Guys like us, we had it made. Those were the days.
And you knew who you were then, girls were girls and men were men.
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
Didn’t need no welfare state. Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great. Those were the days.
Those Were The Days, written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse
Elastic on underwear was not sewn in but only threaded through casings, and if it broke (and it frequently did), you were literally caught with your pants down! And then there was hair care. Curls were the thing, but there were no “home” permanents Hair was rolled onto rods, and baked on electric rods in beauty shops. Need I say more? And hair color? You might end up with green or purple hair in an attempt to be blonde. And it was permanent. Nice
Canning today is cool. It’s fun to grow your own strawberries and make your own jam. Or to buy pomegranete/boysenberry jam tied up with a boquet of lavendar at the Farmers’ Market. But “back in the day,” canning was a necessity. Home freezers didn’t exist. Fresh fruits and vegetables were available only in season so they were harvested or purchased in large quantities, and canned for the winter. This had to be done quickly to avoid spoilage. The entire family participated and the work was frequently shared among families. Children washed jars and peeled, men cut food into slices and carried the heavy baskets and jars, ladies cooked and put into jars. It was dangerous, hard and tedious work. And uncomfortable. The weather was almost always hot (no AC). And it was far from an exact science It didn’t always work.
But most of all, we forget (or never knew) about laundry. Almost an afterthought for us, accomplished automatically in the background while we do other things, laundry for our grandmothers was a day-long, weekly arduous task. There was no liquid soap or stain remover. Stains were removed on wash-boards with bar soap, often home-made. Unlike the pretty bar soap we buy today at boutiques, they contained no oatmeal flakes, rose petals or lavender beads. It was either lye soap or lard soap, and it didn’t smell good. There were no dryers; washing machines had wringers. Laundry was hand-cranked between rollers, the wet soggy mess dropped into laundry baskets, lugged to clotheslines and hung with clothespins to dry – unless it rained. Then laundry was hastily retrieved and draped over everything in the house that was upright. Today, although drying laundry on clotheslines in the fresh air has some merit, it’s an alternative to the dryer. We seldom iron today. But most clothing and linens were ironed in the “old days.” Laundry was soaked in liquid starch prepared by dissolving a powder in boiling water, and then ironed while still damp with a dry iron. No spray starch, no “permanent press.”
So, Mister Bunker, you have a point. But if we’re honest, we don’t really want our grandparents’ lives. Their lives were harder and their world was far from peaceful. Most lived through two world wars and a depression. So instead of pining for the “good old days,” we should be focusing on making these days better ones. After all, they’re going to be the “good old days” for our grandchildren.
Author’s note: Inspired by newspaper columns by Mrs. Juanita Agan in the archives of the Minden Press Herald.