Yep! It’s October again. That means I will be pretending to be a writer for this month. If you have read here before, you know I started doing this to tell my grandchildren what things were like when I was growing up. I have found that I enjoy writing about my life. I have also found that the more I write, the more I remember from my younger years. So I hope you will join my train for this month. In past years, I have written with a group of Christian writers called Write 31 Days. This year I am venturing out alone because I know that I can be disciplined and do what I say I will do—that is write a post every day this month. Hope you will join me and read a few posts!
In the South, there are a few things that are standards. Sweet tea is a standard drink. Coca-Cola is a standard drink. And Krispy Kreme doughnuts are a standard indulgence. I have already reflected once on the KK theme-I know that. But this is another little story of how this sweet became a favorite for me!
My Daddy like to go to baseball games. Sometimes a group of men that he worked with at Lockheed would go together. But sometimes, he took me with him. I loved to go to the ball games. Probably I didn’t understand all the rules but I had the basics down pretty ok. Now in Georgia, we have the Atlanta Braves. They have had excellent years. Remember Dale Murphy? I do! And they have had pretty crummy years. But this baseball team was the Crackers. Yep-you heard me right-they were called the Crackers. Their “stadium” was on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta. But it was not like the stadiums of today. It would be more like a small high school ball field. Wooden seats or benches. Concrete floors. Vendors hawking their wares of peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs. I can’t remember about beer. I am not sure they sold that. Back then lots of places were “dry” in those days. But they sold Coca-Cola in little green glass bottles. The bottles would be packed in ice drums and be icy cold. You couldn’t screw the lid off. You had to have the man use a church key to pop off the lid. You would hold the icy bottle in your hand and the air would condense on it creating little cold drips that would run down your arm to your elbow. The first swig (that’s a drink to you Yankees) would take your breath away. Heavenly! Generally we would drive in our car down there. I can remember that my Daddy would park in the Sears parking lot across the street. Sears was BIG. I mean really BIG. Perhaps 3 stories and a bargain basement. So if my Daddy parked there, he would be obliged to walk into the store and perhaps look at a tool or two just to justify the parking thing.
After the game was over, we had one more standard stop to make before heading home. On Ponce de Leon Street there was another famous place—-Krispy Kreme. It was open 24 hours a day and churned out the yummiest hot glazed doughnuts ever. We would generally get a dozen of them. They were so cheap-like a dollar maybe. But the best part was the smell and taste. You could watch the bits of dough drop into lard (yes-LARD) and cook on both sides before running under the sugary glaze topping. When you held it in your hand, it would be SO hot it would bend over. Oh My, it was good!!
So to this day, when I eat a KK, I think about my Daddy. I am thankful for the time he spent with me sharing things he enjoyed-like ball games and Krispy Kreme doughnuts!
My Nannie was a lady. A true Southern lady. She seemed to always have the perfect comment for every activity that I did that displeased her lady likeness. She never said ” Don’t do that” to me but she had a comment that gave me pause. I thought I would share a few with you tonight.
If we were sitting on the swing and I was talking too much, she might say—–“Silence is golden”. Hmmm. That is pretty clear cut!
How about—-“Pretty is as pretty does”. You might be pretty but if you were mean to others, the pretty didn’t matter at all.
“Children should be seen and not heard”. That one is easy. Probably she said that to me when I tried to horn in on the aunties and their adult conversations!! Actually I finally realized that I heard a lot more if I was just silent!!
“What if your face froze like that”? Pouting and frowning were not acceptable childhood behavior.
“Act like a lady”. Be kind, be respectful to others, don’t stand on your head in front of others! I knew she meant not to show my undies!
And one of the most famous to me was the big underwear saying . It was-” Always make sure you are wearing clean underwear when you leave the house. You never know when you will be in an accident and have to go to the hospital. You don’t want the nurses and doctors to see you in dirty underwear”.
And yes, I am wearing clean undies!
Don’t you just love the ease with which you can order things these days? Download an app to your smartphone or tablet and you can shop from the comfort of your home in your nightie! Pay for your purchases electronically! Have them delivered overnight! WOW!
Now it the time that I say-Well, it hasn’t always been like that! When I was a child, we had the ability to order and have it delivered to our house, too. But it wasn’t the same as today. The Jewel Tea man who drove a brown truck that looked very much like the UPS man today had a route through my neighborhood. He knew all the folks and would take orders for coffee and teas and some other grocery items. Then the next week when he came he would deliver it to your front porch. You would pay him in cash-yes in cash. Because he knew his customers, he knew how soon to stop by and get a new order from you. If you were not home, you could leave the money in an envelope that you taped to your door. Easy easy.
