Remember when?

We’ve all seen those emails that say how we grew up in such a wonderful time, when kids played safely, didn’t get cooties from drinking water that didn’t come from a bottle, etc. Well, this was my response when some of that ‘remember when’ sort of stuff circulated on a loop with a bunch of authors. I’ve added to it and thought my blog readers might enjoy it.

I’ll preface this with I lived in the foothills so very hilly!

The swings at school were over asphalt. We learned to hold on!

I roller skated all over the place with no protection! I was an excellent skater and actually won some state competition as a junior champion. I was probably sixteen the first time I was really hurt while skating. Some sort of school function, a young child tripped and fell in front of me. I pushed my non-skating friends out of the child’s way and jumped the child, but that sent me into a wrought iron railing that I flipped over! I hurt my arm.  I helped the child off the rink floor. The rink put a sling on my arm and let me go back to skating. The child was fine! I went to the ER the next day.

I fell off my bike and scraped my knees. I have no memory of it but my mom said I lost my footing on the peddles when I was about three three years old and went flying down the hill until I fell off and scraped both knees. I could ride my sled down roads for over a mile before I had to drag it back up to the top again.  We learned not to shoot through an intersection with an oncoming car even if we were on ice! In the summer, I used a friend’s red wagon and we’d do that same sledding route except in a red wagon with no brakes. I walked a busy road for over a mile to get to my girlfriend’s house. I walked to school and often accepted rides on rainy days.  I drank from the hose. I hated the taste of that rubber hose and the hot water that came out of it. But if I went inside, I was usually forced to stay there. Some sort of water was better than nothing!

I played under the forsythia bush where no one could see me. At the age of eight, I was taught to use a rifle.  By the time end of summer, before I turned twelve, I had my junior or whatever they called it marksman and sharpshooter certificates from the NRA. Yet I grew up in a house where there were no guns. My dad had been raised on a farm, but I think he preferred not to think about how we got meat on our plates. He fed the wildlife around us and often took me to a friend’s farm so I could play with the piglets, etc.

Saturday morning was TV just for me! Sky King, Lone Ranger, Sea Hunt, I Love Lucy, Captain Kangaroo, Bullwinkle, Road Runner, Popeye, etc. I’d sneak out of bed and turn it on low and sit way too close according to my parents who were sure I’d die from some sort of radiation or ruin my sight. Maybe I sat close because I could see the tiny screen at that distance. I didn’t get glasses until I was about ten. (Guess what? I was near sighted!) As I got older there was American Bandstand, and Dark Shadows. My mom watched As the World Turns. Then there was Payton Place. Oh how risque!

I think it was too darn cold for any sandwich I might have carried to school to go bad! Sandwiches were wrapped in waxed paper and places in a paper bag! When I started school, the dairy was next door to the school. My milk was fresh from the cows. It came in small glass bottles. It wasn’t homogenized and probably wasn’t  pasteurized. When spring came and the grass turned green, so did the milk! Apparently cows love onion grass! I was thrilled when I discovered chocolate milk, it hid the green color but nothing disguised the taste of onion in the milk.

I hated PE or what we called gym in those days. The guys got to do all the fun stuff but not the girls! We had a horrid gym teacher and we slurred her German name into Outhouse. I’m sure she’s long dead! She was a total witch! We had stupid uniforms. They buttoned or the newer ones snapped snapped down the front and went to a full skirt with bloomers underneath. They were supposed to be gold – think putrid, mustard yellow except faded! They required ironing! If you did anything that had you upside-down, you had a skirt in your face!

In elementary school, I had a male gym teacher who got mad at me because I couldn’t swing the bat and hit a baseball. My neighborhood friends said to just hang tight and let them walk me to first base. (Seriously I couldn’t actually see that ball to hit it! But oh I could throw a baseball!) So this male teacher got angry because I wouldn’t swing at the ball. He decided that he’d throw the baseball (not softball or plastic Wiffle ball) and he hit me in the jaw. OMG! Blood poured from my mouth and my not so little temper flared! The neighborhood boys kept me from attacking the man.I think one of them tackled me because I had that bat in my hands and I knew how to swing it!

But after that, that male teacher steered clear of me. He knew I was p*ssed and knew he screwed up. I’m not sure my parents actually believed me when I said the gym teacher did it. If they had, he probably would have lost his job! I had a pretty black eye for days!

When I made it to HS, he was the assistant principal by then. If he came near me, I snarled at him. Oh, he knew! And I’ll admit it was fun to snarl and know I had something on him. To watch Mr. Super Stud cringe when you don’t weigh 100 pounds (seven stones) is quite heady. I really didn’t snarl that much. I’d just look at him and he’d look away.

My dad owned a Willy’s Jeep and he bought an Army surplus WWII airplane’s seat belt for it so he could strap me into the seat during the summer when he ran around with the top off and the doors off.  He was afraid I’d fall out! I promised I wouldn’t, but I truly think it was Mom’s idea to strap me in. Thinking back on that is enough to make me shudder! Even that little lap belt probably wasn’t enough to really protect me.

