Nothing like a trip back to one’s hometown to see how much things have changed. And haven’t changed.
Another family now lives in the modest Cape Cod house where my brothers and I grew up. I don’t drive by it as often as I used to when I visit Pennsylvania, but when I do I like to envision it as it was in the 1950s and ‘60s: Our bikes, side-by-side on the front porch at night with never a thought that they would be gone by morning and strewn around the yard during the day amidst ball bats and gloves; metal swing set in the backyard that the boys made bounce with their horseplay; dad’s garden that yielded enough harvest for the whole neighborhood; white picket fence that caused the scar still visible under my nose; wire clotheslines down both sides of the narrow sidewalk the entire length of the backyard that sagged with the weight of laundry attached with wooden clothespins; big rusty barrel by the back alley in which we burned our trash; blow-up wading pool with three rings that cooled us on summer afternoons; metal milkbox by the front door, under the mailbox; TV antenna anchored to the back wall; front sidewalk where we played such games as Hopscotch, Colored Eggs, Simon Says and Red Light/Green Light; cars from an early ‘50s maroon and cream Pontiac to a late ‘60s tan Chevy station wagon parked by the curb; and the massive lilac bush with its intoxicating fragrance.
That was just outside.
As our family grew dad made considerable structural changes, including converting the attic into two bedrooms and the dormer into a bathroom. He “finished” the basement, removed the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and did other upgrades and updates. But with little effort I can mentally roam from room to room remembering our home as it was during my early childhood. Large silver ducts sprouting from a huge furnace in the basement carried warm air to metal grates in the hardwood floor, cozy places to sit on chilly winter mornings. A wringer washing machine took up too much space in our compact kitchen before an automatic washer and dryer showed up in the cellar. Our entertainment center was a floor model Philco radio and 75 rpm record player. Beat up from years of storage, it is in my home in Florida as a cherished reminder of my childhood.
Our first television had doors and a small round-ish screen. More vividly, though, I recall a later black and white model with a separate channel box on which we watched shows like Howdy Doody, Sky King, Davy Crockett, I Love Lucy and, later, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, when I swooned when Ricky sang.
It amazes me how things that were so common and useful then are obsolete now.
My skate key—wish I still had that—always was on my closet floor near my adjustable metal skates that took me all over the neighborhood. The medicine cabinet in what was then our only bathroom held such remedies as mercurochrome that hurt more than the wound and spirit of nitre for cold sores. Very early, a heavy black telephone with a receiver attached by a cord sat on round table under the front living room window. “Number please?” an operator asked when we made a call. That was replaced by a wall phone with a rotary dial, which remained the only phone in the house while I lived there. Eventually a console stereo and rack of LP records took up most of a living room wall. Our first refrigerator had a tiny freezer that regularly frosted over and contained a shelf for two metal trays with levers to release the ice cubes. An aluminum canister set (which one of my brothers is still using—yay!) on the kitchen counter matched a grease container with a strainer on the stove. I also recall teddy bear and clown cookie jars, a breadbox, coffee percolators and a metal meat grinder that attached to the countertop.
Wish these were mine:
Making the social media rounds:
Ironic how technology like Facebook and email fuels nostalgia. It tickles me when I receive pictures of “obsolete” things that I still use, such as Tupperware salt and pepper shakers and bowls with lids that burp, and vintage Corning Ware casseroles with blue flowers.
On this recent visit “back home” I was touched to see that my toddler grandson’s toybox is the same one that one of my brothers built for my boys more than 40 years ago. Nicked and banged from years of love, it has remnants of the same stickers my sons put on the front when they were small.
My grandson with the same toybox his dad stood on to present a show with his older brother in 1976.
And so it continues.