Sunday, October 19, 2008

Then and Now

It was such an innocent time when as a child of very few years, I walked the streets of the cotton mill village without shoes, sometimes without a shirt, and nearly always with a cotton rope through the loops of my short pants to hold them up. Just a runt of a boy who by the time I reached eight years old, had overcome a disease named tetanus, more commonly known as “lockjaw.”
A typical day in my world as a young American might have me cutting limbs from a chinaberry tree. After trimming part, or all, of the bark from the limbs the limbs would then become my “pretend horses.” I had the run of the mill village, and for that matter, most of the town where I grew up. As previously stated, it was an innocent time in the lives of most Americans. After WWII, the boys who had gone away to fight, came home as men, once more taking their places with their families.
Warm, lazy days were the order for summer months. Fall would burst through with magical colors in the trees painting the Georgia landscape with unbelievable beauty. Wintertime quickened the step of the bravest of hearts when an assignment from our father would have us make a run to the firewood pile, or to fetch a scuttle of coal in order to battle the fierce southern cold air which forced entry through cracks into our small frame house. As winter tired of being around, the spring rains ushered in the beautiful white flowers of dogwoods, and the brightest, most beautiful greenery our eyes could behold. Robins hopped around in search of a meal, while the bees and other insects brought a continual hum that was welcome music to the ears.
Much has been made about three very popular 1950s television sitcoms portraying parents on “Father Knows Best,” “Leave it to Beaver,” and “Ozzie and Harriett.” I am not sure where the role models for the parents on those shows came from, but as I reflect on my own mother and father, I certainly had wonderful examples with which to pattern my life. The previous statement is a lot like the old television show starring Walter Brennan as an old, gun-toting cowboy when he said, “No brag, just fact!” During my lifetime, my folks never took a drink of alcoholic beverage, never used offensive language, and with only one short exception they never imbibed in smoking. Let me explain. My mother suffered from bronchial asthma, and one of the things someone told her to try for relief from the constant coughing was to smoke Kool cigarettes. That old folks tale did not last long as she quickly discovered the opposite of relief came from smoking, bringing to an end my mother’s “addiction to the evil weed.”
When I look at my ten wonderful grandchildren, I sometimes feel guilty for having had such a wonderful time during my youth, as opposed to all the terrible temptations to which they are subjected. My childhood was filled with five cent drinks, moon pies, penny wheel crackers, and ice cream cups with pictures of movie stars on the underneath side of the lids.
“Picture shows” cost only twelve cents with enough change left over from a quarter with which to purchase treats. On Saturday at the movies, we could count on a cowboy movie starring anyone from Roy Rogers or Gene Autry, to the Durango Kid or Sunset Carson, to name only a few. In addition there would be what we termed a “regular movie” such as the Bowery Boys or Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Following those treats there would be a cartoon featuring Tom and Jerry or some other zany comic characters, and in addition to all that, we looked forward with much anticipation to the ongoing serial which would last for 15 weeks, with each chapter ending in a suspenseful cliffhanger resonated with the deep voiced announcement, “Be sure not to miss next week’s thrilling episode. Will Jack Armstrong escape the oncoming train, or will he be crushed to death?”
Fat chance! No one would dare miss next Saturday.
Even as a teenager, the worst peer pressure temptations we had to face was slipping around behind a building to smoke a cigarette, which actually was an exercise in coughing and fake inhaling. Later in my life as a 17 year old, I was put into a position of turning down an offer to drink a beer one night, when to my surprise, some of my best friends announced that they were going to the drive-in to get a “cool one”. When I declined with the excuse that I promised my mother I would be home early, I was laughed at when they dropped me off in front of our home. The sound of their laughter rang in my ears for some time that night. Even with those temptations, it is nothing to compare to the horrible things that are offered to young children such as our grandchildren. Drugs, alcohol, premature sex and many other tools of Satan face our children’s offspring at an age much too young.
With the inevitable growth of television, and less things done together as a family, life for our children’s children will continue to present them with terrible examples. It was said by a great man one time that “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” For all of you who are raising children, remember the least expensive, and yet the most valuable thing you can do for your children is to give them a hug and make the time to do things together as a family. The dividends for this effort are never ending.


Anonymous said...

Good Blog Sam, I caught myself thinking back to my/our days on the mill village, playing in the streets at night under the street light, playing in the sand beds filling our britches legs full of sand then trying to walk and many other games we made up just to be able to have fun with our neighborhood friends.

Many happy memories of our childhood.

Thanks for the memories you stirred
in my mind.


Anonymous said...

If there is anyone who reads Sam's blog who has had "Lockjaw" in their
life or knows someone who has had it, will you please tell us about it here on this blog?

Sam is the only person I have ever heard of who has had Lockjaw and I have ask many people about it, even a medical people and yet to find anyone.
Sam is one of a kind.