Monday, April 4, 2016

An Old Table.

Looking back, life in the pre-WW2 days seems incredibly primitive, but pleasant in many ways. 
One picture-memory often pops up when I think of those days. After our evening meal, usually eaten by lamp-light, one of the lamps was taken into the living room. One was left in the kitchen to light the dish washing. There were a lot of dark shadowy rooms in those days.
 With the lamp set in place on what was called a library table, Dad took his usual place in his old wooden rocker, and rolled his second cigarette of the day. 

Today, I see that the old table with its lamp, was the heart of our daily lives. It held a battery radio, the bible, a stack
After years of utilitarian use and abuse
of  Saturday Evening Posts, the latest newspaper, and an ink bottle. There was also a dictionary, an encyclopedia, a handbook on caring for common farm animal diseases, and a Texas almanac. Those were our information sources. It was more productive to just ask Mother. 

It was there we wrote letters in those archaic days before cell phones or Facebook. I studied there; Mother read or worked out crochet patterns from pictures in magazines, we read the weekly Saturday Evening Post (5¢ per copy, cheaper by subscription), and kept up with the news of the world from a bi-weekly newspaper, The Semi-weekly Farm News. 

In addition to its mixture of international and homey local news, advertisements and market reports, a full page of popular songs of the 20s and 30s was a regular feature. My favorite of these songs was The Strawberry Roan. I was just a kid, remember, and if you Google it, you may understand why.
 Today, I wonder if this song-page was meant to bring a bit of fun into the readers’  lives. There was no money to squander on entertainment in those hardscrabble days.
The general opinion was that Ex-President Hoover was to blamed for everything that had caused our plight. 
On the other hand, President Roosevelt was blamed for taking the wrong approach toward setting the nation on the path of recovery. Furthermore, he was messing with our rights, and the Supreme Court overturned eight of FDR’s recovery acts as unconstitutional. 
It was a time of great change and many  new laws—and the beginning of big government. My parents, two independent individuals, had many heated discussions about the direction FDR's administration was taking the country. Then, only two decades after the end of WW1, war again erupted in Europe, and reports of Nazi Germany's take-overs began to fill the news. Serious news for most adults, and scary reading for a kid.
So the news, even if was several days old, was very important, and was viewed as a condensed, but accurate, report of what was happening in our nation and the world­­—until war was declared and censoring became necessary to protect both our military and national secrets.              
This bit of tampering with our freedom of speech caused no protesting demonstrations. Movie newsreels showing dozens of burning warships and fighter planes plunging into the sea, were reason enough to live by the slogan, “Loose lips, sink ships.
 The Semi-weekly Farm News continued to provided the news for rural Texans until 1941, when it merged with the Dallas Morning News in its 99th year. Naturally the cost of upgrading our subscription  to the Dallas Morning News was a sharp increase over that of the old Semi-weekly, and it didn't take Dad long to decide that the Dallas Morning News had little to offer someone making a living by  following a plow.
A copy of its final issue’s front page featured an item about the  $17,000,000,000 budget president Roosevelt was drafting that included $10 billion for the armament program. Other items on the front page included forty-five aliens being registered; Mrs. Roosevelt's view on the value of work camps for youth, several columns concerning the war with Germany, and a  mishmash of insignificant items. With that issue, it was gone.                                                                                                                                                                                                                
 So were twenty-seven years of peace, for the war was worsening, and while our leaders argued the pros and cons of joining the fight against the Nazi Regime, Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor ended all discussion, and we were officially at war the next day.
 We won the war—the nation emerged from the depression, and we began to have a bit of money in our pockets. Entrepreneurs met the challenge of helping us dispose of it. Newspapers had sale sections larger than that long ago Semi-weekly Farm News. 
Encyclopedia salesmen knocked on our doors. Newspapers had morning and evening editions. Competition and ingenuity expanded our news sources to bigger and better radios, then television. From there it was only a short jump to computers, cell phones, ebooks and Kindles....all bringing wider and faster news coverage, and instant access to any subject you choose.
Today's news coverage extends far beyond the daily news. There are  talk shows, news analysts, news magazines, and instant reporting of note-worthy events from around the world. In addition, a little device small enough to carry in a pocket, brings news to our side twenty-four a day—if its battery is charged. 
 This morning I turned on the TV and was instantly watching the chaos in Brussels. Never mind that I couldn't remember what county Brussels was in—that's what Google is for. Compared to the static-filled newscasts of the 40s, today's media is really quite awesome. And unfortunately, it's become a tool in the hands of those whose goal is to shape our opinions.  
So what is true and what is not? According to news reports—which may or may not be true—people no longer trust the media. Truth and politeness have taken a dive in favor of lies and gutter language. Comments are taken out of context. Insignificant remarks become tabloid headlines.
All this at a time when the truth is terribly important as we face what may be the most important election of our lives.
When millions of dollars are being spent by special interest groups on advertisements filled with untruths and inflammatory statements, all calculated to sway the vote, we have the makings of a pot of trouble. 
We see the results as protesters block streets and highways, and disrupt rallies— and in the angry tirades on Facebook. 

