Times Change


When we were newly married we went to church with a grand old chap named John T. Read.  I had known him pretty much all my life but by the time we married and got settled in a church in Chicago John was in excess of 100 years old (by one or two).  ChicagoHe lived at quite some distance from the church — in the home he’d had for about 80 years in a neighborhood that had become over the years entirely Black.  Some time before we arrived he’d sold the home to a wonderful Black family with the provision that he could continue occupying 2 rooms there as long as he lived.  He was probably the only white guy in the neighborhood.

Peg & I were the only members of the congregation that lived anywhere near his home so we often volunteered to drive him home Sundays after church.  We had church services on the near North Side of Chicago — not far from the old Rush Street bar neighborhood as a locator — and the drive home was always fascinating.

buckboardlasalle-boulevard-chicago-stock-photo-image_1You see, John had moved to Chicago from Philly in his early 20’s.  He was a trained and aspiring operatic singer at the time, even at age 100+ he still had amazing basso intonation.  And…. get this… he moved his furniture in a buckboard!  When he arrived in Chicago it was before “The Loop” ever came into existence.  He regaled us with stories about how, when he came to town, all these areas that are now concrete, steel and glass were swampland, and how there was a huge willow tree here and a wonderful oak tree there.  He told us about the streets, and the political scandals, and … well, we learned a lot about Chicago during our hour long weekly tutorials.  This is a guy that lived through the transition from horsepower to men on the moon.  I can’t imagine any other generation seeing as much change as he did — but I could be wrong.

I wonder how many RV’ers are like me.  You work hard all your life. You have a decent life, with a nice family, reasonable but not ostentatious lifestyle, and health good enough to do most of the things you want to do.  And sometime after you get to retire you realize that you’re tired;  not physically; not bone-weary tired; rather, it’s a malaise that comes when you listen to the news and all you hear is noise and clamor;  all I want to do lately is turn off all the noise: the shouting for equality, and the screaming for more money, the insults and insinuations thrown (seemingly) by everyone at everyone else.

I used to care a lot more about social issues than I do now. I’m glad that there are generations behind me to carry on those battles.  I’m glad to see kids and grandkids active and caring; but I’ve got to say that considering the state the world was in when I was young I find it humorous, laughable almost, at the things people find to complain about. We aren’t a perfect country.  Whatever made people think it was or would be a perfect country is beyond me.  People are flawed and groups of people are flawed and I don’t think we’ll ever rid the world of hatred and bigotry.  And if you don’t love the

I’m sure at some point in time, every older person ever to live starts to feel like a curmudgeon at least part of the time.  Or maybe not.  But I think in this last year I have.

Inside the House on Holt 1-2 Inside the House on Holt 1My parents built the house that I spent the first couple years living in. It was an Ok house — better than Ok by 1950’s standards but by today’s standards I think a lot of people would think it was a dump.  I remember very little of it because in the early 50’s we moved from Milwaukee to Algoma WI where my dad had bought a hardware store.  Big Mistake. The town as heavily Danish and a couple of Poles owning the hardware store just didn’t fit their idea of what the residents thought life in Algoma was supposed to be like. They struggled to make a go of it.  The hardware store didn’t do well;  so someone (my dad) got the smart idea to move all the stock from Algoma back to Milwaukee where mom’s family lived. That didn’t last long either. We lived above the hardware store in a shotgun two story;  I remember being told years later that there were times there was no food left in the house but I never felt our poverty, no matter what I had three squares a day and that was all I ever knew about.

I remember more of our time in Milwaukee.  After my parents auctioned off the hardware store (those were the days when ACE and TRUE VALUE were replacing mom & pop hardwares and life got hard for the little guy) we moved to Wauwatosa where in addition to his 40 hours for Wisconsin Electric he superintended the 18 family apartment that my uncle owned.  Then we bought an 8 family apartment from my uncle and moved there, and finally we sold that and bought a 12 family apartment on the S. side of Milwaukee where my parents lived for about 40 years and Peg and I ultimately joined them for about 30 years in a difference unit.  Before doing that Peg and I lived in Chicago for 2 years while I did my stint as a Conscientious Objector, then to Toledo/Swanton Ohio for a couple years, then back to Geneva Illinois for 2 years before ending up in Milwaukee again.

