History for the young and memories for the seniors

Times certainly have changed. Take a moment for the seniors to remember and the young to learn about how life used to be. Photo: Making bread by hand/ wikipedia

MISSOURI, October 3, 2013 — Times have certainly changed.

Remember the telephone against the wall with each resident having a certain number of rings? To make a call out, one would turn a crank by hand. Remember that families could have a community call, before they even knew the term “teleconferencing.”

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Today we have many phones and lines in our homes. We have lines for our computers. We also have the cell phone that we use while shopping, driving the car, going to places of entertainment and even at lunchtime. What happened to lunches that were for eating and digesting your food and relaxing instead of making business calls?

There were no electric powered toasters, no electric powered coffee pots, no waffle makers, no mixers, no George Foreman grills, no blenders, no electric powered bread makers, no orange juice squeezers, no electric powered knives, no electric can openers, no electric or gas stoves or any of the other amazing electrical appliances.

What did they have? A large black frying pan, large bowls for making bread and salads, wood-burning stove, big heavy coffee pot, bread rollers and many more hand-held devices, which were powered by a human being.   

Coffee was made by putting coffee in a small sack and placing it in the big pot to let it boil or putting the coffee into the boiling water and then pouring it through a strainer for a good hot and strong cup of coffee.

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Cooking appliances in the past were primarily pans on top of the stove. The stove that was familiar in the country was the wood-burning stove, and when relocated into the city, one would have had a gas stove.

There were no microwave ovens like today, where you can cook a whole meal in a matter of minutes. Today we also have the option of buying a complete meal in the store and coming home and popping it into the oven. One must say those meals can’t match the home-cooked meals that were made from scratch. 

Making such a meal would start by going out into the garden to pick some beans, peas, corn, potatoes from a potato mound, fresh strawberries and other berries, apples from the orchards, cherries from a tree which were very hard to get to, persimmons, cabbage, and the like. In the winter, they used their canned vegetables that were contained in “Mason jars” and kept in the cellar.

Bread was homemade, as were the butter and jellies. No appliances were used—just two hands and rolling pin. The two hands were for kneading, then letting it rest, and proofing and putting it in the oven. No doubt it was those two loving hands that belonged to a mom who took joy in providing food for the family.

Today we have ready mixes that are put in a bread machine and, with the simple press of a button, you can get anything from white to wheat bread—and definitely no dough on the counter or hand labor required.

Floor carpeting was rarely seen in homes, but some did have 9’ x 12’ rugs that were used in the “special room” in the house. Now they did not have vacuum cleaners.

So how did they clean them?

They took them out and threw them over the clothesline and beat them with objects like a broom or other long-handled tool until the dirt was nonexistent, as far as the naked eye could see.

Floor coverings were primarily wood or linoleum. They would scrub and clean them on their hands and knees. For the special room, they would use floor wax to make them shiny after the good scrubbing.

Today we have so many floor coverings available, like marble entrances in the foyer, carpeting all over the houses, different types of tiles and so many other coverings. Cleaning is not a problem. Vacuums are ever present, with some houses having central vacuum systems. 

Liniment was used for sore backs and other aches and pains plus some other home remedies that worked. Compare that today with all kinds of appliances for our healthcare that we can use such as electric foot massagers, seat cushions for the back and bottom, and even a device to strap on to your arms and legs to have a vibrating effect to relieve the soreness.

Dental hygiene was a tooth brush with baking soda and salt.

Another item that required manual labor was shaving. We had straight razors with a brush and a shaving cup that contained soap. Compare that to today’s multitude of shaving devices, not only for the men but for the ladies as well. There are also electric powered toothbrushes and electric powered nose hair trimmers.

Of course now we’re spoiled on all these modern conveniences. When one breaks, we immediately replace it or repair it.

Appliances are often given as gifts to family and friends for holidays and special occasions. This is nice, but I must say there were a lot of great things that were accomplished in the old days without these modern-day appliances—like making bread by hand. Nothing compares to that smell, taste and wholesomeness and fighting over the end piece.

Being realistic the “Good Old Days” make for great stories that one can relay to the young, but in reality, who would want to leave the house and go to an outhouse in the middle of the winter—think about that.               

However, that’s just from a time and place I am from.




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Charles Vandegriff, Sr.

Charles is a fifty-four-year career in technology retiring at the directors level from three major corporations. Followed by three-plus years as a free-lance columnist, published three books, over three hundred speeches to senior organizations, radio interviews, one television commercial and finally married for sixty-five years, four children, seven grandchildren and thirteen great grand children. 

Charles is also a Navy veteran.

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