Summer has that effect on me (and Christmas).  I've indulged in an 'I Remember When' sojourn into bygone days.

I remember when the bubble-head Barbie came out in the early 1960′s, her hair style influenced by Jacqueline Kennedy. When I was eight, I was  overjoyed to receive a red-headed one for my birthday.  Presents were simpler and fewer in those days. Most of my Barbie’s wardrobe was laboriously made by my mother, the ‘store bought’ outfits being too pricey for us. Even so,  my grandmother felt we were quite spoiled.   Anyone who lived through the Great Depression did.  Plus she grew up in China, the daughter of missionaries.  Talk about poor…that dear lady once sewed a collection of my great uncle's old ties together to make a skirt for me.  I was a teenager, so didn't wear it.  She always told me there was no room to stand on pride when you were hard up.  But I took a stand on that occasion.  Now I wish I'd saved that skirt.
Books were particularly special in my childhood, my collection small and continually reread.  The thrill of my life was when my mom ordered a box all the way from England filled with C. S. Lewis‘s the Chronicles of Narnia, not yet available in the U.S. To say I was influenced by The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe (and the rest of the series)  is an understatement. I’m still looking for Narnia.  I assume everyone is, but apparently they’re not all…weird.
Given my love of reading, trips to the library were savored. With three younger children to take care of, mom let me check out as many books as I could manage myself.  Thin arms laden, the pile stretched from my knobby knees up to my arched chin as I staggered to the car with my take.  I devoured everything, fiction, nonfiction…even the biography of Lotta Crabtree, which I suspect most children haven’t read.
I remember dirt roads with bumps we’d beg to ride over fast, and endless highways before the age of the interstate.  Traveling from one place to another in our old Chrysler was an arduous affair with warm sandwiches smashed in between wax paper and tepid, metallic sips of water from my father’s Marine Corps canteen.   And that had to date back to the Korean War, unless it was his father's and then we're talking WW1.  
Air conditioning in the car was unheard of then and rarely enjoyed anywhere.  Mostly public buildings.  Few homes possessed such comfort.  Only a fan stirred the heavy stillness of our sweltering summers.  We finally got air-conditioning  in our farmhouse when the older children were well into elementary school with one window unit in the family room where we all camped out together when the nights were really hot.  We now have several units, the height of comfort, except for the parts of the house that don’t.
Childhood trips to the movies can be numbered on my fingers.  Maybe not even using  both hands.  Cinderella and The Sound of Music stand out in my memory.  My college English teacher father, who spent several years getting his doctorate, wasn’t overpaid.  And then I married a farmer, also not overpaid.  As for television, a small black and white set sufficed until I was thirty-something.   Only recently did we acquire a more advanced means of obtaining channels other than the battered antenna, constantly zapped by strong winds, that required my hubby to climb up on the garage roof for adjustments and yell down at the person in the kitchen doorway below, “Can you see it now?” The answering shout was relayed from the person in the living room until better reception was achieved.  I was delighted to discover  Netflix.
As for clothes, refer to the long-suffering mother mentioned above and selfless grandmother at their sewing machines, and hand-me-downs.   I reveled in what some would call a ‘missionary barrel’ of hand-me-downs when my father was in graduate school, my younger sister on the way, and our family as poor as church mice.    I thought a pair of ‘to me’fashionable flats made me look like a movie star and dreamed big dreams.  When I reached the advanced age of thirteen I was awed by a pair of fish net stockings and my first ever lipstick, a pale pink by Bonnie Bell.
Back to fashion.  When my children were small, I labored at my sewing machine and even made over some of my own clothes into little shirts, pants, and smocks for them (and embroidered the fronts). Again, mom and grandma sewed much appreciated contributions, and Grandma knitted sweaters.  Children weren’t expected to be as well dressed in my day, or my children’s, as they are now.  As long as we had something suitable for church, and when I was small that meant petticoats, white gloves, and a hat.  Sales had to be really good for my mom to buy ‘ready made’ clothes.  Ditto for  my kids.  They even sold sweet corn at a roadside stand in the summers to earn money for back to school clothes.  But all of this built character, right?  Made us more appreciative of what we have.   (*Image of little Beth)
No Kleenex in my childhood.  We used handkerchiefs which were washed, and if one was  fastidious, ironed.  Some of them were quite fancy, possibly family heirlooms.  Again, I wish I'd saved some.  I'd dress my Betsy McCall doll in the prettiest ones.  
Furniture?  In our family, with rare exceptions, you inherited it, or someone still living gave you some pieces, or you made/refinished them yourself.    Food?  A lot of home cooking/canning.  Some less than appetizing meals when mom got into a hardcore health food phase.  My sister recalls groats, but only once. 
Again, I can count on my fingers, maybe with both hands, how many times our family ate out as I was growing up.   And eating between meals was frowned upon or we’d ‘spoil our dinner.’  An occasional snack, maybe.  
Didn’t like your supper?  Too bad.   Probably why I have the urge as an adult to eat whatever I want, whenever I want.   But we kids played outside all the time and were wiry and fast.   Little danger of obesity among the youth back then.  Those were the ‘Timmy and Lassie days’ of riding our bikes all over the neighborhood as long as we were back by suppertime.  Now we want to know where our children are every second, and understandably so with all the pedophiles at seemingly ever corner.
Have we really come all that far?  In some ways, yes, in others, not so much. When I was young, we feared the Russians, the Cold War, and Nuclear proliferation.  Now, its Muslim Extremists.  And they’re worse than anything I recall, and I was one of those kids who had to hide under their desk in elementary school as part of a practice drill for what to do if…as though that would have saved us from a nuclear attack.  We also practiced taking alternate routes home which had me stopping off in a golf course to play–alone–at the age of eight.  Great plan. (Not me in the pic, just a random child from that era doing the desk drill thing).
What are your memories?  Do you lament the old days?  Those Russians don’t seem so scary now, huh?