Another door to door sale/delivery item was with the Stanley man. He sold products that you used to clean your home. And you bought from him-not the local grocery store- because his products were much better.
My favorite home delivery person was the Charles Chip man. He delivered potato chips to your house. They came in a large metal tin with a pop off lid. When you needed more, you just left the empty one on the front porch. He would leave a filled one. It was important at my house to make sure you put the tin out first thing in the morning so you didn’t miss him. Man–those were the BEST potato chips I can ever remember eating. And they stayed so fresh in the resealable tin. Hmmm Hmmmm
There was another class of salesmen who took orders from housewives and delivered the product later. You didn’t see them very much because they sold products that were not consumable. One man sold World Book Encyclopedias. Yes encyclopedias. We did not have Google in those days. We had to actually read a book to find out facts for our reports. And we had to take notes. A set of World Books pretty much insured that the salesman would not need to visit again any time in the near future. The other area that was specialized was the vacuum cleaner salesman. Once he had demonstrated and persuaded you to buy a new vac pretty much so put himself out of business at your house. Vacs lasted a LONG time. And they weighted a ton when you had to lug them around!
When I had young children, we could order things, too. First you would call the Sears or Penney’s or whatever catalog order department. You would place your order with a real live person taking it down. And then you would drive to the catalog order pickup store in your city in a week and get your order. Frankly, we thought this was pretty good. Little did we know what would happen 30 years down the road!
I grew up in a large Baptist church in Marietta in the 1950’s. Due to its size, there were a ton of activities for children. I first reached the Girls’ Auxiliary age and loved being in it. That same year, I was able to join Training Union which met on Sunday nights before church. Training Union was not a little child kind of thing where you sat in a circle around your teacher and listened to stories. This was a coed group and we had “big” person activities—like Sword Drills. The adult would announce a scripture and the first person who found it got to step out and read it. I loved that activity. But most of all, I looked forward to being able to join the Youth group.
The Youth group was made up of teenagers. They met on Sunday nights and had a Youth Council that met on Wednesday nights before Prayer Meeting. And they looked SO grown up and they could drive cars! WOW! I remember who the president of Youth Council was to this day. Her name was Harriet and she wore perfectly pressed Oxford shirts and straight skirts and penny loafers and had this gorgeous honey blonde hair that flowed down her back almost to her waist. Oh my! And she smiled at all us “newbies” and welcomed us into the fold!
One of the big events of the Youth was Youth Week. The Youth would be in charge of all adult Sunday School classes and had leadership roles in the church services. I played the piano and generally I ended up playing somewhere. But the first year, Harriet asked me to also teach an adult class. I couldn’t tell her no. I was terrified.
The Sunday morning arrived and I went to my assigned class. The ladies were “experienced” ladies and SO sweet. They made me feel welcome but I was still nervous. Sweaty palms. Racing heart. I did the lesson. I ended. I looked at them and WHAM I fainted! Right on the floor! It is a miracle I did not get a concussion. They patted my hands and put a cold cloth on my forehead and I opened my eyes. Talk about embarrassed!!!!! That was me!!!!
When the next year rolled around, I only had to play the piano. Whew!
The other night I heard from a friend and she was talking about how many things had changed in our lives since we were little girls. And she mentioned something that is really different today that I had completely forgotten about-the wrist watch! So WW-this is for you!
The watches that were made in my childhood are quite different from the watches today. People today may have several watches since the watch today is a fashion statement. Or it is a sign of wealth because you just paid over $10,000 for it!
In the 1950’s, getting a watch was a rite of passage. You first had to be able to tell time! You had to know what the “long” hand meant and what the “short” hand meant on your watch! There were NO digital watches-they had not been invented yet! And for your information, children learned to tell time at home not at school .
My first watch was a plain watch with a leather band that was made by Timex . My watch made a faint ticking sound if you held it to your ear. The other interesting thing is that you had to wind up your watch every day in order for it to work. Every watch had a little knob on the side of the watch. You could set your watch by pulling out the knob and moving the hands. Of you could push the knob in and wind your watch that way. If you forgot to wind it at night, it would slowly run down during the night and be dead by the next morning! Then you would reset the “hands” and wind it up and you were ready to go!
One of the other interesting things about watches was that they could be repaired. Most jewelry stores had a watch repairman who could actually repair your watch and the repair cost was less than a new one . We were more frugal in those days. There was no reason to buy something new when the old one still had use left in it.
