My Own History

Bill Neinast

As the 10th, and probably the last, decade of my life approaches, most of my considerations of history concern my own.  I am fascinated with the changes and advances that occurred during this mere blink of an eye during human history.

As mentioned here previously, I was brought by a stork.  I was delivered at home by Dr. Stark in a house without electricity or plumbing.

The house was warmed in winter, as well as in summer, by the wood burning cook stove in the kitchen.

The dishwasher was mother’s hands in pans of warm water heated on that cook stove.

The clothes washer was three large wash tubs and a cast iron wash pot over a wood fire.  One tub had soapy water and a wash board for scrubbing the clothes, another had the clear rinse water, and the other had the bluing water for the white clothes.

The clothes dryer was three or four wires stretched between two clothes poles.  The inner wires were reserved for women’s “unmentionables” to be hidden from prying eyes.

This washing machine and dryer were kicked into service no more than once a week.  There was no need for more frequent service because clothes closets were not yet in use.

Normally, there were only two sets of work clothes and one set of “Sunday go to meeting clothes” per family member.  These clothes were either hung on hooks on the wall or in small, movable wardrobes.

The third house in which I lived was built in 1913.  It was two stories with four bedrooms.  There were no closets downstairs and only two very small ones under the attic upstairs.  

Those two small closets, plus one wardrobe, were ample closet space for a family of five until Dad had a closet built in the downstairs bedroom.

My clothes until about the teenage years were bib overalls and a shirt for school or cold weather and shirtless most of the time during the summer months.  And there was also that set of “Sunday go to meeting” clothes.

During that period, I rode in several roofless Model-T vehicles that had to be started with a crank. Sometimes the engine backfired, whipping the crank back onto the cranking arm and breaking it.  Key starter ignitions were a blessed innovation.

Modern, fully enclosed vehicles, however, were already becoming popular.  Those were also the days when self-service gas or filling stations were unheard of.

Need gas?  Just pull up to one of the gas pumps in front of a small station and an attendant would approach and ask, “How much ya need?”  Those were the days before “fillerup,” so you would say something like, “Give me five.”  

The attendant would then hand pump five gallons of gas into the glass container topping the pump and drain the glass into your tank.  

He would then clean your windshield with a handy chamois cloth and check your oil.  If the dip stick indicated oil was needed, he would pick up a glass bottle previously filled from a 55 gallon oil drum and fill the crank case.  

Finally, after asking if you would like the car swept out with the handy whisk broom in his hip pocket, he would take your payment in hard cash, as those convenient, peculiar things known as credit or debit cards had not even been dreamed of.

Then, as there probably were no other cars in sight, you could whip out onto the recently paved highway at a whirling 35 MPH, as gasoline was rationed and speed was curtailed to save fuel during WWII.

Things really began to pick up when Dad gave the family a radio.  Zack Greer delivered it on Christmas Eve when I was five or six.  It sat on a chair in the dining room because that was close to one of the few wall plugs in the house.  We could receive all of three stations, one of which was just across the Rio Grande, but broadcast in English.

Then, after moving into that four bedroom house, we got one of those new fangled telephones. We could turn the crank on that contraption and hear Miss Annie, the operator, ask, “Number, please?”  But who bothered remembering numbers back in those days; you could just say, “I’d like to talk to Joe.”

Miss Annie would not ask, “Joe who?”  She would recognize your voice or number and know you wanted Joe Smith, not Joe Jones.  Sometimes, she might say, “Joe’s not home.  He just left to visit Mary.”

Now what’s better?  Miss Annie or that cold, impersonal speed dial on an I-Phone? 

So here’s the perspective.

All the marvels described above occurred less than a century ago.  

Although life seems to have been much simpler back then, it also seems that there was substantially less drug and alcohol usage and homicidal rampages. 




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