Get your memories down on paper before it's too late
Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30
An amusing email I received recently describes a conversation between an elderly man and a young man concerning life during the older man's youth.
It goes as follows, "What was your favourite fast food when you were growing up?"
"We didn't have fast food when I was growing up. All the food was slow," came the answer.
"Oh come on, seriously" said the young guy. "Where did you eat?" "It was a place called home,'' the older man replied. "Our mother cooked every day and when our father came in from work, we sat down together at the table and if I didn't like what she put on my plate, I was allowed to sit there until I did like it."
He then described how he felt almost embarrassed and couldn't relate the part about how he also had to ask permission if he wished to leave the table.
He also said he would have told the young guy more things about his childhood except he didn't think he would believe them despite their being true: "Many parents never owned their own house, travelled out of the country, owned a car or had a bank loan or credit card. No one had heard of the word austerity. In most rural areas water from a tap was an undreamt of luxury and water had to be brought home in pails or pumped by hand.
"Parents never drove children to school and I had a heavy black bicycle that only had one speed (slow). We didn't have a television in our house until I was 12. It was, of course, black and white and the station went off the air at 10pm, after playing the national anthem. Farming news featured prominently and there was always a weekly report on the cattle market broadcast on the radio.
"Ready to eat food was never delivered to homes but milk was. On farms, all the children helped with milking, foddering, feeding calves, lambing, haymaking, picking spuds and harvesting corn. Once their daily chores were finished, they then went to school, either by bicycle or on foot. This applied to all families and a child helping out at work was considered normal.
"Most of us look back fondly on our childhood despite the responsibility we were given for so many tasks. We still found time to play and I cannot recall any child in my school that was seriously overweight. Like most youngsters of that time, we were generally lean and fit and somehow we survived without fast food, energy drinks, sugar loaded breakfast cereals and the vitamin supplements many parents seem to feel are essential for their children's wellbeing. Had they been available, we didn't have the money to buy them anyway".
And now for a quiz. How many of these things can you remember?
Headlight dip-switches on the floor of the car
Ignition switches on the dashboard
Trouser leg clips for bicycles without chain guards
Using hand signals for cars without turn indicators
Cigarettes that were sweets (just imagine what would be thought of them these days). Party lines on the telephone (you could also have fun listening to other people's conversations)
Phones with handles you wound to contact an operator
Newsreels before a film
TV test patterns that came on at night after the last programme and were there until broadcasting started again in the morning
Peashooters (we used to make our own from bamboo or elder)
33 and 45 RPM records
Metal ice trays with levers (they were really good and much better than the modern plastic ones)
Metal tractor seats that must have been designed by sadists
Hand operated turnip pulpers, butter churns and clothes wringers.
Do you ever go in to a farm museum and find that most of the implements on show were in common use in your childhood? If you do, then like me, you have memories that should be put down in print or at least shared with friends and family.
Otherwise much of the invaluable accumulated wisdom and experiences from the past will be forgotten.
Items like refrigerators and telephones made a huge difference to our lives.
So what's next? I cannot wait for the arrival of self-drive cars that can take you to your destination and park themselves without needing any assistance. But I bet they will be so sophisticated that they will automatically breathalyse the owner and refuse to move if he or she is over the limit.
There is a snag to everything.