Sunday, April 29, 2012

I'm So Old That....

I'm so old I remember when women wore corsets. Mom didn't, but Grandma did. One time I saw this odd looking thing laying on her bed and since I couldn't figure out what it was, I asked. She informed me it was a corset and when I asked what it was for, she held it against her clothes and showed me how it went on. I suggested she get rid of it because it looked like it would be painful to squeeze one's upper body into such a contraption. She told me it was fashionable and made the wearer look thin. I vowed then and there no such thing would ever touch my body. I kept the promise.

I'm so old I remember when every lady I knew wore a dress and high heels to do housework. I never saw grandma in anything but a dress, though sometimes mom would wear shorts and a halter top during the heat of summer. I never saw her in slacks until sometime around the 60s when she gave into the casual and comfy wear of the times. As for grandma, who lived to be 94? Always in a dress. Never anything else.

I'm so old I remember when you had to run the sewing machine with your feet. As a small child I remember sitting on the floor beside mom as she sewed, fascinated by the rhythm of her two feet as she pushed the treadle back and forth. When I asked why she did that, she informed me it was what made the sewing machine work. So when she wasn't looking, I put both my hands on the treadle, pushing it back and forth. Yep, the machine started doing its thing. It came into my small mind that I might have sewed something I shouldn't, so I stopped and hoped mom never found out what I'd done.

I'm so old I remember ice boxes.  The ice man came around often, lugging a huge block of ice with scary looking tongs. I kept my distance. He'd take the ice block into the kitchen and deposit it into the top of our wooden ice box. In winter, it seemed the ice lasted longer than in the summer. The only thing I really liked about the ice man coming was seeing his white horse that pulled the wagon. It was the only white horse I'd ever seen and I thought it was beautiful.

I'm so old I remember when school desks had inkwells. The desks were wooden and wrought iron and in the upper right hand corner there was a small well that held ink. By the time I entered the fourth grade, the inkwell was filled and we were all given a stylus and nib and instructed how to write with ink. I don't remember much about those lessons. What I do vividly recall is that Johnny Miller stuck the end of Peggy Hanson's long blond pigtail into his inkwell and thought it was funny. Peggy and the teacher disagreed. Johnny got sent to the Principal's Office. I thought it served him right. I was doubly glad that I didn't sit in front of him because I had long blonde pigtails too.

I'm so old I remember when every movie theater had an usher. No matter what time of day I went to the movies, there was always a young man in a red coat, dark slacks, a funny little hat, and a small flashlight to show me where the empty seats were. Jim told me he used to be an usher at the only theater in the little town where he grew up. Sometimes I wonder if that was where he learned to like wearing a uniform.

I'm so old I remember when cameras were nothing more than little black boxes. While still in grade school, my parents gave me their old camera to practice taking photos. It was a black Brownie, ugly as it could be, and the pictures were fuzzy. I thought it was a great prize. When our family went on vacation to the east coast, I hauled it along with me. To this day I have the pictures I took with that old camera. I had it for a long time. Then one day, while cleaning closets, I came across it and tossed it in the Goodwill box to be given away. I've been asking myself ever since, "What on earth were you thinking?"

I'm so old that I remember when washing machines were all manual.  Mom's washer sat in the basement. I think that was in case it overflowed, which it sometimes did when she forgot to keep an eye on the water level. The wringer washer got filled with a hose that ran from the hot water spigot to the washing machine. Then she dumped in laundry detergent and a load of laundry--no where near the size of today's "load." Then she turned on the machine and the center paddle swished the clothes around for as long as she thought it took them to get clean. The wringer part on the top of the machine was movable, so she'd turn the machine off and the wringer on. Then she'd  put the clothes through the wringer, one piece at a time, and it would fall into another tub filled with hot water. That is where it supposedly got rinsed. When all the clothes were in the rinse tub, she'd move the wringer again and put the clothes into yet another tub, this time filled with cold water. Then every single piece of clothing got put through the wringer one last time so it would fall into her laundry basket. Then she'd carry the basket upstairs and outdoors where she'd hang each piece to dry. Then back to the basement for the next load. Laundry was an all day job. Whew. I'm tired just writing about it.

I'm so old I remember when you had to be a weight lifter to iron the clothes. If you've never held an antique iron, you have no idea what you've missed. Every woman I knew had at least two. One to iron with and one to set on the wood stove to get hot. Even as a kid, I could barely lift the iron. Mom was thrilled when electric irons hit the market, although as I recall, they weren't a whole lot lighter in weight. It was just that they heated themselves, so every household needed only one. Washing and ironing were never held on the same day. The ironing came a few days later, because there was no such thing as a steam iron and every piece of clothing to be ironed had to be sprinkled with water, rolled into a ball, and put in some kind of bag to "set." I did the same thing as a young wife, for steam irons were still an unknown entity. Blah. I hated ironing day. I think every woman did.

I'm so old I remember when you had to have a woodpile in the kitchen if you wanted to use your stove. I can still remember vividly the old cook stove on our farm. It was a big, black ugly thing that belched fire if you opened the wrong door--which I did on occasion. If you wanted to make breakfast, you had to get up earlier than everyone else and get the fire started before you could even begin the coffee--usually the first thing every adult wanted at that time of day. Once the whole stove top got hot, the rest of the meal could be cooked. It was rather like camping out inside the house. And woe to the one who let the woodpile get empty because that meant going outside in all sorts of weather to either haul in more chopped wood or chop just enough to get through breakfast. How on earth did those pioneer women survive? Hey, wait, I don't know any pioneer women. I'm talking about my family here. No wonder I have always hated being in the kitchen. Maybe that's why my middle sister hates it too. We are the only two of we three girls who remember that stove. Little sister came along way too late to know about it.

I'm so old I remember a lot of other things too. But I won't list them all. So think about this: if you think taking care of a home is hard today, look back at what it used to be like. I bet you'll be grateful you live in the 21st Century.