Family life of yesteryear

by Karpati Gabor for free photos
by Karpati Gabor for free photos

By Charles Vandegriffe, Sr.

MISSOURI, January 12, 2013 — Let’s travel back into the time zone of the late 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s and look at a typical day for the average working family.

Mornings would start very early. In those days, homes had only one small bath, used by all. Pecking order was mom first, as she was always the first one to get up and put the coffee pot on, started breakfast and get the lunches ready for dad and the children. Yes, dad — as a rule — took his lunch pail or brown bag to work. They did not “do lunch” as they say in Hollywood or Wall Street, but “bagged it.”

Dad was next in line for the bathroom, followed by the children, oldest to youngest. They all got to the table at the same time except for the youngest, who often trailed behind,  and you could always hear mom with a “top sergeant” voice stating a fact “breakfast is ready and your food will get cold.” More than two calls, and they heard Dad coming down the hall to retrieve them, which was not a desirable action.

Dad was off to work while mom made sure the children were properly groomed and ready for school. Lunches packed, dressed and ready, they left the house with Mom reminding the oldest to take care of the younger children. She reminded them to all come home together and no “dilly-dallying.”

Mom knew the after school schedules and was very involved with the school and schedule. She would often remind children, “You have band today, so you should be home by 4.” Old fashioned basic communication, and if there was a deviation from this schedule, there better be a good reason.

While Dad was at work and the kids were at school, Mom was busy at home taking care of the non-aged school children in addition to doing the washing, cleaning, grocery shopping and preparing dinner. However, periodically during the week, the ladies would get together and have coffee and cakes to discuss a whole range of topics. For the mothers who had roles in the girl scouts, boy scouts, PTA and other like organizations these activities were fit in her already busy schedule.

The children arrive at home with all kinds of news, and mom listens to each one as she fixed them a snack of peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a glass of milk with instructions that they must finish their homework and chores before going out to play. Furthermore, change your clothes and put the dirty ones in the hamper and hang your coats up. Sounds familiar.

Now Dad is walking up the sidewalk and is approaching the front door of his “palace” waiting to be greeted by the family, as was always a daily ritual. Mom had already primped up for Dad’s arrival—yes moms primped up to greet their husband. He enters and there is a hug. Mom now starts with the instructions for the assembly of the family to get ready for dinner. Children “it’s time to come in and get washed up your father’s home and its dinnertime.”

Dinner is not only the time for eating but family exchange of what happen in each one’s life that day. It usually started with Mom first followed by Dad and then down into the ranks of all the children. No one was excused from the table until everyone was done eating, and after dinner, Mom would start the dishes with the help of the children. As this process was going on, Dad was having a one on one with the children. He would look at their homework and review, and if it was bad, it was redo time. Other discussions were held to discuss anything the child might have on their mind. This was the routine for the majority of families who were everyday working people not the rich and famous.

Everyone in the family knew they were loved. There is a story regarding a conversation between a father and his youngest son one evening after dinner. The father was telling his son about driving the car and the things not to do and things he should do. The conversation had gone on for quite some time and the son finally said to his father, “Dad, why are you always picking on me?” The father reflected for a minute or so and replied, “Because I love you, and if I didn’t care I would not be talking to you.” The son instantly replied, “Would you please not love me so much?”

Dinner over, chores done, and discussions completed, the family would all head for the front yard to enjoy the closing of the day. One of the main reasons for going out of the house was because it was hot, and they didn’t have air conditioning, and the outside afforded them the opportunity to cool off. Families exchanged greetings with one another.  Dads and Moms exchanged conversations with the neighbors while children played with others in the neighborhood. It truly is like a scene out of a movie starring Donna Reed and Jimmie Stewart.

In winter, the scene was the same except the family would get together in the front room and when “company” would visit, the children’s friends would go into their rooms to play, and the grownups would visit in the kitchen with a hot cup of coffee.

Bedtime and prayers. Lights out. Go to sleep and see you in the morning. Mom and Dad go down stairs and turn on the Zenith radio and listen to the Green Hornet, Gang Buster or some other program. While the programs are on mom reads a magazine or fills out an eagle stamp book while dad reads the paper.

Surely, for some of you who have read this article has brought back many more memories of those days gone by. They didn’t have all the technology, ice machines, air conditioning two-cars, two garages, and the list goes on. However, they also didn’t have to lock the doors to the house. They could sleep in the park overnight, no worry about the children getting shot when they went to school, no reading the paper about another sex scandal involving our elite citizens, no reading of the sports page about athletes being arrested on drug charges or other crimes, no worries about ratings at the movies, no television problems as there were none, and this list goes on and on.

Hopefully, this brief moment as you read this article has brought you pleasure as you were reminded of your happy memories of an era gone by and for the younger readers a little history of the culture that the elders in your family experienced.

It was a given-God, Country and Family.

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time. (James Taylor)

However, that’s a time and place I am from.


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