Thursday, August 27, 2009

How Technology Has Changed Since I Was A Little Girl

The following is another excerpt from a series of letters to my first grandchild...

Dearest Emily,

I am writing this letter so you can see how technology has made a difference in the interaction of our family members. When I was born in 1951 we did not have many of the everyday appliances you have today and the ones we did have worked in a much different way.

In your home today you have a color television, VCR, cordless and cell phone which have buttons to push, video camera, CD player, microwave, automatic clothes dryer, automatic clothes washing machine, dishwasher, blender, food processor, hand held hairdryer, curling irons, electric curlers, video games, air conditioners, overhead ceiling fans, computers, CD players in cars, radios that work without being plugged in, pantyhose, permanent press clothing, cable television, satellite television, the Internet, many more varieties of food, precooked dinners, clothing, toys, fast food restaurants with drive up windows...drive up windows of any kind, and I am sure there are many things I may have missed.

Even the fact that most of your Mommy's shopping is done in a Mall/Shopping Center is different from when I was a little girl. The town that I grew up in was Phillipsburg, NJ. Phillipsburg, is a medium size town that lies on the Northwest border of New Jersey. The Delaware River runs between Phillipsburg and the city of Easton, Pennsylvania. Easton was where we did most of our shopping and I can remember having fun riding the escalator in Laubach's Department Store.
We rode the bus to Center Square, and shopped at Orr's, Woolworth's, Green's, John's Bargain Store, and The Surprise Store. Eventually shopping in downtown Easton was replaced by shopping centers. A real sad day for Easton, and me. I loved shopping there especially at Christmas time with the Salvation Army Santa ringing his bell on the corner, and sparkling colored lights hanging across the street from lamp post to lamp post.
My family and I lived in a small half of a double home in Phillipsburg when I was born. At the time of my birth I was my parents third child and second girl. Our home was very old and didn't have the modern conveniences our neighbor's homes had. We had no inside toilet, no hot water heater, and an old coal furnace that couldn't even keep the kitchen warm.

In the kitchen we had a wood burning stove for heat also. There was an outhouse built into the mud porch and it had two wooden seats and it didn't flush like your toilet does and it smelled real bad. We used a galvanized steel tub to bathe in and washed our hair in the kitchen sink. Mom would heat water in a kettle on the wood stove and pour this into the tub and add cold water to make it comfortable to bathe in. She would do the same in an enamel basin in the sink to wash our hair. She even gave us permanent waves in our hair using this same method for rinsing out the solution from our hair.

Dad eventually installed a flush toilet in an upstairs closet. We got our first hot water heater and real bath tub in 1958 when we moved to a nice house in the near by suburb of Alpha.

That good ole galvanized tub came to good use for other things too. It was used on wash day for rinsing the clothes that dropped from the wringer of her "automatic" washing machine. It was run by electricity thus by giving it the name "automatic." But it was a great deal harder to wash clothes then with that "automatic" machine than the washers we use today.

First, my Mom would wheel it over to the sink, attached it's hose to the spigot, put the larger drain hose in the sink to get rid of the pumped out dirty water, and then plug in the electric cord (which most likely was attached to a fire hazard extension cord, as many rooms only had one electric socket ... if any at all). If she wanted to use hot water, it was heated in the kettle and then poured in by hand. If my memory serves me right she usually did this first to dissolve the powdered detergent, and then added the cold from the spigot.

The clothes would swish back and forth for several minutes and then Mom would take each piece of clothing one at a time and put it through the wringer which was loosened and turned to the side where the clothes would then drop into the galvanized steel tub with the rinse water. Once they were all in there she would turn the wringer in another direction over the laundry basket and then put all those rinsed clothes through the wringer again into the basket.

In the back yard was a clothesline and there Mom stood and hung each piece by hand and prayed the weather would be nice enough to dry them. When we were old enough to help, we hung the clothes out for Mom. Well, I believe we got our first real automatic washing machine in approximately 1966 and soon after an automatic clothes dryer. We then began to use liquid detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. Housework was beginning to become easier.

Mom cooked all the food by hand, and had no precooked dinners that can be popped into the micro wave. I can remember Mom's first cake mix, TV dinner, and making milk shakes and all sorts of new things using her new blender. We bought Mom her first microwave in 1984. Wow, were we all impressed with a baked potato in nine minutes. In the old days it took about an hour to bake a potato in a conventional oven. Baked potatoes were a rare thing in the hot summer months.

Hot summer months were made cooler by a pan of ice cubes sitting in front of an oscillating fan. The fan moved from left to right and back again blowing hopefully cooler air towards anything in it's direct path. Wow, were we impressed and delighted when we got our first air conditioner during the summer of 1967.

Wow, the day when my Dad brought home our first TV in 1954 we were thrilled. He held a prism plastic screen up to it so we could see colors...but not the right colors. We got our first color TV around 1964. Our family had only one car until 1956 when Dad bought a 1955 Ford pickup truck. We got a rotary telephone in 1958 and this was our first telephone. I can remember the day Mom had our first push button telephone, and I added our first answering machine in 1992.

We washed and dried dishes by hand until 1978 when I gave Mom my dishwasher that I purchased in 1976. I can remember the first car wash, hula hoop, pet rock, Rubik's cube, paper dresses, plastic curtains, video game, talking doll, transistor radio, boom box, eight track tape player, & CD player. We used to play records on a record player and in my parents luncheonette we had a juke box that played records when you inserted a nickel.

Well, dear Emily, Grammy could go on and on and on, telling you about the many new inventions that have changed our lives, but I want to tell you something that came with these inventions that I feel made life have a darker side.

Families were closer when I was a child, at least my family was. Mom stayed home to do all of those chores for her family. She was there when we came home from school and there to send us off in the morning.

We all played outdoors together. There were only three stations on the TV and they didn't even run 24 hours a day. We didn't watch TV very often. We jumped rope, wiggled inside a hula hoop, played baseball, tag, and a game called pies.

Pies was a real fun big bad wolf game where the baker (a kid) would name the pies (other kids) and then the wolf came to the baker's door (the kid's back) and knock...then the baker turned around and asked the wolf what he wanted and he would say the name of a pie....if it was your pie name, you started to run and the wolf would chase you ...if you made it safely back to the baker and sat down where you were sitting before ...you would be safe and the kid who was the wolf would still be the wolf, but if he caught you ...you became the wolf! Playing "Pies" was a lot of fun and good exercise. Hope you and your friends try it sometime?

We became very close to our neighborhood friends and their families. There was a set dinner time and we ate together as a family. We went to Sunday school on Sunday and said prayers in school. We conversed with God and He looked out for us. And we felt safe in school, at home and playing in the street.

Yes, we have too much in this world today to distract us from being a close knit family that shares day to day experiences. It is my greatest hope that you can learn something from this letter. Perhaps to revive one little simple thing from my childhood, like playing pies!

With all my love,
Grammy Diane

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