One of the other things that I remember about my watch was the advertisement for Timex….”They take a licking and keep on ticking!” And I have to say, I agree completely!
We live in the woods-I mean real woods. I can see nothing but trees from the front, sides and back of my house. I have a gravel drive. There are no street lights or sidewalks. It’s in the woods-you see. One of the nicest things about my house is I have a porch that runs along one whole side of my house. It’s even better because it is on the second story. So you are even more in the trees!
The second nicest thing about my porch is that it has a swing. You can sit there and swing and watch the birds and see the deer and solve the problems of the world. Well, maybe not the world. But it is a great place to sit and reflect and think and dream. It’s my favorite place to have a cup of coffee in the morning. During the summer, I have big ferns and some other flowers and stuff around on the porch. Actually that is pretty standard in the South.
Several years ago, I was cooling off from some yard work and sitting in the swing. I was going to take a shower after I cooled off so I was just in a robe. And barefoot. No big deal there. I do that frequently. Anyway, I noticed that a stick had fallen from a nearby tree and blown onto the porch. So I started to get up from the swing to throw the stick over into the yard when I noticed it moved. Just a little. I looked more carefully and saw the “stick” start to move from one opening between boards to another. A snake! A blackish snake! I had no shoes on. The snake was between me and the door to the house. So I pulled up my legs onto the swing and just watched as the snake slithered toward this HUGE fern on my porch. Up the side of the planter it went and then right into the fern. I took that chance to run into the house. I stood at the door for a bit and the snake did not reappear. Later that day, my husband routed the snake out and killed it. It was a copperhead. Yikes! That afternoon we moved the ferns from the porch. I will share a lot of things but not my porch plants with a copperhead. It’s been several years and I have located my ferns off the porch.
This year we had the porch screened in. Awesome! No flies. No yellow jackets. No spiders. No snakes. But the ferns will be moving back to the porch next summer!!!
This really is a crazy title for me! When I was a child, that combination of words had not been “invented” yet. Children did not know they could be bored. In those days, children knew how to entertain themselves even though the iPad, Internet, and video game had not been invented. So—what did a kid do all day during the summer in the 1950’s?
First of all, many of us read books. Real books. Ones that you had to TURN the page with your fingers! The books I read had no pictures either. That is another shocker, I am sure. My Dad had a subscription to National Geographic. He had first dibs on the new magazine. Then I got it and read it from cover to cover. Just looking at the pictures was marvelous.
I also devoted some quality brain time to games that could be played alone. My favorite summer game was to play jacks on the screened front porch. Since you may have NO idea what I am talking about—jacks were little metal pieces that were star shaped. You tossed the little rubber ball up and before it came down and hit the floor, you had to pick up one jack and then catch the ball. You held the jack in your hand while you went for the second one and so forth. When you missed either the jack or the ball, you started over. You could do this for hours. Another play alone game was Pick up Sticks.
Girls also played with paper dolls. Yep-paper dolls. The dolls were cardboard and you cut out the clothes and then dressed them. Little bendable tabs secured the clothes to the doll. I was not as interested in them. I was not a girlie girl. Lincoln Logs and Tinker toys were fun because you could build something. I liked both of them.
So did I watch TV? A little bit. The TV was not left on all day at our house and most of my neighbor’s houses. That was wasteful. My Mom watched As the World Turns so the TV came on for that 30 minute program and then was off again.
Athletic things that I liked included riding my bike on the dirt road behind my house and playing croquet. I loved croquet! I was the neighborhood champion. I also loved playing badminton. I played with my parents. They were both pretty good so I practiced alone while they were at work. My goal was to beat them when we played after dinner.
I also wrote letters. That’s another shocker. I took a pencil or pen and wrote real sentences on letter paper and told my Nannie what I had been doing. Sometimes, I included a picture or a four leaf clover for her. Then I addressed an envelope to her, put a stamp on it and put it in the mail box. It was important to have good penmanship and spelling in those days. My Nannie had high expectations for me. If she sent me something-like a dollar-I wrote a thank you note. That was expected, too. My grandchildren send me thank you notes in the mail. Their Mom and Dad have high expectations, too!
So don’t tell me when you are bored. I might make you play croquet with me!
The last years of my working career was as an elementary school principal. I loved working with elementary children! I had also worked in middle and high schools and with gifted children. They all brought joy to my life.
One of the things that I learned as a beginning teacher was there was an official and unofficial dress code for each different level of employment. Teachers dressed like teachers. Denim jumpers. Khaki skirts. Turtlenecks. Cardigan sweaters. Corduroy slacks in winter. No blue jeans. No sneakers. Absolutely no flip flops.