North Shore InterUrban Railroad
The old North Shore Milwaukee Road interurban electric railway.
mauthebeach
The beach at Mauthe Lake

When young we lived most of my life in Milwaukee.  In the years between 10 and 13 I would take the Milwaukee Road RR from Milwaukee to downtown Chicago where, alone, I would walk from the train stop to State & Lake and then take three interconnecting bus lines to my grand parent.  No one thought that a pre-teen traveling along on an interstate train was all that unusual and no one ever said so much as “boo” to me while I was traveling.  In my early teens (Boy Scout years) my parents would take  me out to Mauthe Lake State Park and leave me there — after a word with Wally the regular ranger at that park at the time.  I’d stay there 10 days from Friday till the following Sunday with a bicycle (to pedal into the nearest town — and explore), a tent, and all the usual camping supplies; but no cell phone, no radio, just me and the woods and neighboring campers — not very many during the week.  No one ever said a word about parental abuse — I was on an adventure and having a ball.  Not quite Huck Finn perhaps, but having a blast, respectfully, and enjoying the great out of doors.

I went to Washington High School — home of the Purgolders.  But I don’t remember much about high school.  For one thing I decided at the end of 11th grade that I had enough credits to graduate a year early — so I did.  For another thing I worked a part time job all the way through H.S. for the Boy Scouts (at their headquarters building) all the way through H.S.  Before I could drive I assembled training supplies for a year.  After I got my license I became their mail clerk — taking an old Chevy Suburban out around town every evening just before 5:00 looking for two men on the local board of directors who had the power to sign checks. (That job would have been a lot easier with cell phones! — I spent a lot of time driving to see men who weren’t in their office that day).  After H.S. I went to the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and after that I took about a year to do volunteer work.  I ran a printing press and binding machinery for a church group.   After I heard from the Draft Board about my Alternative Service we got married.

When I look back at what I now think of as run-down places we sometimes lived in — and then listen to TV programs where people are looking for new houses — or remodeling old ones — I sometimes scratch my head over how different the world has become.

Our first apartment was tiny.  Our friends called it our closet.  The so-called “bedroom” was physically smaller than a standard double bed.  We put our bed in the “living room” and I put a desk in the “bedroom.”  We had NO counters, a space heater with manual controls and no closets except one free standing 20” x 36” x 76” cabinet.  There were 3 outlets in the entire apartment and no A/C.  At the time we were so poor we would go to the mall for an hour or two during  the hottest parts of the summer just to cool off after taking the non-a/c Chicago transit system home in the mid 60’s.

We’ve done better than that since.  Life is good, but I still consider granite counters to be a luxury — I still remember linoleum counters — in fact when we sold my FIL’s house in 2008 he still HAD linoleum countertops that he installed in about 1950 — and they looked brand new.  Sure, we went from 6500 sq ft in the school we owned to 230 sq ft and that was a bit of a shock.  But I don’t miss most of that space and now that we have traded our 230 sq ft for 300 sq ft we feel like we are luxuriating and have space to spare.  It’s a strange world.

Of course we didn’t grow up with lots of things.  And for a good part of our married life we scrimped and cut corners.  But the idea that a young couple needs all the things they grew up with and that their parents worked their entire life to acquire seems so out of proportion to reality.  I must just be getting old.

I wonder about expectations.  When I was young I could not imagine the luxury I enjoy now.  I certainly didn’t expect to have all that my parents had, when I took my first apartment. I’m sure many of my contemporaries would consider that there is nothing luxurious about our lifestyle at all.

I wonder about what my grand-kid expects from life.  When I look around she seems to be starting off with a sound footing and reasonable expectations and she’s willing to work hard for what she gets.  Just as have been her parents.

And I wonder where do all these discontented and angry people come from?  They seem to be everywhere — especially in the media.

