I am in the process of researching how our parents and grandparents lived in the early 20th century, to get a sense of what would motivate someone to buy a circular knitting machine and become involved in such things. I ran across the following anonymous excerpt, which is not related to machines, but which I thought was good reading and worthy of posting.

I am connected by my grandfather’s stories to life in the early 20th century, by my parents’ stories to the depression and WW II, and by my own life to mid-century on.

Life was not uniformly better or worse then, just different. In my childhood, winter meant that turnips would show up in our diet a lot. Boy, did I hate that! The root vegetables, including parsnips and beets, tended to store or can better, and the stores didn’t have that much that was both fresh and affordable.

Winter also meant ear infections, and without medical insurance, we were more likely to get home treatment than medical science. My family got our first refrigerator when my brother needed medicine that had to be kept cool, and my dad took a second job. There were still places with water that could make you sick, as well as large numbers of greasy spoon restaurants if you ventured far from home.

Early in the 20th century, there was a real fad for salt water swimming pools, but their use died out. I suspect that their disappearance had a lot to do with polio. But with all that, it was still magical growing up in a small town. I could roam all over town with brother and friends, feeling very safe, and kept in check by the knowledge that if we bent the rules, we were sure to hear the nearest adult asking, “Does your mother know what you are doing?” We still managed to get into trouble, and one of my vivid memories is watching my brother hang from a tie on the RR trestle above the creek, because he couldn’t get off the bridge in time when the train came along. Good thing it was a short train, or his arms would have given out.

We saw family a lot, and after dinner, the grownups would play cards or talk politics. The Masons and other fraternal organizations were a big part of life… and then TV came along. And very quickly, the social gatherings became less frequent. I remember walking home in the dark, and seeing house after house, dark except for the flickering bluish glow coming off the screen. I can’t remember the name of all my teachers, but I can recall some of the advertising jingles. “You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with ____”.

— anonymous

Advertisements