The sounds of bygone times
There’s a theory that states that sounds never truly disappear – that all sound in some way is still somewhere in the atmosphere. For example, it is theorized that the reverberating sounds of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address still exist out there. It’s an intriguing idea.
Some time, when you’re outdoors, stop and listen. What do you hear? Not much, really – maybe a dog barking in the distance or cars swishing by on some main thoroughfare. But let’s go back a half dozen decades or so. Back then, on a quiet morning or evening when things weren’t all a-bustle, there were all-encompassing subdued background sounds that we all could hear. They were rushing, humming, busy sounds with occasional echoing bangs or booms.
Those sounds were always there – out there in the distance. They were the sounds of heavy industry and we were barely conscious of them. Surprisingly, those sounds were accompanied by a false sunset in the early evening as we looked southwest from the center of Warren to see the glow in the sky of the open hearths and blast furnaces making our steel.
Closer to home we heard the call of the egg man and the bread man announcing their presence. How about the clopping of a Warren Sanitary milk horse and the tinkling of the glass milk bottles as the milk man brought them to your door?
Down the street there was the clucking of chickens and the badly-timed crowing of a rooster. Occasionally, there was a huge squawk from the hens as one of the neighborhood dogs got too close to the chicken wire fence.
On Monday afternoons you could hear the flapping of the sheets on the backyard clothes line after your mom did all the laundry that morning. How refreshing it was to let those clean-smelling damp sheets caress your cheek as you darted in and out among them!
There was the din of yelling kids playing stickball in the middle of the street using flattened tin cans for bases. The girls played two-turner jump rope on the sidewalk with “I know something I won’t tell”
Steel-wheeled clamp-on roller skates that didn’t roll too well made a kind of grinding, schussing sound as the wearer took very short strokes as she skated between the sidewalk cracks.
A trip to the Packard Park swimming pool treated your ears to the sound of kids having fun splashing and swimming as the two huge fountains in the middle of the pool created the sound of tumbling, cascading water.
Going anywhere in the family car meant a stop at the local service station. As the car drove up to the pumps, it ran over the hose that ding dinged to notify the gas pump man that he had a customer. There was the clunk of the gas nozzle in the filler neck, the ping of the bell in the pump announcing every gallon, and the squeak of his rag on the windshield as he cleaned it. He would check your oil and bang down the hood.
Toward evening, there was the whistling for the family dog to come home. Dogs just ran around as they pleased back then. Everyone seemed to have a cat, too. And articulating “kitty, kitty, kitty” as fast as possible took a quick tongue.
There was the 9 p.m. curfew whistle that intoned its melodious call. All kids disappeared from the streets -or they were supposed to. It was time to get home and to bed to get ready for another day of sounds that are gone forever from our distant past – or are those sounds really gone? Perhaps they are going around somewhere in our atmosphere accompanied by the Gettysburg Address. I wonder
Mumford, of Warren, is a community columnist. Email him at email@example.com.