Friday, March 06, 2009

A Different World

I was once asked if I ever had my grandchildren in mind when I blogged, sort of creating a legacy for them into Grammy’s mind that they can enjoy as they get older. Yes, I do think that’s a part of this endeavor. And lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how my world as a child differed from their world as children - and how the journey to simplicity will in some ways be easier for them and in some ways much, much harder.

To Caroline (5) and Charlotte (3):

When I was a little girl, things were different than the lives you are living now. Take the telephone, for instance. We only had one telephone, and it was hooked by a cord to the wall. I had to stand by the phone and talk. I couldn’t move around, I couldn’t talk from the bedroom or bathroom, or talk sitting on the couch, relaxing. I had to stay right by the wall, and could go only as far as that cord would reach. There was no way to go in another room and talk privately. Everyone could hear the conversation. The telephone had what’s called a rotary dial instead of a keypad. This meant that instead of punching the number buttons, I had to stick my finger in a little hole, hold it down in the hole, and turn the circle dial until it turned all the way, then release my finger from the hole and let the circle dial rotate back around again. I had to do that for every single number!

Oh, and we didn’t have cell phones either. I couldn’t call anybody from the car, the grocery store, or the restaurant. There was nothing like a phone with a camera built in, and there was certainly no text messaging. On top of that, we had no answering machine! Can you imagine that? If someone called and we weren’t home, they would just have to call back later!

We had TV, but it was not in color; it was black and white. There was no such thing as cable or satellite, so we could only get 4 channels. Guess what - there was no remote, either! To change the channel or volume, I had to actually get up from the chair, walk to the TV, and turn another dial, then go sit back down.

We couldn’t record a TV show if we were going to miss it or wanted to see it again. There were no such things as VCRs or DVDs. To see a movie, we had to go to the movie theater, which is something we couldn’t afford to do very often. Occasionally the TV stations would play a movie, but they weren’t new ones. To see The Wizard of Oz, for instance, we had to wait all year until the TV station decided to play it. Can you imagine having to wait a whole year to see your favorite DVD?

We didn’t have a clothes dryer, either. We had a washing machine, but how do you think we dried our clothes after they were washed? Have you ever heard of a clothesline? It consisted of two poles several feet apart, and in between the poles were a few wires stretched all the way from one pole to the other, and it stood in the backyard. We would take the wet clothes in a basket and stand at the clothesline and use things called “clothespins” to attach each piece of clothing (or towels, sheets, etc.) to the wires. Depending on the weather, the clothes would be dry in a couple of hours or maybe longer, and we’d take the empty basket into the backyard and remove the items from the clothesline and take them back in the house. The clothesline was directly under some trees, so guess what we found on some of the clothes? Bird poop! Yuck!

The microwave hadn’t been invented yet for average people. We couldn’t heat up lunch or make some popcorn without some planning, for all that had to be done on the stove. We had no dishwasher and no bread machine.

We did have a refrigerator and freezer, but the freezer part was not like it is now. An ice layer would build up on the walls of the freezer, and get thicker and thicker, until Mama had to take everything out, “defrost” it and start over. Ice was made in trays. We couldn’t get ice or water from a hole in the refrigerator door.

Cameras were different, too. They used something called “film,” and after we took a few pictures, we had to take the film out of the camera and take it to the store to get it “developed,” which means the store would take the photographs off the film and print them off, just like you can do on your printer. If we took a bad picture, we couldn’t delete it from the film, unfortunately. I didn’t take as many pictures as I do now, because film costs money and I had to use it wisely. It was a very special thing to have a camera when I was young. Our dad took "video," but back then, there was no sound, only pictures.

There was no such thing as a CD. If we wanted to listen to music, we used record players. The record was round and flat like a CD, but it was a lot bigger, and we put the record on what was called a turntable, which turned the record around and around at a certain speed, then we took what was called an “arm” with a “needle” on it, placed the needle on the record, and music came out as the needle went around the grooves. By the way, we had a radio in the car, but, of course, no CD player and no iPod.

I saved the most terrifying thing for last. We had no computer and no Internet. Yes, that’s right. Can you believe it? If we wanted to find something out for homework, let’s say, what year a famous person was born, or the names of different kinds of clouds, we had to go to a set of books called encyclopedias. There, everything was listed in alphabetical order. Sometimes a set of encyclopedias consisted of 30 books, so as you can imagine, they were very expensive. If a family was lucky enough to own a set of encyclopedias, those books were probably old, because most families couldn’t afford to get a new set after the first set was out of date. This is why we used the library a lot - their encyclopedias were newer than ours.

I couldn’t blog, couldn’t play computer games, and there was no such thing as “e-mail.” If you wanted to mail someone, you had to send it through the post office with a stamp on it. There was no computer to store pictures digitally, so people just put their photographs in scrapbooks or shoe boxes. There was no computer, so there was no iTunes from which to download music. If I wanted to type something, I had to use something called a “typewriter,” which was kind of like a keyboard and printer in one machine. I had to hit the keys with my fingers, just like on a keyboard, but then little metal letters would hit a piece of paper in the typewriter through a ribbon that had ink on it, and the letters would appear on the paper. If I made a mistake, though, there was no delete key, and I had to fix it another way. It was a real pain.

So see, the things you take for granted are things that, as young girls, Aunt Joy and I didn’t have. There are some things, though, that still are the same. We used pencils that look the same as most pencils do now - a stick of wood with a point of lead and an eraser on top. We had spiral-bound notebooks for school, crayons, toothbrushes, Kleenex, and toilet paper. We had board games and bikes, cereal and ice cream, and cartoons on TV. On the other hand, we still had to do our homework, clean up our room, set the table, eat foods we didn’t like, and learn how to share. Some things just never change!


Joy said...

We also had only one bathroom, one car, and one bedroom for us to share. Talk about being close to each other!

I really wish we had VCRs back then--would've been nice to see the whole episode of Batman instead of leaving 5 minutes before the end to get to choir practice on time.

MissEllen said...

Gorgeously written! I remember all of that. I also remember that our lack of electronic play toys resulted in boredom. Boredom was wonderful because it caused us to use our imaginations to play.

I love the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" because so much of it is descriptive of that type of childhood. Having nothing to do meant having everything to do.