17 comments

  1. P.L. Parker // July 7, 2011 at 9:23 AM  

    Thanks Beth for taking me back! I had a Bubble Barbie - in fact I still have my Bubble Barbie and the original redheaded Midge doll. Saved for my granddaughter when she is old enough to appreciate my 50 year old toys. My family was like yours. I wore all the hand-me-downs (youngest girl) and we never had much money but we didn't know that because we had such a great family.

  2. Beth Trissel // July 7, 2011 at 9:45 AM  

    Thanks. :) My little sister gave away my Barbie (unbeknownst to me at the time). And I don't know what happened to my Betsy McCall doll. Oh well. We have the memories.

  3. Mary Ricksen // July 7, 2011 at 12:00 PM  

    What a wonderful post Beth. In my family toys were passed down as well as clothing. I never could save anything, my father had a job which required frequent moves. So we were not allowed much room to bring things along. I think of all the things my parents pitched away to save money moving. We'd be rich!!!

  4. Catherine Bybee // July 7, 2011 at 1:04 PM  

    Man this makes me feel old. Yeah, I remember the desk gig... thought it was limited for me. Guess I'm not as over the hill as I thought. LOL

  5. Nightingale // July 7, 2011 at 1:48 PM  

    I enjoyed the trip down memory lane, Beth. Loved the pictures and the flowing prose.

  6. Beth Trissel // July 7, 2011 at 2:07 PM  

    Thanks guys. I'm feeling pretty over the hill remembering all this stuff, but we must remember how insanely fast society has changed. My family moved often too, and I also had to part with what would no doubt now be very valuable comic books...Once we settled in Virginia, though, when I was 12, we stayed. :)

  7. Autumn Jordon // July 7, 2011 at 4:45 PM  

    Oh, Beth. You brought back so many memories with this post. I can't imagine my kids surviving without AC on a swelting day like this, but again I know they would because they didn't have it until my oldest was off to college.