I don’t know.  I’m tired of all this nonsense. Most of us, in this nation, possess more than rulers of nations enjoyed.  I’ve been through European Castles dating back to 1000 a.d.; I’ve been in homes occupied by lords in England; and while they may have been LARGE and massive (out of stone) their level of comfort and hygiene was so far below what all but the poorest in our society enjoy that I remain astonished at how ungrateful people seem to be.

Maybe that’s why I’m tired.  It seems that no matter how much some people get they are never satisfied.  Maybe I’m just tired of greed.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

P.S.: After I finished writing this, and a day or two had gone bye I came upon this video about Three Generations Answer the Same Question: “When you were a kid, what did you do for fun.  The answers are stunning — and not in a good way.

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14 Comments

  1. I once read a commentary where the author had asked a group of women what was their favorite labor saving device. After mention of things like vacuum cleaners and washing machines one woman said indoor plumbing. Yes, perspectives do change with time. Living in an RV for three years made me once again appreciate unlimited water at the touch of a faucet.

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    1. Indoor plumbing indeed!

      Ya know they say that the most basic aspects of a society are SO basic that there aren’t even words for them. They are just understood. I suspect that things like indoor plumbing (while we still have words for it) have become so commonplace that people rarely think about them (unless of course you have times in your life when you have to do without them)

      I don’t know what it might be that if we moved back into sticks & bricks that I would say was the one thing I missed while rv’ing. Sometimes I think that with all the travel I’ve done in my working life that I’ve lived without a lot of things and maybe I’ve always been living without stuff.

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    1. I wish I could learn to ignore the news.

      Heck, I happened to be up in Canada on their last Quebecois secession vote and I stayed up all night watching THEIR elections because I was so fascinated. I have always been intrigued by group dynamics — never mind what the group may believe in — why do they do what they are doing??????

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah…the good ole days. When my first husband and I were young we lived in a detached room we called the hut. Actually it was two fairly large rooms and we had a waterbed in one room and a bookshelf in the other. We had to cross a breezeway and enter the main house just to use the rest room.

    I have often lived the simple life, nothing fancy just usable stuff. We weren’t the type to be consumers of things…still aren’t.

    IWe seem to be on a similar thought wave. I was just writing to my daughter about some of the very things you wrote about. It seems the younger generation clamors about the oppression of big business and their tax breaks yet do not realize that some of those businesses are the reason we do still have some industry and employment. This generation has very little concept of hard work and giving it everything to make a go out of life. We weren’t about things. We were about people and creativity. By the way, I stole the video to post on Facebook as a reality check.

    I still hope that I can impart some truth into the future…though I honestly doubt that many of the young generation would find me relevant.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, ‘relevant’ — it’s heartless word, ya know what I mean. I have never used the word relevant to a human being. I think it’s cruel. Kind of like the U.K. concept of being laid off — over there you have been made “Redundant” — talk about a soulless way treating people!

      I think there’s a lot of good that comes from having to struggle. Yeah — the popular line is that it builds character. But I think there’s more than cliche there. You learn to adapt, you learn to be creative, you learn what’s important and what can be done without and what can be put off for longer. If we had not had to struggle in our early married life I’m not sure we would be RV’ing now — on some levels I think we are both happy to be back to a simpler life — even with the added complexities of RV’ing. We have time to breathe. And in spite of our small space we have ROOM to breathe — the great out of doors!

      I suspect some of the wavelength we’re on has to do with the time of life and similar beginnings. Contrasts can be very formative things. Events and turning points by their very definition they change the world we live in .

      Unfortnately, not enough people look for, or even care about, those formative events.

      I think one of the sad things about our society today is that Very Young and Very Old don’t have as much opportunity to mingle as I did — all the way along my life. I always found myself with older people when I was young, and until we retired I managed to maintain contact with lots of younger ones. There is so much to be gained on both ends by mingling generations.

      What will come of this nation when this generation matures will be interesting to watch. But I have to say — I never wish I was young again. I’m glad to have grown up when I did, and I would not want to be having to deal with the problems this world faces if I was a 20-something year old.