I went swimming/skinny dipping in the duck pond! Do you know what it’s like to swim in a duck pond? Let’s just say never put your feet on the bottom! There was several inches of duck poop down there to squish between your toes! It’s a wonder I didn’t get some horrible infection or whatever from that pond.

We’d Trick or Treat through the neighborhood and ate along our way . We knew which houses served hot chocolate or hot apple cider and freshly baked cookies! We planned our stops so we could warm up! Without fail, I swear we had our first serious hard freeze the week of Halloween! Okay, here I’ll admit we knew our neighbors and they were all good people! Most were parents of my friends or my sister’s or my brothers’. No one ever poisoned an apple or stuck needles in anything. That was unheard of in those days.

I played tennis in white PF Flyers. I never hurt my legs, ankles or feet. They were known as tennis shoes! Never used sun screen and I turned so darn dark. If it weren’t for my white hair, I think my mom would have disowned me. 🙂 It was her German blood that probably protected me from the sun. Even after my hair darkened to a brown, I still would tan until I was a dark mahogany color.  So far no skin cancer and I can only remember ever getting seriously burned twice, once in Miami and once in Hawaii. Otherwise it was pink in the evening and I’d wake up brown. Everyone else fried!

I had red measles, black measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, mumps, strep throat, etc. There were no vaccinations for them. My brother had polio so when that vaccine came out my mom marched me to the doctor to be vaccinated. I had a shot, then a few years later, the sugar cubes. Then they gave the cubes to everyone at school so I took it again! I’ve been vaccinated for small pox and a variety of diseases because we traveled abroad.  If I got a fever, I stayed in bed! Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem about the Land of Counterpane meant something to me. My mom gave me aspirin to break the fever. But through all of it I was raised on Adele Davis nutrition. I’m glad I was. I grew up knowing more about foods than most people.

Soda and juice were treats! I drank milk, tea, or water! And it wasn’t sweet iced tea! It had a touch of sugar in it. In the summer, Mom would make two gallons and it had three tablespoons of sugar in those two gallons. I thought that was sweet.  My dad carried a gallon of it to work and often turned over the salt shaker and generously sprinkled it with salt when it was really hot.  Sunday dinner or any important meal came with wine. I drank it, too.

By the time I was was ten, I was using the ride-on lawnmower. Afterwards, my dad and I would have a beer. Drinking never thrilled me. I can remember teen kids getting excited because they’d get their hands on a six-pack. I could have fixed anything I wanted at any time growing up. But I didn’t. I never understood getting drunk or the excitement over alcohol. I’d get the brilliant idea to fix a pitcher of beer and lemonade and no one said a thing.

I could ride the miles of bridle paths on private property, but I was told if I used them, I had to be responsible and take care of them. That meant clearing branches after a storm, etc. My girlfriend’s mom got the idea one summer that we needed to plant more bulbs along the paths so she ordered bulbs from Holland. (No it wasn’t their land either. But for any of us who rode, we just did things!) For a solid week, we planted bulbs.

I’ve been stepped on, head butted, had a saddle come loose and wound up under the horse, but never actually thrown or kicked. I owned a that black velvet over steel riding cap that was supposed to protect my head. Mostly it protected the top shelf of my closet.  (I also ice skated without a helmet.)

I was driving on the road when I was fourteen, legal age was 16, but my dad had me driving that old Willy’s Jeep. He wanted me to have plenty of road time before I got my license. I had a car before I had my driver’s license. And the day I turned 16, there was snow and ice on the ground. I passed my test with flying colors.

At fourteen, I lived through a crash landing of an airplane/big jet. No landing gear! It was exciting. I was unsinkable! Maybe I still am. I hope I am!

I don’t regret  my childhood or any of the things that I did, including the time I took a bolt of oilcloth from my neighbor’s burn pile.  I knew my Girl Scout troop could make sit-a-pons with it. But oh did I get in trouble for stealing! Really? Off their burn pile? I was forced to take it back, knock on their door, and apologize. My parents scared me to the point I thought I’d go to hell over it. The darn bolt was heavy. At least the neighbors were nice about it and told my father they had tossed it out. They only worried about me climbing on that pile and getting hurt. They suggested that the next time I ask for one of them to get whatever for me. I was allowed to keep the oilcloth. My parents made mistakes and I knew it! That’s a story in itself!

Maybe it was a different time back then, but I really don’t think so. My mother had been raised by a butcher and kept a kosher kitchen. We had a bread board for slicing bread. You didn’t cut anything but bread on that board!  She had a stone board and a wooden board for dough. She had different knives for different things. I knew which one was which. Beef was cut on this, chicken on that, pork on another.

I hated the smell of bleach, but I knew it meant clean. It was used freely. So was Lysol. I didn’t share food or drinks. My mom was a germ freak. She’d lost a sister to diphtheria and my brother had polio. If we were sick, our dishes were separated from the general household and washed with bleach. If my crew was sick, I’d add bleach to the dishwasher. Okay, I’m a germ freak, just ask my children. They will roll their eyes and tell you about it.

Am I wacko?  Yes. Well, maybe not. According to a friend and psychologist, I’m not. Being a compulsive hand washer is a good thing, as is a germ freak. Hmm.

