Nov 26, 2006

Little Changes in History

A lot of changes have occurred in my lifetime of almost 70 years. The big changes in religion, politics and law, and 'lifestyles' have been noted many times over. But it's the little undocumented changes that are also very important and show how much our society has changed (declined?) in the past 50 to 70 years.

MUSIC--When I was in grade school, the music on the noon radio was live cowboy music, mostly played with fiddles, a bass, and a horizontal steel guitar. The music was quite popular at the time. My favorite radio program was The Lone Ranger with its William Tell Overture as the accompanying music. My favorite movie star was the singing cowboy, Roy Rogers. I really liked to listen to the Sons of the Pioneers. I loved the colorful cartoons, especially the ones where the little yellow Tweety Bird says, "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy-Tat!"

While in college in the late 50's and early 60's, I purchased a small blue-green radio for about $30 earned from a summer job. Virtually all of the FM stations I received on that radio played exclusively classical or semi-classical music and with very few advertisements. Almost all the girls in my hall loved classical music, although they also crowded around the TV to hear Perry Como sing. [Over the years, the number of FM stations in KC has increased dramatically, but not one now plays classical or semi-classical music.]

BABIES--One of my freshman classmates in college was a very good student. I wondered why she did not return for her sophomore year and was told by another girl she had gotten married over the summer because of becoming pregnant. This was typical of the situation at that time.

Until my third or fourth child, changing a diaper meant changing a cloth diaper. A really dirty diaper was one that you washed out in the toilet stool before placing it in a covered bucket for later washing in a ringer-roller washing machine.

TOYS--The toys that my children played with were much more interesting and fun than toys of today. One particular toy for small children that was taken off the market, presumably due to safety reasons, was a wood block with an entry hole in the top on one side and an exit hole on the other side near the bottom. Dowels were placed in the entry hole and the child used a hammer to pound the round pieces of wood through the interior wood channel so they came out the exit hole.

SCHOOLS AND NUNS--When I attended early Catholic grade school, the tuition was $1 per month. Tuition for my first year of Catholic high school was $40 per year and my Dad thought that was high. In both cases, the nuns worked hard and received little monetary pay. By about 1950, one young nun had ~60 children in a first or second-grade class--and she kept order, too!

I remember my aunt driving the teaching nuns to the grocery store and other places they had to go on a weekly basis. The sisters never had a car and relied on parishioners to furnish them transportation. Parishioners also contributed food from their gardens to the nuns. Doctors who treated the nuns did so on a pro bono basis.

The nuns sold candy to the students every Friday afternoon and a nice sized candy bar cost 5 cents. Students were prohibited from buying more than two pieces of candy, if I remember. The selling of candy was a money raising effort for the school.

Once a month, mothers fixed breakfast for the students after the First Friday Mass because everyone had to fast from all food and water from midnight on. To make sure students avoided drinking water before First Friday Mass, the nuns covered the school drinking fountains with paper bags.

CLOTHES--Everyone dressed up if they went to church or to town for shopping. Women and men wore hats or the women wore scarves. Only leather shoes were believed suitable for dressing up. The first tennis shoes were said to be unhealthy for children's feet. X-ray machines in a few shoe stores were used to show how well shoes fit on a foot, although they were discontinued by the time WWII ended.

KITCHENS--There was no plastic wrap or aluminum foil when I was young. The kitchen was a plastic-less world. Wax paper was used to cover food. Milk was not homogenized and the cream came to the top of the glass bottles The cream could be poured off to put in coffee or make whipping cream or butter.

When oleomargarine was introduced, the dairy industry forced the margarine producers to make it white. Only the buyer could color the margarine by mixing in a packet of yellow dye. Eventually consumers complained to state legislators and the law was changed so that yellow margarine could be sold.

A primary activity in the summer kitchen was canning. I remember helping my mother can 80+ jars of strawberry preserves one year. She also canned lots of tomato juice and some pears.

1 comment:

Therese_Rose_Morning said...

I was very fortunate to have been raised by parents who more or less grew up in the same period you enjoyed :-D My siblings and I were home-schooled and raised on a farm with horses and other livestock. We had no tv, no newspapers, no video games, no internet. . . our heros were Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and we LOVED the Sons of the Pioneers. We loved them so much, that my Dad provided us youngsters with guitars and other instruments, and we eventually learned how to play together and sing their songs.

I remember the year, right before I married and moved out actually, that my Dad finally acquiesced to getting a DVD player, and that was only because we had been given a Gene Autry DVD collection that we kids were just dying to see!

There were times when I would be recounting an adventure from our collection of old time radio shows (Basil Rathebone as Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, Roy Rogers, Amos and Andy, Fibber McGee and Molly) to one of my young friends, and they would pity me for not having tv or video games. Yet when I would bring them home to share an evening with my family, all cuddled up in the living room with big bowls of popcorn, for an episode or two, they would go home with rave reviews;)

I hope to be able to raise my own children in much the same way.