Monday, April 7, 2014
1919 was the year of my Mother's birth. The year seems about as far removed to her great-great grand daughter as dinosaurs, and cave men. Even to those of us who have lived beyond pre-school, spanning a great portion of two centuries seems astonishing. When Mother was born there were only three automotive vehicles in all of Bountiful, Utah. Most of the citizenship still were using horse and buggy for transportation.
Her Father owned one of the three autos. After Grandma Hatch helped to deliver Sarah (my Mom), her Dad, David Howard, got Grandma Hatch in the car and drove her to Farmington to deliver another Grand baby, Jane Wilcox, Sarah's "twin" cousin. There were NO paved roads. There was a two lane track in the earth. It was probably snowing that day, February 15, 1919.
There was no electricity in their home. At night they retired early, and when they were awake in the time of darkness they used coal oil lamps. Their lovely brick home was warmed with a fireplace. Their was no source of heat in the back bedroom where Mom spent her first years. She and her sister Della shared a bed. They would pretty much shiver themselves to sleep.
Plumbing, including running water, and a bathroom were not a part of those years. There was a very well built outhouse just far enough away from the house to keep from making the house smell. Yet it was not so far that it was unbearable to make that trip in the dead of night in the winter.
"Modern" technology from that era was far...so very far from today's ideas.
The telephone was even extremely different then. There were not enough phone lines for everyone to have a private line, especially in the country. The protocol was this. You would lift the phone and listen. If there was no one speaking you would connect to an operator who would dial a number for you. The operators back then in the tiny towns knew pretty much everything, and anything, that people shared on the phone.
Mama's Grandma Hatch had a Victorola. That was a device that would play music. You would wind it, and it had a long arm with a needle in the end. You would place that needle on a spinning surface. The needle and spinning created sounds. The music would start so quickly...distorting the music, making it sound a great deal like a music box with lots and lots of cracking, staticky, ambient noise. Then as the machine wound down the music would become slow, slower, and then eventually stop until again you again wound the device.
Laundry was a back breaking process. You would scrub the clothing with soap, often lye, sometimes made by hand. The lye was not too partial about whether it was cleansing soil out of clothes, or skin off hands. Then came the wringer. You would push the soaked, dripping clothing through two long pieces that clamped together to squeeze as much liquid as possible from the clothing. Sometimes the clothing would take multiple trips through the wringer. Unfortunately, if your hand got caught in the wringer it would also try to squeeze any liquid from there.
Now if you've survived the scrubbing and squeezing part of the process you will now carry the incredibly heavy batch of laundry outside. There you will meticulously pin each item on to a clothes line to let the clothes dry...sometimes it would take all day long. In the cold winters of Utah you either put your clothes outside and let them freeze dry, or you hung your clothing in your house.
It was a good thing that most people only had 2 or 3 outfits each. If I tried to wash my laundry in that method, it would take me 2 or three 3 DAYS just to wash my own clothing! When did we decided that we needed at least one DIFFERENT outfit every single day, and many times 2 or 3 outfits in ONE DAY?
Most medical maladies could be treated with"plasters." Plasters consisted of some sort of paste, spread on a rag. For example milk and bread were boiled together, then spread on a large rag to make splinters fester and come out. (I actually saw my Grandma Cheney use this method. After 5 days a large nasty splinter that would not come out entirely by tweezing had was all gone. The splinters that had been inside her arm were now on the plaster. Mustard plasters, I'm still not quite certain how that was made but I believe that was when you took the herb mustard, mixed it with water created a paste, then heated it. Next you put the mess on a rag, and then put the mess on the suffering person's chest for chest colds. Or onion plasters...I think the best thing about bread and milk poultices, or onion plasters was that you could eat them if you were hungry! lol
Many maladies were treated with alcoholic spirits of some type. My Mama was given whiskey or rum for many health complaints. I'm pretty certain that the alcoholic spirits did NOT do much to cure or treat the physical malady. However, I AM quite certain that they made you "feel" better, if you get my drift?
Here are some positive things about that era that we don't always remember. There were NO power lines to clutter up the horizon. There were only a few phone lines. There was no bathroom, or indoor toilet to scrub. We didn't NEED the television or the internet...we had the "Party Line," on the telephone, and THAT was actually much more "real," than REALITY Television is today! The nights were really, truly dark, and ever so quiet.
Air pollution? I don't think those two words had even been linked.
I wish that we could all take a safe trip to and from the past. I would love to just be the "fly on the wall," watching my Grandparents, Mother, and Father just go about their everyday lives.
We quite obviously have NOT achieved the time travel type of technology yet. I am grateful that people from the past left stories behind to teach us. I hope that we NEVER become so arrogant about our "Modern" times that we think that those people who lived in a very different time were inferior to us in any way. Let us never forget that the internet, smart phones, and all the miracles of technology in this era would not, and probably could not exist had it not been for all the inventions of the past.
Posted by CJ Smith at 11:00 AM