They say we eat a peck of dirt in our lifetime. I think I’ve eaten bushels of it. I loved the garden, and mud pies just called to me! Whenever my dad had a chance, he’d bring me a bucket of concrete. I could make concrete pies and I’d leave my hand print in them. Some even had a dog’s paw print! (My dog must have really loved me.) Dad used to put them in the garden. I’m sure there are a few hundred of them buried all over that property.

I made my granddaughter use a helmet and padding to ride a bike. (Never told her that I used to jump fences with my horse while bareback. But that was my life not her life. I was very protective of hers.) Yes, we know more now.

Does that mean we did anything wrong back then?  Of course we did, but no one knew it! Mandatory seat belts is a new thing, relatively speaking, but I grew up wearing one. I can’t imagine driving without one. Yet as a small child, I used to curl up in the back window of the car and watch the moon and the stars. There was no DVD player. I looked out the windows! I saw the United States and Canada!

Yes, I saw things. I saw chain gangs and whites only signs. I saw things I didn’t understand and to this day make no sense. I learned about life along the way. I knew what it meant to respect someone one, and I knew what it meant to at least act as though I did. I also learned to take a stand and stand up for what I believe is right. Life wasn’t black or white. It was shades of gray and it still is.

I was born of privilege and it was drummed into me that I should never take advantage of it. I was taught to give back and play fair. But I was allowed to play and get dirty. My childhood was a mixed bag. To some extent, I was a normal child who did all the normal things.  On the flip side, I did things that other people only dream about. And I lived through some real nightmarish situations. No one ever said dysfunctional family back then, but I think they used mine to to set the bar. The events are there and I try not to think about them.

By the time I was thirteen, I took the bull by the horns and often became the only “adult” in the family. That also tossed me into the thick of things and set me at odds with my dad, which created even more problems for me. It took me a long time to realize that my insecurities as a child were the result of the instability within my family.  Escape for me was found in books and that set the pattern that has kept me reading for my entire life. The difference is I no longer have to sneak out of the house and sit under the forsythia bush to do it.

Do you remember when?


6 Responses to Remember when?

  1. Peggy says:

    and when I read about all those “good old days” I remember that my unusual working mother could NOT sit on a jury, have a credit card or checking account in her own name, Any loans she attempted to get had to be co-signed by a male family member, she was paid 50 cents an hour for doing the same job the man next to her was doing and who was paid $1.25.
    I remember that there were 2 schools in our town.–one for “whites” and one for “colored” The “colored” school building was in a lot of disrepair, the teachers not as well educated, the books were way out of date and were in battered and torn condition. There was no school bus for those children and their athletic equipment including the playing fields were disgraceful –and probably dangerous! I remember that out of the 4 movie theaters in town there were only 20 seats total in the oldest theater for “colored people” and they had to access those seats through the alley behind the theater. I remember that when they went shopping for clothing, they could not try it on–nor could they return it if they got it home and it didn’t fit!
    So excuse the hell out of me if I find fault with the elevation of the “good old days” as something to be missed!!
    Oh, did I mention that I am white –and I grew up in a segregated southwestern state?

    Liked by 1 person

    • E. Ayers says:

      Where I grew up there was “one” black family. My father said that family had always been free and had been given the land, but he didn’t seem to know too many details about the history. There were about seven houses on that land. Seems my brothers had gone to school with a few of the children from that street and my sister went to school with the older brother of the girl from my class. Her younger female cousin was about two years behind in school. They weren’t wealthy but they weren’t poor, maybe just working-class folks.

      As far as I knew, that family was never treated any differently and I never knew them to be turned away from anyplace around town. Everyone knew they were Negroes but it was a term that described their coloring and not them. The two girls that went to school with me wore the same clothes as the rest of us, acted the same, talked the same, etc. I was probably well in my teens when it struck me that they were “Black.” If someone had asked me if I went to school with Blacks I would have said no. Their color had nothing to do with them.

      Watching integration of schools on TV was like watching some sort of horror event.Why? Why was it a problem? What did color have to do with anything? Maybe I was lucky to have grown up as I did.

      Then as a newlywed, I moved to Virginia. Oh, my! There might be laws, but that hadn’t change people’s attitudes.You can’t force people to accept what they don’t want, but time will help to erase prejudice.


      • Peggy says:

        I’m much older than you so I did indeed live through it. Yes segregation and discrimination did exist where I was raised but the most virulent and ugly parts were not directed at the blacks or Hispanics (only one family!) but at the American Indians—think Oklahoma!–
        and of course the discriminatory actions against women were indeed rampant there.–do you suppose that is why I had such a good time teaching a gender issues class in a university with a student body dominated by Hispanic males!!–or as my male colleagues dubbed it Male Bashing 1301!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome post… most of it familiar to me, other than the segregation… grew up in California, past that time there. 🙂 XX

    Liked by 1 person

    • E. Ayers says:

      You are lucky, Lizzi. Each period of time has its own specialness, yet each one has lacked something. The expression about never being able to go home is true. As we forge ahead, we learn new and better things. It’s impossible to undo them.


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