Member Emeritus 1946-2018
Life ~ A Comparison of Two GenerationsMy father was the youngest of eleven children that were raised in a rural farming area of Mississippi. His family resided in a modest, weathered wooden plank house with a breezeway that ran through the middle of the house with three rooms on one side of the breezeway, and two large bedrooms on the other side. A fireplace on both sides of the house provided what little warmth the family had on cold, winter nights.
My Father's Generation
My Father's Generation
Every child that was born into the household was birthed in my grandparent’s bed with the assistance of a neighboring midwife. My father has no recollection of ever having the occasion to go to a doctor’s office for any reason.
Their home was illuminated during the hours of darkness by coal oil lamps. The drinking water and the water that was needed for cooking purposes was drawn from a deep well which was located about thirty yards from the dwelling. The water that was used for their weekly baths (in a galvanized washtub) was collected from the rain water which ran off the tin roof into fifty-five gallon rain barrels.
The only way to stay halfway cool on a scorching summer’s day was to sit outside underneath the shade of a tree, or to sit in the shaded breezeway of the home’s porch.
The wooden outhouse, located about fifty yards from the main dwelling, was the family toilet.
My paternal grandmother prepared three meals a day, seven days a week, on a wood-burning cast iron stove. I can only imagine how hot it must have been in that kitchen during the hot, humid Mississippi summer months when she fired the old stove up to prepare a meal. At the time of harvest, she spent countless exhausting hours over the hot stove canning vegetables and various fruits in glass Mason jars; which were capped with screw on lids and set aside for the coming winter and spring months when fresh produce from the garden would not be available for the dinner table.
Grandmother’s “wash day” consisted of having some of the older boys fetch enough buckets of water from the rain water barrels to fill two large, black wash pots that were located underneath the massive pecan tree which shaded most of the back yard. Then, the boys fetched sufficient firewood and built fires underneath the sooty black pots, and Grandmother took over from there. She washed each article of clothing, kitchen towels, and bath towels, by scrubbing them with homemade lye soap on a rub board in one of the pots. After each article was thoroughly scrubbed, the dear woman lifted it from the soapy pot with a section of sawed-off hoe handle and deposited it into the pot of clear (almost boiling) water.
The only daughter in the family stood beside a crudely-made table next to the rinse pot, and it was her job to wring out each piece of the wash that her brothers lifted from the rinse water and deposited on the table. She plopped the wrung out item into a wicker basket; and when it was full she proceeded to hang the freshly-laundered items out to dry on the clothesline. From what I understand, very little (if any) of their clothing was ever ironed. When clothing was ironed, it was pressed with a cast metal iron which was heated on one of the "eyes" of the wood stove.
The average price of gasoline, according to my (now) 89-year-old father, was between fourteen and sixteen cents a gallon during his childhood years.
The pork that was eaten by the family was harvested from the “fattening hogs” that were killed and butchered annually, The beef products were derived from the slaughtering of one of the few cattle the family owned. Meats were preserved by smoking them in the "smoke house". The family’s milk and butter came from the “milk cow” in the barnyard. Poultry and fresh eggs were, naturally, provided by the flock of chickens which littered the bare dirt in the backyard with their fecal droppings.
The produce consumed by the family (corn, beans, peas, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, beets, tomatoes, and the like were all grown in the few areas of the family’s land that supported crop growing. Pears, peaches, plums, and apples were harvested for consumption at the appropriate season of the year. Plowing the ground was done with the assistance of a mule.
The annually-purchased wardrobe for the boys in the family consisted of my grandfather buying each of them two new pairs of denim overalls, two chambray shirts, two pairs of socks, one pair of long johns, and one pair of “brogan” shoes. In the only school picture my father ever had made, he was wearing a pair of overalls with one of the straps pinned with a large safety pin because the button was missing.
My father has shared with me that Christmas was just like most any other day, in that, there were no “Christmas trees”, toys, or candies to enjoy in his household. He said that, as a child, he had heard of Santa Claus…but figured that Santa must have only made stops to the kid’s homes that were located in the towns and cities where the homes were easily located, because he never seemed to find his way out to all the farm houses located out in the “sticks”.
Dad tells me that he never remembers having more than a quarter in his pocket at any given time in his life until he left home and grew to adulthood.
So, those were the proverbial “good old days”, eh?
I was raised within the city limits of Memphis, Tennessee during the late 1940’s through the mid 1960’s. Our family’s first house was a modest, two bedroom, brick house which had electricity and a bathroom and kitchen with running water. Our source of heat was produced by a gas furnace and our tap water was heated by a gas hot water heater.
One Generation Later
One Generation Later
Mother had an electric wringer washing machine that was rolled out of the corner once a week and plugged into an electrical receptacle, and hooked up to the faucet on the kitchen sink, so she could take care of the laundering of our family members’ garments, etc. The clothes were dried outside in the sunshine on a clothes line. In the late 1950’s, Mother’s wringer washer was replaced by an automatic washing machine, and the clothesline fell into disuse when Dad installed her new gas clothes dryer.
In the early days of my childhood, we had a telephone in the hallway on a small table. To make a telephone call, one simply had to lift the receiver and state the number you wished to call after hearing the operator say: “Number, please.” In later years, that telephone was replaced with one that had a rotary dial and one’s party could be reached without the assistance of a telephone operator.The lone telephone in the house was located in the living room.
Our family enjoyed the cool breeze that was created by the electric attic fan located in the hallway of our home; and sometime during the year 1961, we were blessed beyond measure to be able to close our windows during the sweltering summer temperatures and enjoy the cool air that was provided by the two new air conditioning window units.
Our family’s groceries were purchased each Friday morning at the local Supermarket (a fairly new concept for grocery shoppers). Milk came from a glass bottle left on the doorstep by the milkman, who made home deliveries several times a week; and the nicer clothing, such as a man’s dress suit or a lady’s Sunday dress, was picked up and delivered back by the dry cleaning company’s route man.
Christmas Eve found the children of our household leaving milk and cookies on the kitchen table for Santa to enjoy when he made his annual stop at our house to drop off the toys we had previously written him letters about, and to fill our stockings with apples, oranges, and peppermint sticks. Some of the more notable toys he left behind for me were a bicycle, an electric train, and a Mattel Fanner-Fifty cap gun and holster.
In 1952, my Dad bought our family a black and white Hallicrafter television set. Programming didn’t begin until sometime in the afternoon, and the one channel ceased broadcasting at midnight. Profanity and lewdness were non-existent on television broadcasts during my childhood, even up to the day I got married and left my parents’ home in 1965.
In 1966, my young wife and I bought our first color television (which cost us $499) while I was still active duty in the Army. (The monthly pay for a new Private in the Army was $97.50 per month.) To turn the set on, to turn up or lower the volume, or to change channels, one merely turned the appropriate rotary knobs. There was no remote control.
The average price of gasoline the year my wife and I married was 29.9 cents per gallon. In 1967, the sticker price of a new, Plymouth Belvedere II was $2,499.00 (yes, that‘s two thousand, four hundred ninety-nine dollars). The price of my first new house (in 1974) was $24,500.00. The cost of my 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee was $27,800.00.
Now, if we were to talk about the amenities of my children’s or my grandchildren’s generations…well, that would be another story, wouldn’t it?
I’m looking forward to reading some the “generational differences” that my fellow forum members will share during the course of this thread.