Good Old Days
Today, we all enjoy the better things in life, natural gas to heat our homes, a good reliable phone system, power to operate all our electrical appliances, and a water and sewer system that we now realize would be hard to do without. The older people remember the days when we didn't have all these modern conveniences, however the younger generation, in most cases, is not aware of the numerous changes that have occurred in our past lives. This article is written especially for them.
During the early years we did not have a water or sewer system. Every household drew water from a well either located on their lot, or from a neighboring well. There were few indoor bathrooms at the time. Generally an outhouse was erected on the rear part of your property. The old T. Eaton and Robert Simpson catalogues always. ended up in the outhouse and that is probably the reason why an antique catalogue is almost impossible to find..
Before the coming of electricity every household either used a coal oil or Aladdin lamp to light up their home. There were very few household appliances used at the time. You boiled your coffee on a cook stove, made your toast on a wire toaster placed over a hot stove lid and you opened your tin cans with a hand operated can opener. Some homes had a wooden ice box. which had a shelf for the food and a separate space above which contained a block of ice. This served as a refrigerator, but in no way did it compare with the ones in use today. Many people depended solely on perserving their food in jars.
Clothes were generally washed in an old galvanized wash tub and on a glass lined wash board. Some of the luckier housewives had a wooden constructed hand operated washing machine which was operated by continually moving a wooden handle back and forth.
Monday mornings were usually designated as wash days, and the washed clothes were hung on an outdoor line to dry. You could always tell the size of the family by observing the amount of wash on the line. Saturday night was usually reserved for taking a bath, but first you had to heat the water on a stove and then carry the water outside after you were done. Your home was heated with a cast iron heater and the meals were cooked on a wood burning cook -stove. You couldn't go away from your home in the winter for any length of time or you would come home to a frigid house. House fires were common in those days and were usually caused by overheated stove pipes. You always had a big woodpile in your yard during the winter months and. a big pile of ashes to haul away in the spring. If your chimney was dirty or faulty you always ended up with a smoked ceiling and walls. This meant a lot of additional work cleaning them periodically.
In the early years we had no phone system, however, one way or other, news and gossip still got around. In later years, the phone system was introduced to our hamlet and a few phones were installed, mostly in places like the doctor's home and office, the early hospital in some places of business and in a few homes. There wee no seven digit numbers at the time, the phones were generally numbered from 1 to about 30. The wooden constructed phone had a long mouth piece extending from it, as well as an odd shaped receiver which you held up to your ear. You had a little crank which you turned, this alerted the switch board operator who was located in some central place of business. When you asked for a certain number, the operator would then hook you up to the number you requested. Phone hours were usually from about 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Long distance calls were sometimes hard to get through and in most cases the calls did not come in clearly.
In the early years we had many sanitation problems. Most wells became contaminated by the spring run off. People used to throw their dish water as well as some wastes on what was referred to as a "slop pile". Heavier garbage and waste was thrown into a steel barrel which was then burned or, left exposed. Your outdoor toilet was always a major problem but without a water and sewer system you had no other choice. There were always a lot of big, blue bottle flies everywhere, and judging by their size they seemed to be well fed, and active at all times, It was a full time job just controlling them.
The early settlers as well as the residents of our hamlet were all exposed to these conditions, however, over the years they were slowly overcome. Looking back, you often wonder why people refer to the past as "the good old days".