If you earned a graduate degree and had thought about administration, your clothing began to change- to become a little more professional. When you became an assistant principal and then a principal, your clothing took a real turn to the more expensive side of clothing. Even though you stood a lot on concrete floors, your shoes really changed. I always had a pair of sneakers under my desk. I would change into them when loading busses in the afternoon. When winter came, I swapped the sneakers for pull on snow boots! During the regular day, I wore dress flats or dress shoes with small heels. My feet were nearly always unhappy. Sometimes I wore my sneakers during the school day. The staff would always tell me when they had sighted the “county bosses” so I could run back and change shoes.
When I retired, I spent almost a whole year learning to readjust my life from educator to retired person. This process caused me to also readjust my clothing. After 32 years, I had some clothes that just had bad karma. They reminded me of difficult times-times when I had to do distasteful things. Bad karma. I had this fabulous linen coat dress that I loved. It was RED. It had double buttons down the front and it looked great on me! I loved it! But at the same time, I had been wearing that dress when bad things happened. I couldn’t wear it anymore. I just couldn’t. So I folded it carefully and placed it in a donation bag for one of our local charities. Whew! Gone! I was relieved it was no longer in my closet.
There was also a black suit that I donated to charity. Our system had this big event coming and I knew I would have to go in a suit. Only a black one would be acceptable. It had to be tailored. The only place I could find one was at Talbot’s. It was not inexpensive. And I had to have heels and blouse. So I sucked it up and did what I knew I had to do. The day of the event the weather was miserable. Cold. Windy. Drizzling. Ugh. The ground I stood on was muddy from construction. An overcoat or raincoat was a no-no. After that day, I hated that suit. It fit perfectly. But I hated that suit. Bad karma. So what did I do? I donated it after I retired. I was happy that I no longer had to look at it in my closet.
It has been over eight years since the purge of my closet. Today I live in workout gear year round. I am a water fitness instructor and wear a swimsuit three mornings a week. That is glorious! I wear sneakers. I wear Chaco sandals. I wear running tights. I wear sweatshirts in the winter. I wear running shorts in the spring and summer. Nothing in my closet has bad karma anymore. Hooray. Yippee! Awesome!
My Dad liked his vacation time. He loved to travel and just get away from it all. So we would load up the Ford station wagon and head out of town each summer. We would do a variety of things. We visited my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who lived in Illinois. We made our home base at my grandparents apartment over the bakery. During the day, my Dad would take me into Chicago on the train and we would go to museums. I still love going to museums to this very day. Fortunately, my husband, children, and grandchildren like museums, too. Sometimes we went to visit relatives in Kansas where I saw more wheat and corn that I thought possible. Sometimes we camped which I also loved. One trip made a big impression on me as a youngster. It is not due to the museums or historic monuments that I remember this trip. Frankly, I do not remember everything I saw. But I remember when we lost our car.
We were in Washington, DC. I know my Dad had everything planned because he was a member of AAA and had a wonderful little trip chart of the roads to take and hotels to stay in. That is what his membership did for him. If you sat in the front seat, you got to hold the flip chart and tell him where to go. When we arrived in town, it was rush hour, of course. And the traffic was crazy. I bet we rode around that stupid circle thing six times before Dad could get in the right lane to get to our first destination. I am thinking it was the Washington Monument we were heading for. Dad finally found a place to park the car. We got out and locked up and started walking to the first place. We had a great time and then headed back to the car. It was getting later and we needed to find a place to stay and food to eat. So we got to where we left our car. It was not there. So Dad and Mom thought they were in the wrong place and so we walked and walked and could never find our car. By this time, I was getting upset. My parents were upset but for different reasons. We had already visited Cherokee North Carolina and my Indian headdress and tomahawk was in the car. I just knew it was gone.
Dad found a policeman who suggested we go to the police department and check on our missing car. So we found a taxi and the police department. Once there, we ended up talking with this policeman who let us know our car had been impounded because cars could only be parked in that place place during certain hours. Oops! My parents had not changed their watches from Georgia time. I didn’t understand everything that went on but I knew my Indian stuff was gone so I started crying. I was a silent crier. Finally the policeman saw me and felt sorry for these Georgia visitors with the crying little girl. He patted me on the back and gave my father back our car without having to pay a fine and towing charges. Hooray! My Indian stuff was safe!
My parents changed their watches, I wore my headdress everywhere we went just in case and we never visited Washington again.