Grit Blogs > The One-Acre Farm

The Good Old Days

Jim BakerThese days everyone is pushing technology in everything. Even the car you drive, if it is less than 10 years old, was probably originally marketed by all the plug ins, hook ups and ways you car could talk to you and, therefore, you could talk to other people. I will agree there is a certain amount of 'good' that comes from all this technology. Yet the phone, the 24/7 constant contact everyone seems to need and can't live without, isn't one of them in my book.

If you have been following my feeble efforts to keep everyone entertained while waxing poetic about the 'simpler lifestyle,' then you know I was raised in a farming community in the Midwest. (Does Indiana fall into the Midwest category?) And the town, which I left when I was 12, and did not return to until I was in my 50s for a visit, has changed very little. The old covered bridge, that flapped and slapped when my grandfather drove across it, has been replaced with a new, not covered, bridge. It also no longer slaps and flaps when you drive across it. The farms I grew up on as a youngster are all, for the most part, still there and still being worked by the next generation or two and, in most cases, the same tractors are working those fields.

And we lived in town, my grandfather drove a '29 Model 'A' Ford, and he had modified the rear bumper with a huge slab of aged beech so he could carry two spare tires. The gas tank on that car up next to the fire wall (how safe was that?), and if it was really cold outside he had to hand crank it to get it running.

Now we get to the really good part of the 'good old days.' In the first block of the street that I lived on, more houses had outhouses than had indoor plumbing. That was the early '50s. And the outhouses, without fail, had a Sears catalog for 'toilet tissue.' And yes, even as a very young boy, I learned to run a paper-covered hand around the inside of the 'hole' to get rid of the black widow spiders as well as the occasional splinter and when the No. 2 business was done, a little white powered lime was sprinkled down the hole. And yes, dear reader, we had 'chamber pots' inside the house for those calls of nature in the pitch black of night, and, yes, it was my chore to empty said pots the next day. And, yes, it was a nasty as you think it was!

We had a hand pump outside the back door for water and even as a very young lad, I learned how to prime that pump if it stopped pumping. We all drank from the same water dipper from the bucket of fresh water inside the house, and there wasn't anything called a paper towel anywhere in sight. I am not sure they even existed.

old-fashioned water pump | Fotolia/Ed Brennan

Photo: Fotolia/Ed Brennan

Bath night was a No. 3 wash tub next to a stove in the kitchen, and I was forced to take a bath once a week whether I needed one or not. I never needed one, in case you were wondering! Most of the food, except the meat, came from the cellar, where all the good things my grandmother had canned were sitting in neat rows. All the jellies had a layer of wax poured on them during the canning and even as experienced as she was, we still had the occasional 'spoiled jar' of something or other.

So yes, the good old days were the good old days, within limits. I like my three-ply, air-puffed, cushiony soft toilet paper. I like a refrigerator large enough to hold drinks that can stay cold. I like the icemaker in that freezer on the refrigerator. My mom, when I was in the 6 to 9 year age range, had an 'ice box' that the ice man came and put ice in . If we were doing good that month, my mom would get a 50-pound block and that would last a while. If things were tough, she got a 25-pound block. And it was never weighed, it was just that size. And the ice man could handle an ice pick the way a cellist can handle a bow.

I would write more, yet right now I have to go check my flip-style, not-smarter-than-me cell phone. I think someone is texting me a message, or maybe they are sending me a photo of their newest app so they can watch TV while they are driving their car with the blue-tooth hands-free option and the heads-up display on the windshield while they listen to their satellite radio as they drive. And I recall three channels on the TV and one of those was so snowy from static you seldom watched it! Times have indeed changed.

jim
4/4/2015 7:44:32 AM

Dave, My own gas guzzler is an rebuilt Husqvarna tiller I use for breaking new ground. Everything else is me and long handled hand tools including those I use for wood splitting. I was really looking at wood splitters yet a neighbor talked me into trying the way I did it when I was a kid and my doctor is now patting me on the back instead of beating up on me.


nebraskadave
3/22/2015 7:57:55 AM

Jim, I remember many of things you talk about in this post. The generation that lived through the great depression and on through world war II and then up through the 1950s, embraced the new technology and gladly gave up the old ways. I find it quite amusing that many of the grandchildren of that generation are the ones that want to return to those ways by going "off the grid". I'm kind of like you in that I like hot showers, flush toilets, and cold drinks on a hot day. I do like my gardens but there's no gas guzzling machines that help me garden .... yet. Some day when the body gets too old to dig with that shovel things may change but for now it full steam ahead with hand tools. ***** Have a great "old days" memory day.