Many of us Baby Boomers have lived through a lot of changes in our world. When most of us were born, color television was just coming out and very few people even had one. The telephones were still largely party lines and people paid a premium just to have a private one. There weren’t microwave ovens or computers or cell phones either. There certainly weren’t any video games.
Air conditioning was also unheard of when we were children. Oh, some Baby Boomers had window units and cooled maybe one or two rooms at a time, but for the most part, even STORES did not have air conditioning. It was a real luxury to have a covered porch to sit on in the summer, especially if you had a fan out there too. Moms would prepare snap green beans or sew on the porch because it was just too hot in the house. Families often ate meals at picnic tables in the yard, too. I still remember how good food tasted outdoors.
The movie theaters did though. That was back in the days when kids would get up in the summer time, eat breakfast and ride their bikes all over town. We’d go home when we were hungry and then hit Mom up for money to go to a matinee. Sometimes Grandma would cut coupons out of the paper and if we took a bottle cap with the coupon, we could get in for ten cents. On those days, the theater would be packed with kids trying to get out of the heat. Thinking back, it was a brave theater owner who made it possible for hundreds of rowdy, unsupervised kids access to his theater once a week. Our parents didn’t go with us, either. It was pretty much all young kids between the ages of five and thirteen. If one was older than thirteen, they usually had a summer job. There was no sitting home watching television. Besides, all that was on television was soap operas, on both channels, for our mothers to watch while they did the ironing or sewed our school clothes for fall. The Guiding Light and Days of Our Lives were on one channel and All My Children and General Hospital were on the other.
Girls had to show up at school in skirts to school, too, or we got sent home. Nobody wore jeans. People who did, were considered too poor to afford suitable clothing. Boomers were right in the throws of the Cold War. Children still practiced duck and cover under their desks when the sirens went off to warn of a nuclear attack. It all seems too preposterous now, but I guess it gave people a sense that they had some control.
Since I grew up in Iowa, most of the people we knew had gardens and did a lot of their own canning; everything from pickles to tomatoes and peaches to butchering our own chickens and putting them up in jars as well. Canning chicken is very tricky and really needs to be done with a pressure cooker. Another thing that wasn’t very common back then was having a separate freezer in the house. They weren’t unheard of, but for a lot of people it just made more sense to store meat they butchered at a local meat locker, which were just regular old lockers with numbers on them standing in a giant industrial freezer. I can remember Mom giving me a list of meat, a key and going to the locker we rented. Our locker was up high in a huge freezer and I climbed a ladder to get to it. The things I remember are so random sometimes.
These are just a few of the little things that have really changed over the years. I have often wondered how we did it without all the things we take so much for granted these days like air conditioning and computers. When people don’t know any different, I guess it just doesn’t matter. Although I think a lot of what has been lost has not been good for families or society as a whole; really simple things. Take television as an example. It was not allowed to show moms and dads in the same bed. When they did bedroom scenes in early television, there were always two twin beds. Violence on television wasn’t even a consideration. About the scariest thing I remember seeing on television as a child were the flying monkeys in the “Wizard of Oz”. It came on television once a year. My cousins and our family would go over to an aunt’s house to watch it because she had a color television. It was just one way Boomers managed to have family time with everyone being interested in the same thing at the same time.
Today, I hate the thought of not having my iPhone, but I think part of the reason for that is that everybody else is on their iPhone wherever you go, too. So if you don’t have your own phone, you probably won’t have anyone to talk sometimes. Being bored or patient is unfathomable. An old point on manners was that when someone called on the telephone while a person was entertaining guests, one was to be polite to the caller, but hang up as soon as possible because they were indeed, uninvited guests.
Although many things Boomers learned have been left in the past, I don’t think there is any harm in passing along some of these skills. Over the years, I have learned how to can and to sew and to cook things from scratch. Believe me, in the long run what these things lack in being thrifty, they make up for in quality. I cannot imagine, for example, not having a year’s supply of tomatoes put up every fall. They just taste so much better than those old canned things available at the grocery store. Being an Iowa girl, no other corn in the world tastes as good as the corn from Iowa. Whenever I can, I like to go back home and buy a $50 worth or more and bring it home to freeze. My two favorite things to do is cook and can. Gardening is also something I enjoy, at least until about the middle of July when the heat is trying to kill everything that’s green. Very few young people are interested in these basic challenges of life. I find it a little odd, too, because they seem so concerned about the chemicals and additives in their food. When you do it yourself, you know what’s in it.
Much of what Baby Boomers know, is becoming lost art. Mostly the areas my website will focus on as it develops is recipes and the occasional project we have going on. So please, keep coming back and see some of the old fashioned ways of doing things, along with some tips that make the experience easier. Things that just seem so ordinary to me are now considered “retro”.