I’m returning to the differences between life today and the 1940’s and 1950’s when my nephew, John Jones, and I were young.
One of the greatest changes has been in family life, and I don’t like it very much. However, from its very beginning, America has been a place of movement and change. I think about the Pilgrims who knew that they and their people back in England would probably never see one another again.
Then came the westward migration for land. During the 1820s, my mother’s pioneer ancestors travelled by oxcart to Michigantown in Clinton County, settled farms and remained nearby. They never again saw those whom they left behind in Ohio. I knew several of Mother’s uncles, her aunt Laura, and Mother’s cousins as well as my relatives from the Gard side of the family. Now I no longer know where they live or who’s alive.
My siblings remained in central Indiana, and it was comforting to live up close and personal with them, their children and our neighbors. John and I share memories of our rather humdrum lives. Some of my siblings and their children were usually present at Mother’s round oak dining table for noon Sunday dinner. Following World War II, the adults played penny ante poker. Often Beulah and Crack (Roy) Lawrence who were relatives of my sister-in-law and brother-in-law showed up. I was given twenty cents for the Sunday matinee at the Alhambra movie theater on the town square and popcorn from Flory’s next door.
The motto was, “Children should be seen and not heard.” We children were required to be polite to the adults, chat pleasantly with them when they wished and listen to their stories. Here are some of John’s memories:
Reading your column causes introspection and shuffling around through the trunk of memories in my mental attic. I remember as a boy before any of us had televisions, the adults would visit most evenings. They would gossip, play cards, drink coffee or perhaps something stronger and enjoy each other’s company. I remember Grandpa and Grandma — your mom and dad — coming to visit when we lived just a block north of them. Grandpa always had a penny to put in my little red, cast iron piggy bank. (In my case, Grandpa Kelly gave me an allowance of a dime a week.)
Grandma and Grandpa’s house had a big porch swing . . . In the summer we would sit out on the porch in the cool of the evening to visit with each other and those who walked by. Everyone sat out on their porches and chatted with their family, friends and neighbors. They weren’t hiding inside in the air conditioning as we do today. Of course, they didn’t have air conditioning, just electric fans — the ones with blade protectors that you could put your entire hand through. I’m amazed that we weren’t all maimed by those fans.
I, too, remember summer evenings on that long porch swing. After dark when I came home from playing bicycle slips or kick-the-can, Mother would sit out there in her nightgown while she, Daddy and I chatted as we swung gently. The Mattixes to the north, sisters Maude Newby and Effie Pitts across the street, Gertrude Scovell and her mother on their glider, and the Fraziers two doors south of Gertrude all sat out on their porches. Mother and Mrs. Frazier giggled about the sighing and passionate goodnight kisses of a dating couple standing across the street. These days, I don’t even know most of our neighbors’ names.
John concluded his musing: The fabric of life continues to weave itself into the future. Each generation adds their threads to the fabric, and that fabric wraps us all. Each generation is bound to the generations past and future by the threads of their existence. When we look at our children our immortality stands before us, adding its threads to the fabric of humanity. Grand, isn’t it?
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