The good old days

By Bill Shepard

I have talked with people of various ages and they all seem to have one thing in common.

They each have a period in their life that they refer to as “the good old days.” In talking about them, they begin, “I remember when . . .” I saw a cartoon in the paper showing two small boys pushing a lawn mower along the street. One boy turns to the other and says, “I can remember when I used to mow lawns for 50 cents an hour.”

I supposed that he was referring to his good old days.

Since we all seem to have them, perhaps we should ask, “What made the good old days so good?” If we can find that magical formula and hold onto it, then all of life could be as good as any part of it.

Allow me a closer look at my good old days.

My good old days happened during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Perhaps a few of you can identify with me. I was a young lad, living comfortably with my mom, dad, two brothers and two sisters. We were living in a three-room house with no electricity or running water. One of those rooms was used as a kitchen. That left the other two as bedrooms – one for three boys and the other for Mom, Dad and the two sisters.

We were a close family. There was not room to be any other way.

The nation was in the grip of its worst depression ever and no one seemed to know how to get out of it. Dad had a job at the mill that furnished us the house. He also had credit at the Company Store, so we kept food on our table. We felt secure in a troubled world. Roosevelt had been elected president and a number of ideas and programs were being set forth: the WPA, NRA and the CC Camps had been put into force, all programs to get the nation moving again.

Those were my good old days!

The heat we had in the winter came from a fire in the fireplace. It was my duty to see that there was plenty of wood or coal in the firebox. It was a chore than I dared not shirk! I can remember the cold winter nights when I would place a brick on the hearth near the fire to get it warm. Then I would wrap it in a thick cloth and place it at the foot of my bed to keep my feet warm, at least until I could get to sleep.

Three boys sleeping in the same bed and three pairs of feet in competition for the one brick made for an interesting ending to the day.

In the summer, there were no fans, and if there was such a thing as air conditioning, I had never heard of it. The screenless windows were raised to let in the cool outside air. They also let in the flying insects, so the mosquitoes came to spend their nights with me. I might have learned to play ball by striking at the mosquitoes overhead.

But those were my good old days!

The house had one spigot on the back porch where we could get water. The only running water in the Village was that in the ditch that wriggled its way through the Village on its way to the creek beyond. Any water used inside the house had to be brought in from the back porch.

A familiar command heard frequently was “Go outside and fill the water bucket.” The water bucket was in the kitchen, and the one who got the last drink from it was expected to go outside and fill it up again. Another order frequently heard was “Don’t put your hands on the dipper and then put it back in the bucket. Hold the dipper by the handle!”

Yes, those were the times referred to as the good old days!

The absence of running water, water heaters and inside bathrooms meant all bathing was done in a No. 2 tin tub borrowed from the washbench outside. The washbench was where the clothes were all scrubbed clean by hand. Warm water for the bath was heated on top of the big wood-burning stove in the kitchen. Summertime was always a blessed time. Then we boys could go to the wash-hole and have daily baths. It was not unusual to see a father with small boys giving them a good washing from head to foot at the wash-hole.

The outside privy had its place among all the others that stood in a straight row behind the houses. I remember those winter nights when, out of necessity, I would force myself to leave my warm feather bed and take a walk in the moonlight along the path that led to the privy. It was not a place where one would linger longer than necessary! If the newspaper was present, you could be sure it was not there for the purpose of reading.

Yes, those were the good old days I recall so fondly.

Is it possible that a lack of our modern-day conveniences, which we enjoy so much and take so much for granted, could be the secret to our good old days?

Is it possible that modern refrigeration, television, air conditioning and so many other conveniences have messed up our living and make us wish for our good old days? Maybe there is a longing for those nostalgic journeys along the path strewn with moonlight to the privy on a winter night. Perhaps we miss the smell of the hollyhocks that graced the landscape in the summer.

Could the answer be found, whatever the answer is, if we could find it early enough, we could use it all the days of our lives? Can you imagine all of life being as good as it was . . . in the good old days?

Author: Rachel Howell

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