Living on the West End: Just musing

By Bill Shepard

I’m at it again – reminiscing about my Good Ol’ Days.

The mind is kind in that it allows us to blot out our bad memories and hold on to the good ones. So here I go again down that path of Usta Be. Come along, if you can; it just might be that we’ll travel some common ground.

There really isn’t much left of the world in which I made my first appearance. The winds of change have blown much of it away. At the time of which I write, America (indeed, the world) was still trying to free itself from the aftermath of World War I.

There were long breadlines and old soldiers camped out in Washington, seeking help from the government. Empty promises were about all they got.

Warren Harding was president and the world’s economy lay in ruins. By the time I was old enough to remember things, Herbert Hoover had become president and a bad condition had grown worse.

The Depression was barking at the heels of America, and no one seemed to know what to do about it. An angry nation blamed the Republicans for the mess and easily elected Roosevelt as president. The year was 1935. I was 13 and remember well some of the programs that were enacted in an effort to bring relief to a hurting people.

There were programs known as WPA, NRA, PWA, CCC and others and all were efforts to put the nation back to work. Does that line sound familiar?

There were no stimulus payouts in those days, no checks mailed out to those who were idle. A man facing hard times had to face them alone. Those were the days when wild rabbit meat tasted as good in August as it did in November, and squirrels hid in the woods instead of playing in our front yards.

The Dust Bowl in the 1930s brought some relief, as the cattle that would have starved for lack of food were slaughtered and processed into canned beef. The beef and plain flour were distributed among the WPA workers as pay for their work.

The nickel for a can of Calumet Baking Powder, needed to make the plain flour rise, was hard to get and some did without.

Fatback meat sold for 2 cents a pound and some folk felt lucky to get it.

No, there were no free rides; if a man didn’t work, then he and his family suffered.

Those were the days that folk like myself look back at and call them “Good Ol’ Days.” Indeed, it took a world war to get us out of those terrible times. One could wonder if that is what lies ahead for our present world.

I’m not suggesting that we are in need of another war; we have seen enough wars! We are in need of some great American statesmen, who are willing to put “love of country” and “concern for future generations of Americans,” to arise to the challenges that America is facing!

Yes, I have seen a lot of change since those early times and, by the grace of God, have adjusted to them all. That is how I have become a senior citizen! Someone said a senior citizen is one who has been able to adjust to the ever-changing complexities of life. You can figure that out for yourself.

I don’t claim to be a smart person or one that has the answers to all that is wrong in America. I do know that where there is a lack of unity, whether it be in a family, in a church congregation or in government, and whether it be at the state, local or national level, there is a weakness that is detrimental to survival!

Yes, the world has changed many times, since I first arrived. I have seen Nazism, fascism and communism rise and fall and our own Democratic form of government stagger from attacks made by those who would destroy it.

It is not uncommon to hear some suggest that parts of our Constitution should be changed. Even the blessed old Bible that has guided this nation through many troubled waters is being questioned as never before.

Well, I don’t claim to be a prophet, but there is one thing I can predict. There is more change ahead, and it will be left to others to write about it. Right now, I’ll just go on musing to myself about my Good Ol’ Days; the times and changes that I have experienced.

Like I said, the world has changed many times over, since I first arrived. On the sprawling old mill village where I grew up, you could have counted the people that owned a radio on your fingers and had some left.

Cars on the village were even more scarce, and you could have counted them all on just one hand.

There were no telephones on the village; only a few were anywhere. How did we survive without them? Today, you see folk in stores, walking down the street, driving autos, all with a telephone to their ears and talking anywhere in the world.

Just think, I was old enough to be in the Army before I talked on a telephone! The house where I lived had no running water and no electricity.

When night came, light was furnished by an oil-burning lamp and the lightning bugs that entered the house through the air-conditioning system, which was every window in the house being raised.

I walked to St. John School, over a mile away, so on rainy days I didn’t have to go. I liked rainy days. The things I liked best at school were Recess and Dismissal. Well, I did enjoy Chapel time each morning.

I liked to hear the old bandmaster, Angus Gainey, play his violin. One of his favorite songs and mine too was about Grandfather’s Clock. When it came to the line, “Tick-Tock,” he would have the boys sing “Tick” and the girls, “Tock.” I wonder if anyone reading this remembers that song? A few lines go like this:

Grandfather’s clock was too tall for the shelf, so it stood 90 years on the floor.

It was taller by half than the old man himself, and it weighed not a penny-weight more.

It went Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.

The sad part of the song was when Grandfather died, and the old clock stopped, never to go again. I suppose I thought of the old bandmaster as the Grandfather in the song.

Well, I’ve really gone a ways down memory lane. I think I’ll stop now and see if I can find my way back. See you next time!

Author: Rachel Howell

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