    So what does this rant have to do with an old library table?

Nothing and everything. Today's lack of trust in the media brought a flash-back to those long ago days when we sat by that old table listening to to our only source of up-to the-minute news time—a memory of a time when our freedom of speech didn’t extend to flag burnings and shouted obscenities, or demonstrations that shut down highways and speaking events.
So perhaps memories of the old table, its kerosene lamp, and the newscasts of 75-80 years ago, are relevant to what is happening today. A then and now comparison measures both our progress and our failures.

At any rate, the old table found a new life—at least part of it did. Its sturdy panel end legs now support a handcrafted harvest style dining table made by one of my sons-in-law. He even salvaged the table's drawer. 
Need I say that I'm happy it's again useful and part of a beautiful heirloom? 

Dannie Woodard
April 4, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Same World?

I grew up in a simple world. At least, as a child and preteen, it seemed simple. I think we can                                                        agree that once you enter your teens, nothing is simple.

It was world in which the elderly folks in the community showed interest, and often affection, toward the youngsters in the neighborhood. They didn’t hesitate to caution a child about its behavior, and offered snacks of teacakes or hot bread and butter.

It was also a world in which parents worked from dawn to dark, and children were part of a family’s workforce. They worked according to their ability— and sometimes beyond. So I worked; got hot. tired, and whined  and complained. But I never walked off the job.

We did not lock our doors. We lived among good people. Mostly. Some drove a hard bargain in a trade, but they weren’t bad.  Some were less energetic than others and were suspected of occasionally appropriating something that was not theirs for their own use. It wasn’t a great problem. A barking dog, and a farmer with a shotgun is a strong determent to thievery.

Sometimes, some young fellow became known as being rather wild.  He often got drunk. He soon moved on to greener pastures. Or wetter pastures, to be more accurate. Occasionally, a young woman was spoken of in whispers. Not something young children needed to hear. They also, moved away, and we kids learned things not taught in the classroom.

There were Saturday night parties. Sometimes they were in someone’s house in another neighborhood, and we often walked a mile or two to get there. Nearer home, our favorite place to gather was on a large sandy hill in front of the home of some of our friends. That it was also in the middle of a county road didn’t matter. No cars were abroad at night.

On Sunday, we children attended Sunday school in the same building we learned to read and navigate the intricacies of math. For some it was a walk of less than a mile; for some it was twice that. Church services were held in the same building. There was no membership roll, but I suppose someone was in charge. Some people attended regularly—some occasionally.

We traveled on dirt roads; we cooked on wood or oil stoves, read by the light of kerosene lamps, and if there was no windmill, we either drew water from a well with a rope and well bucket or used a water pump that sucked air for an exasperatingly long time before bringing up water.

This was life in the country in the 30s and 40s, and if you have forgotten your history, this was still in the Great Depression days.

News was dominated by the war in Europe. England was entered in a desperate battle, and our country sent aid. President Roosevelt signed the first peace-time conscription act, and all men between the ages of 21 and 36 were subject to a lottery type drawing that inducted them into military training.

On December 7, 1941 lives changed. Our nation was attacked. Over 2400 Americans were killed, and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           20 ships and 300 airplanes were loss in a surprise attack from the Japanese; an event so staggering—so atrocious—that the nation was stunned.  President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress the next day was broadcast to the nation, and one hour after the speech Congress passed a formal declaration of war.

