(A ‘Jaw Wagger’s Pondering)

Part 1

Whether you are 16 or 116 years of age you are always facing a time of change.  It is often subtle and hard to see; yet, it is there, and will dictate much of what you do, feel, think and react in the details of your time.  How you will fit into the world around, how you will preserve and defend, and determine, your dignity and path in life will always be challenged by those politics, groups, organizations, instruments of indoctrination, economic pressures to be upright with all you interact with in life.

It matters not what your assumed position is in society, what you think you are or want to be.  There are countless influences working every moment to redefine all your assumptions of what is real and unreal, what you are and will be, what goodness or evil you will contribute with the time you have.

The most powerful thing we can individually do, in this remarkable time we now live, is to recognize this prolific variety of ‘covert influences’ that bombard our most intimate daily mind, consciousness, and what we actually do, every day. This immediate moment is something too many of us have no serious past or point of reference for.  So, it has some value to put this in perspective.  Can you remember when a radio was the only thing you had for contact with the world?  Even this was subject to the weather, the atmospheric elements, whether you could tune into any particular channel.  I do, and it was an upright console powered with a car battery and limited on how long you could listen to anything.

Do you remember when a telephone was a new thing and you could put it in your house?  I do.  A man of venture established a local telephone company with intentions of connecting the rural community with the ‘outside world.  I recall going with my father to town to get our part of the particulars to get a telephone route down our country road.  We were given a crate filled with glass ‘isolators’ and long spike nails.  We trimmed the trees along the road (with handsaws) and installed the ‘isolators’ at an average of 12 feet from the ground.  There were two ‘isolators’, separated about 16 inches apart.  One was a ‘transmit’ the other was a ‘receive’.

A few days later, a man came along with an old truck with a spool of wire and carefully installed the wire on the ‘isolators’….two strands of wire….one for transmit and one for receive.  About a month later a man came to the house and ran two wires to the house and installed a wooden box on the kitchen wall….a telephone.  He left a typed note.  It read something like this: “you are two longs and a short.  If you receive two longs and a short you are being called.  There are 6 other parties on this line.  If you hear rings other than yours, please do not answer.  It will be a call to another party. Here are the ‘rings’ for parties on your line  (it included the sequences of ‘cranks’ required to ring your neighbor).  If you wish to call the switchboard downtown, for service or long-distance, crank one very long ring.”

Of course, this was quite an addition to our rural neighborhood.  It was also a severe learning curve on how to use it and what to expect.  Also, everything outside of our local community was ‘long distance’ (switched (plugged) into another circuit by the switchboard operator in town and charged accordingly).  So, long distance was something folks used very sparingly.

With this new invention and opportunity, the women were especially delighted and spent much of their time ‘on the wire’.  My father rarely used the phone; but, when need of it the line was usually busy with the neighborhood prattle and gossip.  I recall him making numerous attempts to call someone until he was exasperated.  Being the somewhat ornery fellow he was, he would get on the line and talk about how he would like to do Mable or Oneina or what a hot body Linda had.  The phones clicked and clicked until he had a clear line for a call.

Then there was electricity.  I was about 12 years old when we got it.  Before this moment is most important, however.  For most folks, the smoke and dry cellars were essential to survival.  The smoke cellar was for curing pork and drying other meats and vegetables for the winter and thereafter.  The dry cellar was for storing the dried and smoked and canned goods, as a food supply.  It was important to keep these items from freezing and a fairly constant temperature.  There was no such thing as ‘refrigeration.

I recall how important a good beehive inventory was.  It was our sugar supply and a source of wax for sealing the canned and stored goods.  We, as children, always enjoyed a cut of beeswax, for all the great honey.  Yet, there was a wax bowl where we always placed the wax after indulging in the honey. The wax was essential in sealing and preserving foods in glass and pottery containers.

Once a week we would go to town.  One of the most important reasons was a visit to the ‘Ice Plant’.  We had an ‘Ice Box’.  Two 50 bl blocks of ice were purchased at the Ice Plant just before heading back to the farm.  These two blocks of ice would keep our foods safe and cooled for a week.  The family routine was for mother to open the Ice Box twice a day…in the morning and in the evening.  Whatever you may want from it was gathered at that time, and that time only.

