Living in a simpler time

Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, life was simpler.


ST. LOUIS, Aug. 14, 2015 – Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, life was simpler. Yes, there were problems, but they were nothing like the chaos we face today.

No one locked their doors. Crime was very low, and most people didn’t have air conditioning so in the summer, we slept with the windows and the doors open. The lucky ones had window fans.

We slept outdoors in the park, with no fear of being abused or kidnapped. It was safe to lie in the open on your back and look at the stars. Enjoying that peace and beauty brought more solace than seeing any therapist.

Murders were a rarity. Even violent crime was uncommon.

Families as a rule lived closer together than they do today. This created a closer-knit family environment, with multiple generations involved in each other’s lives.

Families took care of their loved ones. It was common for elderly parents to live with one of their children or grandchildren.

Seniors had a role in families and were respected. It was common for grown children to seek direction from their elders. Young farmers sought out advice from their elders about crops and livestock, and young professionals asked their parents and grandparents for direction

Doctors would come to the home if required. Otherwise, patients went to their office.

Insurance men had territories that they covered. They came door to door to collect their 35-cent premiums. They carried cash and were never robbed.

We relied on the ice man to deliver ice. Families put a card in the window to tell the ice man how many pounds of ice were needed such as 25, 50 and 100. There were wooden boxes to keep the food cold, and we had a drip pan under the box to prevent water flowing on the linoleum floor.

Everyone got their shoes repaired by the cobbler. You didn’t just go buy a new pair. Today, cobblers are almost nonexistent.

A man with a cart came around and sharpened knives. The ladies would all come out of the house when he came around, bringing their knives for sharpening.

The ladies had Tupperware parties in their homes. These were social events with conversation, coffee and desserts, ending with the Tupperware representative showing the products that the ladies could purchase.

Families saved Eagle stamps, which you earned by purchasing items from stores like Famous and Barr, now known as Macy’s. You could redeem them for additional purchases.

Almost every family was a two-parent family. Today, there are nearly 13.6 million single parents raising over 21 million children. Single fathers are far less common than single mothers, constituting 16 percent of single-parent families.

Mothers and fathers went to the PTA meetings. Both parents attended parent-teacher conferences to see how their child was doing.

Sunday was an important day, and we dressed up to go to church. Today, if people go to church at all, they often wear jeans and T-shirts.

The biggest joy of our generation was kids playing outside, improvising games, exploring creeks and woods and catching lightning bugs. We stayed outside until our parents called for us to come in the house and eat, and then we would reluctantly leave our friends and go inside. No video games or TV, just fresh air and clean fun.

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

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Charles Vandegriff, Sr.
Charles spent a fifty-four-year career in technology, retiring at the director level from three major corporations. Followed by three-plus years as a freelance columnist, he has published three books, made over three hundred speeches to senior organizations, and been involved in numerous radio interviews and one television commercial. He has been married for sixty-five years, and has four children, seven grandchildren and thirteen great-grand children. Charles is also a Navy veteran.