By Beth Pinyerd
As we are at home respecting our state’s “Shelter in Place” order, I am sure many of us are reflecting on earlier days when life was not so busy and where time with each other was easier and cherished. This is a golden opportunity for the older generation and younger generations to connect through phone calls, video chats, emails and writing letters. Reflections of an elderly person’s past boost their morale and self worth. It helps them to relive past happenings in their lives and to share their thoughts and feelings of their lives. Children are absolutely fascinated by the way life was in the “good old days.”
I love the special song “Thanks for the Memory” which was composed in 1938 by Ralph Rainger and lyrics written by Leo Robin. Comedian and philanthropist Bob Hope used to sing this song to beautifully capture the simple joys of earlier years. Just the first two verses reflect the simplicity of earlier years, “Thanks for the memory. Of sentimental verse, nothing in my purse.”
I would like to share some tips to prompt intergenerational discussions of how things have changed as we reflect on “Memory Lane.” Words of life experiences can create a canvas of life the way it used to be. Technology and the internet can also offer actual pictures of earlier years.
There are many name changes from the past of appliances and ways of life today. I used to love to hear my grandparents refer to a refrigerator as an “ice box,” which refers to a simple wooden crate with ice to keep foods cold and fresh.
Today’s washing machines were referred to as “wringer washers.” Our electric, gas range, or microwave was referred to as “wood-burning stoves.” Today’s vacuum cleaners replaced the “rug beater.”
This is a lesson point of engaging your children to look for pictures of these as well as even have them act out what it may have been like, for example, beating a rug to clean it. You might want to take your children back in time to pretend that they lived back in earlier years, removing modern technology and replacing it with what earlier years provided. For example, instead of turning on the lights for dinner, why not light candles?
I want to bring up the one-room schoolhouse, whose teachers were very special people. My mother started her teaching career in a one room schoolhouse in Cleburne County.
I know your families right now feel like that you are teaching your children during this time in a one-room schoolhouse in teaching many different ages at one time. I remember my mother recalling that the older students would help her in teaching the younger ones.
Her older students would be responsible for bringing in the wood for the wood-burning stove to keep them warm. The younger students were assigned age-appropriate chores such as cleaning the blackboard and clapping the erasers outside. I warmly recall her saying that this was truly the best teaching experience she had in her early years. Parents, you might want to look up one-room schoolhouses and share with your children as a lesson and even adopt some of the ideas to the routine of your day.
You know, grocery delivery is not a new idea. I can remember that milk was delivered in glass bottles at our back door in the 1950s and 1960s. Prices have truly changed during the years.
Bread was 14 cents a loaf back then. In comparison to now, taken from a 1923 Sears catalog, handbags were 95 cents to $3.25; dolls were 19 cents to $4.98; canned vegetables were $1.60 for 12 cans and a sewing machine cost $29.95 to $32.95, etc.
Many of our clothes were sewn in earlier years. I can remember as a young child that my grandmother would sew me delightful skirts and dresses that I wore with happiness. You and your children can do a research project on looking back to see how much items cost and what they looked like.
Guide your children to compare what cost differences there were in the “Good Old Days” to costs now. That can serve as a good math lesson.
I can remember when a dime was a big allowance for me as a child! The gas station attendant pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield. Opelika was so blessed with this kind of warm and friendly service. I know we can remember those people who did and still do this outreach.
As a child, I used to love to run into the gas station and get myself a soda out of the big ice chest and pop the top! I am sure everyone my age and older remembers when bubble gum and candy were just a penny! We can all probably remember baseball cards cost a nickel, too.
Children will be fascinated by the idea that our telephone lines used to be party lines! Imagine sharing a phone line with others. You had to take your turn to talk and not interrupt others.
One chore I can remember as a child was to help my mother hang our clothes out on a laundry line. It was a while before clothes dryers came on the scene. We always saw clothes lines in the back yards.
After clothes were dry from their time on the line, they smelled so fresh and clean. Folding, sorting fresh, clean clothes can be a family project for families right now.
In the past, families always looked forward to dinner time where we all gathered together to eat and spend time with each other. It usually took an hour or more to cook dinner every night. We didn’t rush off to grab our food.
The aromas of good food would fill our homes. The dinner table was set for we families to spend time together and share the events of our days. We took turns to listen to each other and interact. Even though this pandemic is tough right now, I hope just the few suggestions I have shared in this Classroom Observer article will encourage you to reflect upon the simple joys we have enjoyed in the past and that we can enjoy today.
Remember time spent with your family spells LOVE!