    I remember summer days as being long, probably because of the temps. Everyone rose earlier to get their work done. The afternoons were slower. People took time to sit in the shade with a tall glass of lemonade. In early evenings the rest of the work would get done and then again the elders would sit, enjoying a cool breeze and a cool piece of fruit while us kids would chase fire flys and play stop light.

    Ah, the memories. Thanks for bringing a smile to me.

  8. Autumn Jordon // July 7, 2011 at 4:46 PM  

    PS: You were a cutie. Loved the picture.

  9. Beth Trissel // July 7, 2011 at 6:58 PM  

    Similar memories of summer here too, Autumn, and thanks. :)

  10. Mary Marvella // July 7, 2011 at 8:08 PM  

    I 'member churning ice cream on Sunday evenings! We to take turns turning the hand crank. There was nothing like homemade ice cream.

    No air conditioners for us, either. I was proud of my hand me downs and so was my daughter until she was a teen.

    I'm older than you girls, so I pass all the "old geezer" tests. I was in high school when the Russians send up Sputnik.

  11. Mary Marvella // July 7, 2011 at 8:09 PM  

    Forgot to say I loved the post! I walked to the library when there was no book mobile.

  12. Paisley Kirkpatrick // July 7, 2011 at 8:50 PM  

    The memories are bursting to get out. I am a lot older than you - I can remember sitting around the radio listening to fifteen minute programs - The Shadow Knows, and such. I never had a store bought dress until I was getting married, my Mom and and I made all my clothes. My Mom had a mangle to iron on, I wanted a pair of red buckle shoes but had those horrid brown tie shoes, my baby doll was cloth with rubber arms and legs and a wooden head, I was really excited when I got a Tony doll that you could curl her hair by using rollers and sugar water, we got a small television when I was ten and the big deal was laying on the floor on Sunday night, eating popcorn and watching Ed Sullivan and we, of course, new all the names of Lawrence Welk's band.

    Out telephone number was 3561M and we had to talk to the operator on our party line to be connected.

    I do have to say, that growing up in the peaceful atmosphere right after the end of WWII was the greatest time period. People were so happy to have survived it all that they were actually pleasant to people.

    As children we always asked to get down from the dinner table, we stood and gave our seat to an adult when they came into the room and never spoke until we were spoken to.

    Thanks for the memories, Beth.

  13. Beth Trissel // July 7, 2011 at 9:13 PM  

    Awww, love hearing about the home churned ice cream, MM, and sputnik. I was going on six when John Glenn circled the earth. And Paisley, what a lot of memories you have! i loved reading them. we were also very polite as children, answering 'yes Ma'am, and yes sir' when called by an adult. If we answered 'what?" that was swiftly corrected. Of course, we were all about please and thank you, and greeting visitors in the proper manner. My children who now have children of their own are trying very hard to instill manners into them as well.

    Paisley, I also remember the Ed Sullivan show and Lawrence Welk.

  14. Mona Risk // July 8, 2011 at 7:24 AM  

    Nice and fun memories. Remember the days we drove without seatbealt and snuggled against the dear driver. My mother sew all our clothes. I still have some of the fancy dresses she made for me, but they don't fit anymore and my daughter wouldn't be caught dead wearing them.

  15. Beth Trissel // July 8, 2011 at 8:02 AM  

    Ah right, the no seat belt days. does anyone still sew anymore?

  16. Paisley Kirkpatrick // July 8, 2011 at 4:02 PM  

    Yes, Beth, I still sew. I made my daughter's wedding dress a few years ago and I make quilts and give them away. I love to sew... :)

  17. Josie // July 10, 2011 at 1:56 PM  

    Beth,
    I well remember the drill test in elementary school. Now in high school, my daughter's classes sometimes have police and guard dogs for drug raids. Sadly, things have changed, and sadder, not for the better in many ways that matter.