      We will face another revolution in this country. Whether in 5 years or 50 has yet to be determined but the disparity in wealth has already set the ball rolling. But the funny thing about revolutions is that you never know where they are going to end. Or how. And you can’t stop them with an atom bomb or a cruz missile.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. So many historians and film makers have had the realization of the importance of generational intermingling. I am so glad you had all that influence. I had some but not nearly as much as you. Mine was more a result of occupation than upbringing…anyway, more of it is desired in the current generation, Without it I see a more sterile, cold and individuated planet…just like the old Sci-fi movies.

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      2. It’s a shame — and I thought this even before I could be considered “old” — that so many old people are “put away to die” in senior housing. There are so many youth who would love to spend time with them, and so many old who would give selflessly of their time to be with the young. And you learn that life isn’t just about those your own age…. it puts you in touch with the world, not just your generation.

        I’m glad you passed that video on…. there is such a message in that, and I don’t know how many people think about what they can obviously observe if only they were looking.

        Every older generation has complained about the generations behind them — that part is normal. But not so normal is the way in which the young of today can be completely out of touch with nature, this planet, and the unalterable forces over which humans have no control. It’s fine to be upset about social injustice, but there’s a difference between social injustice and …. instinctual response.

        For example:

        There is so much debate of late about bullying. And bullying is rude and crude and heartless. Sure it is. But there is bullying found across the entire range of primates — humans are not alone, and there are no primates for whom bullying is not a part o life. Bullies are how nature establishes dominance and the species orders itself. Everyone is NOT strong. Everyone is NOT equal. That is not about being racist or bigoted and it’s not about RACE at all — it’s about social order and it happens in every society on every continent and to say we should stop bullying and not allow bullying is naive and unrealistic — especially in a society that glorifies violence and war. It just isn’t going to happen. But spoiled and entitled parents want to think that their children deserve the best of everything — and the fact is that not everyone will ever have the best of everything. It just doesn’t happen. And kids do well to grow up understanding that they are going to have to work, and struggle, and to some degree fight for what they want. Otherwise the other guy is going to get all the promotions and they will be doing all the work.

        I was lucky. I wasn’t crippled, I wasn’t the wrong color skin, and I wasn’t particularly bullied — if I was I don’t remember it. And I don’t think I bullied others — I was an oddball who kept my own counsel even as a youth. But to be honest — I don’t remember witnessing a lot of bullying either — maybe it was there. But I wonder how much of bullying has increased as a direct result of the electronic age when people think they can SAY anything in a text and never/rarely have to see how that affects the person they say it to. And once you’ve learned to be calloused in text it’s easy to do it face to face. (assuming you don’t get your face smashed in by the other party.)

        Anyway…..

        > >

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      3. great points on bullying, especially the tie in of responsibility for communication and consequences.

        We have raised a nation of victims. I never wanted to be a victim, even the occasional times in which I actually was one, and I worked hard to pull myself up on my own bootstraps again.

        My big beef has got to do with the systematic removal of free speech via Political Correctness. Another area in which the real world teaches you what things are appropriate and what things are not.

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      4. Don’t get me started on political correctness.

        Our family lawyer posts regularly about trends, specially in academia and in legal circles. And it’s astounding the steps being taken on campuses around the nation to control speech, to bulletproof every utterance so that no one will be offended, including academicians losing their jobs over long time practices aimed at challenging one’s beliefs so as to sharpen thinking. This is a huge movement from what I can gather — he posts regularly on this topic from sources all over the nation.

        So — agreed 100%

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        Liked by 1 person

  3. When I was little we lived in a trailer park. We were outside most of the day unless it was raining. We had other kids to play with and a small creek running across the back that was great to play in. There was a blackberry bush near the playground area. We would stand there, picking blackberries until we gorged ourselves. My sons spent a lot of time playing with their friends. Of course, computers weren’t around until they were older. My grandson, 14, is at a total loss if he isn’t at a computer. I feel like I’m abusing him by doing other things with him.
    I miss the old days. Maybe it’s more that I miss being a child. 🙂

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