Back in my Day

Submitted into Contest #120 in response to: Start your story with the line ‘Back in my day…’... view prompt

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Creative Nonfiction

Jane E.Ruth words 1477

35 Galilee Street

Falling Waters,

West Virginia,25419

304 285 8870


by Jane E.Ruth

"Back in my day," stories always bring laughter and disbelief to my grandchildren. "Grandma, you're kidding, right?" And they proceed to make me the ancient of days. They are in complete denial that some electronics never existed before their appearance on this planet. Games, videos, TV's and cellphones always "were", according to them.

I love to relate how TV was non-existent in my life until the 1950s. "Ugh, what did you do, Gram?" Well, heaven forbid we used our creative little minds to entertain ourselves or physically enjoy living. Many are the memories of playing softball with neighborhood kids at each other's houses or in the fields after the farmers cut the hay. We went out in the morning and played all day. We could come home to eat, or we could eat at our friend's homes. Mothers were accustomed to having the whole neighborhood of kids running around. Popsicles were a favorite sweet to give during the dog days of August. Although, I saw hail failing in July also a few times, and in those days, you could eat ice and icicles hanging from the roof in incredible stalactite formations. 

Furthermore, we seemed to have lots of snow. I remember walking between snow walls five feet high. Plus, building snow houses or igloos was an excellent pastime. We had great snowball fights, except when some ice got into making a snowball that could sting when hit by one. Ice skating on the frozen creek beds was always enjoyable, pretending to be a world-class skater with Axel jumps and figure eights- amazing imaginations. Falling into the water when the ice broke was not pleasant, though. Besides, clothing could freeze quickly when wet in those temperatures. And, we didn't always have warm gloves like some in our community; we were blessed with socks to cover our hands. 

My brothers, sisters, and I used to go ice skating down the hill by our house, on the frozen water path- no idea how we didn't get injured or killed. My sister even rode an old car hood off the slope- brave we were in those days or just plain ignorant that we could get hurt. Evil Knievel had nothing on us!

I told my grands that when TV first came out, it was only black and white. If we wanted color, we had a special-colored plastic sheet we put over the top-voile-colored tv! Captain Kangaroo, Roy Rodgers, Howdy Doody, Lone Ranger, and Tonto. I always loved Mr. Greenjeans and Kemo Sabe. And I got to meet The Cisco Kid at one of our country fairs- seventh heaven, wow. "Oh, Poncho" "Oh, Cisco" The good ole days.

Back in the ancient days, I used to listen to the radio before the TV. "Now that is old, Grandma." And one show we watched on TV was called The Thriller. We held our breath as we saw the creepy images coming across the screen and scaring us to death- we sure could scream in those days. But we were right back at it the next time it was on the tele.

I especially enjoyed watching Captain Kangaroo and eating a moon pie. The pies were so tasty back in my days. Sky bars were my favorite candy, besides my grandma making peanut butter fudge. 

In addition, we had school patrols on the buses. It was one of us kids designated by the bus driver. I remember the day when one of the teachers or the principal stepped on the bus and asked the bus driver, who was our neighbor, who he wanted to be on school patrol that year. Miraculously, he chose me! 

Trying to corral kids is not easy, but they were not too bad back in those days. The kids knew if they got in trouble on the bus, they were definitely in trouble when they got home. Of course, walking home after being kicked off the bus was an excellent way for parents to realize their little cherub had been causing trouble.

Another fun time was drive-in theaters. Some kids hid in car trunks and piled out after the car went through the pay booth. In the back row, out of sight, of course. Saw that happen a few times. Nothing as thrilling as sneaking into the drive-in show with giant screens to intensify scary scenes. But, the taste of fresh, buttered popcorn, or hot dogs and French fries and a soda at the drive-in was -to die for! Pulling up to the speakers, turning up the volume, and placing the speaker on the side window brings back memories.

Similarly, it was exciting when we wore special glasses to see a film in the movie theaters 3-D, so we could get scared more and scream more. Those were the days…

Kaleidoscopes were one thing we loved playing with to entertain ourselves, and who could forget looking at the "old photos" with a long handle held wooden photo viewer or viewing colored slides through a small hand-held viewer which you clicked to see each new one. It had a circular disc to insert on the side of the viewer.

One time I paid a dollar and sent for a little four-inch baby doll. I still remember the clean smell of a brand-new rubber baby doll. It takes so little to entertain me. Brand new toys were a treat for kids in low-income families.

Once, we lived in a house in a cow pasture. My family was impoverished, to say the least- all ten kids of us. I recall the day distinctly when I heard some dishes fall on the floor in the kitchen. I ran to the kitchen, and lo and behold, a cow was standing in the kitchen, true story. We had quite the time redirecting the cow out of the kitchen back into the pasture. She had just wandered in the open door with the flies.

Consequently, my grands have no idea what it is like not to have running water in the house or a bathroom. An outhouse description horrifies them. The closest they get to that type of life is a one-time trip with the scouts in the great outdoors. They miss the fun of sitting on the wooden toilet seats and reading the wishbook of the Sears catalogs.

Back in my day, since we were so poor, we sometimes lived in houses without electricity. We had small mesh-like gas lights that we would light at night. The lights gave off little light, but hey, we were happy for small blessings.

Carrying water to wash clothes was not fun. It took many buckets to fill that tub of water on the gas stove to wash clothes, even when we were lucky to have a Maytag washer with electricity. Just because we had an electric washer didn't mean we had running water. We had a small hand pump which we had to prime many times to get the water into the house to drink, but we carried the water from a small spring up to the house to wash clothes. That takes a lot of water for ten kids' clothing.

Sometimes we ran out of gas for the car back in my day, and my dad siphoned gas from one car to another. Dangerous practice, but if you wanted to go to town and ran out of gas-hey. You had to have a special knack for doing that- just enough suction to get the gas flowing and then quickly place the hose into a can before the gas hits your mouth.

Walking was a great pastime for us kids. We walked 2-3 miles a day to visit German kids who lived up the road. We played in the barn, building houses from the hay bales, or walked the wooden plank, which went from one side of the hayloft to the opposite one across the barn. There was also a large thick rope hanging from the barn ceiling, which we took turns swinging on-wonderful memories. I still can taste the delicious bar lemon cookies made by the German kids' mom- they "tasted" German, if you know what I mean.

My grandchildren think of me as really old in my 70's. Once when playing a word-type game, my ten-year-old grandson actually said he thought Grandma might have trouble playing since I had to consider answering some questions. Like once people are a certain age, poof! their brains are gone. I love that when we play games and especially Monopoly, how he is bragging about winning or thinks he is pulling a fast one, and Grandma ends up beating him. Ah, the naiveness of youth and the wisdom of age. It pays to have lived back in my day.

November 17, 2021 00:00

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1 comment

Boutat Driss
11:57 Nov 22, 2021

well done!


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