Our eighteen year-old brothers and boyfriends were drafted and thousand more across the nation volunteered for military service. For the first time they were seeing the evil that existed in the world. They experienced the horrors of war. Planes were shot down; ships exploded, burned and sank, and those of us at home watched it happen on the newsreels that ran before each movie.

Our army was fighting on two fronts—the Japanese in the South Pacific, and Hitler’s Nazi Germany in the European struggle. Except for knowing which front a soldier was on, their whereabouts was a closely guarded secret. Infrequent letters were closely censored with black stamped bars covering any word that might give away the location of the sender.

Women went to work building airplanes and ships, and other jobs the men had vacated. They learned to drive, change tires, and coax dilapidated old cars to drive fifty miles or more to work.

Rationing went into effect. Meat and butter were rationed. So were shoes, gas, and tires. Many other products disappeared or were scarce. And we scrimped and saved to buy war bonds to pay for the guns and ammunition; the planes and ships, and food and clothing for our servicemen.

 Our nation united in the fight to save our way of life. And we won the war.

Seventy years have passed. An unimaginable evil is cutting a swath through country after country. Literally. One we are not prepared to fight. We have an enemy and argue about its title. We must not offend. We are being attacked, but it’s not a cause for war. There is no frontline. Instead attacks pop up like a case of chicken pox. No warning. Deadly.

Over forty years of hostage situations; attacks on our embassies, on Marine barracks, the USS Cole, hijacked and downed passenger planes, Benghazi did not end with the most horrific of all —the destruction of the twin towers. Now, the massacre at San Bernardino has rocked the nation, and there are threats of of more to come.

How will the history of this war on our country be written?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hunting s Broken Necklace

This a good day already, because when I moved my chair this morning, I found a pair of missing earrings.  I usually lose an earring almost every week. They eventually appear—sometimes in the washing machine or folded laundry, or even in a shoe on the closet floor. Last week  I was sure my missing earring was lost on a shopping trip, and gone forever. Yesterday I found it on the ground in front of my mailbox out by the street.

Somehow, finding my earrings this morning set me on the trail of a favorite necklace, broken and set aside for mending, many years ago. Please don't ask about the mental process that brought this about, because I haven't a clue. Anyway, three boxes of broken strands of beads, broken chains, and old wristwatches later, the necklace is still missing, but two forgotten ones were found. On the right, a strange pewter design needing a longer chain; right, a 2" square of aluminum topped with a disc with apple blossoms.

The original chains holding these old beautiful aluminum discs, are made of large hammered aluminum links. They are ugly. Very ugly. That may be why this piece was in the junk box. I found a more delicate chain and converted the disc into something wearable.

But still no sign of the missing necklace. It's here somewhere. These stacks of boxes are proof that I haven't thrown it (or anything else) away in years. That's good, right? I love the  two salvaged goodies above. So I pull out a promising box stored beneath my desk and open the lid......

Obviously, it's filled with things to good to through away. That's an almost new can opener—the kind I'll be wishing for the next time the electricity goes off, and I want to make a tuna sandwich. And how about that box of corks, or that wonderful little tin box holding those mini tools? Never mind that if I can't fix a problem with a hammer, screwdriver, or pair of pliers, it's time to call for help—preferably a son-in-law.

Then there's that doodad that draws perfect circles. I needed one a few months ago. I don't remember why, but I definitely needed to draw a circle. Then there's that Prince Albert tobacco can. If I could open it, it would be a good place to keep matches—in case I needed matches. Or maybe I'll sell it on eBay. Some people collect these tins, and I've already sold two. On the other hand, this the only one I have left, and like I said—if I could open the lid.......

    I need to take a serious look at the contents of this box. I may throw away that red-handled whisk. It's supposed to whip things like eggs, with an up down pumping motion, but it won't do that anymore. I'm trying to think of some reason to save it, but I'm afraid it's doomed.

I'll tackle all this another day. Right now it's time to watch interviews with presidential candidates.
I expect my thoughts on that  will need careful editing.