Then came electricity.  We had a transformer installed at the county road, via REA (Rural Electric Cooperative) and a powerline run to the house.  My father was a bit cautious with this new thing and had power run to the water pump and to the kitchen.  We now had a real refrigerator and pressured water into the house (an indoor toilet would come later).

One of my most memorable moments as a child was our first night with electricity in the house.  My father had wiring to the new refrigerator and to a light over the dining table.  It was a single bulb with a pull-string hanging a few feet from the ceiling and centered over the round table.   We spent the evening, as a family, watching that stupid light, doing hand-silhouettes on the cabinet doors until bedtime.  It was a fine evening.

My father lost the use of his right arm in WW2.  We had milk cows that furnished our family’s needs for milk, butter, and cheeses.  What was left was placed in milk canisters set out by the mailbox and picked up twice a week by a local dairy processor for cheeses and other products. This was our ‘in-town’ grocery money.  It was difficult for my father to milk all those cows with one hand, as he did so well.  For my sixth birthday, I was gifted with a one-legged oak milk-stool and milked the cows twice a day until I went off to a war I knew nothing about.

How often can this story be told by so many throughout history, from anywhere in the world?  It may be countless.  So, from any point in time, anywhere on this dear planet, times are always changing.

Part 2

I recall seeing my first television.  It was in the year 1959.  It was in black and white. No color. Reception was by way of an antenna on the roof.  A ladder leaned against the side of the house so someone could climb onto the roof and turn the antenna until the picture was at least visible in clarity.  My first view of a television was watching and listening to President Eisenhower addressing the congress and warning about how we must be aware of, and be wary of, becoming a military complex, depending upon wars to perpetuate our industrial and economic complex.  I wasn’t totally unaware of what he was saying but I did comprehend the substance of his words.

In school, in my time, Brave New World, 1984, Citizenship, Political Sciences (including the Constitution and Bill of Rights, European and American History, Parliamentary procedure) were all required classes.  I took them seriously.  Even things like ‘home economics’, how to budget and manage income were part of education.  Now, few, if any of these fundamental essentials for real life in the real world are required in public schools.  I wonder why.  Perhaps, the long-term agenda is to keep our generations ignorant and mindless and manageable by those intent upon some other devious purpose.  Funny how things change with time but human nature doesn’t.

Speaking of schools:  All public schools were grades one through twelve, usually all in the same connected building(s), at the same location.  Kids in the first grade knew those in the twelfth grade and vice versa.  The ‘bigger kids’ kinda looked out for the ‘younger kids’.  It was more of a ‘multi-level community’ at school.  The community was directly and deeply involved in the schools and the children.  Likewise, the children had a deep sense of ‘community’.  Now, ‘community’ is a lost item, for the most part.  If a kid did something seriously wrong in town a merchant, or others, would take him/her by the shirt collar and call dad.  Problem solved.

A lot of folks lived on farms and had to drive a vehicle to school.  It was usually an old truck.  And, if your truck didn’t have a gun rack (three count rack) mounted at the rear window with a rifle on each space, you were not cool.  It was not unusual for the school principal to be in the parking lot with ‘the boys’ looking over someone’s new rifle.  In all my youth I never heard of anyone shooting anyone.  It was virtually unthinkable.  Yes, times have changed.

Part Three

Economies were documented with a pencil and paper; and, everyone knew how to count change.  Do you remember stores with a cigar box for a cash register?  Many did.  A store with a big chrome-ladened cash register, one that made a loud ring when opened, was ‘up-town’.  Frankly, they were magnificent works of art and craftsmanship.  Do you recall when banking was done with a pencil, eraser, and ledger?  I do.  Our little community bank advertised with free No. 2 lead pencils.  Imagine the world’s finances today, trying to work that way (lol).  Yes, times are a-changin’.

Again, change is the only ‘constant’.  From the little things within our little world to the entire universe, ‘change’ is omnipresent.  It may be unnoticeable, but no single moment of our lives will ever be repeated.  We will never experience it exactly as it happened, ever again.  As you read this little ‘blog’ you will never be this young again, never see the world around you, or see yourself, in the exact same way you did a moment ago.

The wonderful importance of our memories and reflections upon the past is for points of reference as we plunge into the next moment. It can keep us grounded and able to see where things are going, what is valuable, and what is not.  It is very much the collective mass that is our identity; and, when we focus upon all those little details that are now gone, they are little treasures that can, if allowed, make us a ‘work of art and life’s craftsmanship’.

Clay

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