he would sit on the back steps to eat it. When he knocked on the door to return the plate, she would give him a job to do in the back yard to pay for his meal. There was never any fear and most any housewife was willing to give food to a hobo. He would go his way and we never saw him again. But others would come. I think these men must have passed on information about which houses were friendly to these homeless people, and who had good food at their house.

Ah, the memories from those old days. People in their 70s now have memories of times like these. I lived in the big city of Dallas while my husband grew up on a farm. In my book A Heritage of Faith, you will read about life in the old days, and life through the years as times changed, people changed, and so did our country. We would not dream of leaving our doors unlocked today. Children today have to have name-brand clothes. Every teenager feels undressed without his or her cell phone.

I wonder how many people would like to go back to those old days. Not many, I imagine. If the children of today were suddenly thrust into those times, they could not handle it. The familiar is the best way, and even though there are a lot of things wrong with our world today, it's most likely that few of us would want to go back, even if we could.

This is an example of how you can write your memories of stories for those who will come after you in your family. As you read my stories, I hope your mind will be challenged to think of your own, and write them down. Have one of your children or grandchildren read your stories. They will be so impressed, it will encourage you to write some more.

If you comment on these "Friday pages" you will be in a drawing to win one of my books, A Heritage of Faith. Please leave your name and email address so I'll know how to contact you if you win.

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