Looking back to the years when I was growing up, it was a hard time — but it still carries a lot of good memories.
Times were hard, money was hard to come by. If you had a good job, people would say when you went by, “There is that rich man from down the street.” There weren’t too many rich people in the area where we lived.
The houses were old and they had outhouses instead of inside plumbing. Electric light was indeed something that only the rich enjoyed. But in our old houses with wood stoves and kerosene lamps we had something that a lot of rich people wish they had: family and love.
Let’s look back to when you had a path instead of a bath.
The outhouse was out from the house at a good distance. It had to be, for on a hot day the odor would get next to you. In the wintertime or on a cold, rainy day, if you had to go to the outhouse it was a chore.
If it was cold, you had to wrap up in enough clothing to stay warm. Once you got to the outhouse you had to strip the clothing off, and being cold was not fun. If it was a rainy day, you had to wrap up to stay dry. Once inside you had to take off the wet coat, only to put it back on when ready to leave.
Take it from one who knows, outhouses were not fun. The grown people would wonder why there was an odor next to the house behind the chimney. Out of sight of people, Junior and Little Sister found a better place to weewee than that old stinking outhouse.
Let’s talk about what everyone enjoys nowadays — good old electricity. If the power went out, we never knew it. We had kerosene lamps for light.
Just imagine one kerosene lamp in a big room. It was like trying to walk though the woods on a moonlit night. There was a path though the room you followed in order to not run into anything. I remember reading a book by the light of a kerosene lamp many a night. Some magazines had big print, but the books with small print were a headache to read. I have fallen asleep many a night and woken up to the lamp gone out because all the kerosene had burned. You had to be saving with the kerosene, for it cost 5 cents a gallon.
There was an indoor bathtub. Most of the time this was a No. 3 washtub. The water was heated on the stove and poured into the tub.
Now take it from me, it is no fun trying to bathe in a washtub even when you are small. I remember at our house Saturday was the day for a bath — rain or shine, cold or hot. I had three sisters who got to take their baths first. By the time it got to be my turn the water was cold with a soap skim on it. That did not matter for I had to take a bath or my mother would have given me one.
I survived the skimmed-over water in the winter, and when it got warm I would take a garden hose and a bar of soap and get my bath that way. I am here to tell you that if the hose water happened to get in your face, it was a lot better than the soap-skimmed water.
There also was the matter of heat in the winter.
In the summer you were always getting what wood you could. We would take an ax and a wagon, and go in the woods and find trees that were down. We would gather as much as we could and stack it close to the house. When winter came we would have a good stack of wood for the winter.
As a rule, the heat was a fireplace and that didn’t give out much heat. A fireplace carried your heat out though the chimney. If you could afford it, you boarded up the fireplace and got a heater. The heater put out much more heat. The fireplace would cook you on one side and freeze you on the other. In the winter you had so much cover on you in bed that you had to get up out of bed onto the floor in order to turn over.
We talked about heat in the winter. Let’s talk about staying cool in the summer.
Air conditioning was something you enjoyed if you got uptown and went inside a store. Most of the stores were cooled by fans, but fans would not have done us any good for we had no electricity. The windows in the house were open during the warm months, and would remain open day and night. I remember placing my bed in front of an open window so if there was a breeze it would blow over me. I have heard people say, “I can’t do without my air conditioner.” It would be rough without an air conditioner, but one could survive.
We had a wind-up record player and a battery-operated radio. I must have played those few records that we had a million times. The battery would last about a week and we would have to take it to a service station and get it charged. It cost 10 cents to get it charged, and there were some Saturday nights that we didn’t get to listen to the Grand Ole Opry.
There were no street lights, so the area was dark. If you went somewhere at night walking, you had to carry a light. The old folks would sit on the front porch in the dark, singing or telling stories. There was one advantage of being in the dark. Everyone would be listening to the old folks and you and Susie Jane could slip around beside the house where it was the darkest. The old folks never knew you stole a kiss from Susie Jane while they were telling stories and singing to entertain you.
As you can see, there were some good memories that came out of those days.