Looking back on lack of luxuries

There are times when we go through difficult experiences. This spring has been one of those times for us. I lost a brother and sister within three weeks of each other. As you can guess, it leaves a void in my life.

While my brother lived in Arizona, I could still pick up the phone and talk to him. My sister lived in Sebring and I could get down to see her occasionally.

One of the things both families wanted me to do was make some comments at their memorials about our experiences when we were growing up. This caused me to reflect about what life was like as a family back in the 1930s and ’40s.

There were four boys in our family, all fairly close together in age. Our sister came along a few years later.

We four boys, as we grew up, did many things together.

Our home did not have central heat so, as one of our jobs, we had to keep the wood box and coal bucket full to keep the big old heating stove providing heat. It heated the main part of the house, along with Mom’s kitchen stove. Bedrooms were kept cold.

On a cold winter night, the beds were freezing to crawl into. Sometimes, Mom would heat up two or three soap stones, very dense and heavy, in her oven and put them in beds to warm them up.

We didn’t have running water in our home. We had to go out to the pump, pump buckets of water and carry them in to fill the reservoir in Mom’s kitchen stove for hot water. Other containers had to be filled for drinking water and other uses.

I don’t remember when we got our first radio. After we got it, I do remember gathering around it to listen to some favorite programs, such as “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy” and “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.”

Our toys were few and simple — jacks, in which you bounce a small rubber ball and see how many small metal jacks you could pick up in one bounce, or pick-up-sticks, a bunch of sharp-pointed sticks that you would let fall and see how many you could pick up without moving another one.

Outside, we would play tag, hide-and-seek or duck-on-a-rock, which required tin cans and a rock. Simple games and all we needed was a group of kids willing to play. Electronic toys were unheard of.

As we grew older, we played a lot of backyard softball. Here again, we just needed a bat and ball and small group of kids. We almost had enough in our own family.

We were close enough that we usually walked to school, unless it was a zero morning. Our school rooms had individual bench type seats. Our teacher would usually assign us seats. Often, we had two classes in one room — one might be having a lesson and the rest were supposed to be studying.

While our school was small, I don’t remember having a poor teacher. Sure, there were some we liked better than others, but that may have been because some were stricter with their discipline.

Because we were a small school, we rarely had a winning baseball or basketball team. We did have a good music director and our small band would get honors at various music contests around the area.

Sometime soon after high school, we did get oil heat and running water in our home, a real luxury to us. I don’t remember when we got out first television set, but it was after I was out of high school. To be able to watch what we were actually hearing was something we never dreamed of.

Life is much different today than when I was growing up. During those years, we didn’t realize what we didn’t have, so we didn’t miss today’s luxuries that we enjoy.

Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Contact him at 149woodside@twc.com.