Lessons from the past

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 16, 2005

The hot humid weather of the last few days reminds me of a time when my cousin Wayne and I were children (many moons ago) and we had no air conditioner.

Believe me young folks, this is true! It is hard to imagine how we stood the heat as I sit in a comfortable cool room and write this. But the heat didn’t bother you quite as much when you didn’t sit in air-cooled rooms most of the day. I even remember summer days when we walked about ten miles to a lake where all of our friends gathered after chores were completed. Sometimes we rested at a friend’s home for a while before completing the trip but most of the time we walked the whole way at one pop. It probably wouldn’t be safe now to allow children to do this, but even if it was, I don’t think most children have the physical stamina to do it.

Some nights were so hot we were late going to bed and to sleep. Most nights we sat on the stoop in front of the house and talked. Sometimes we walked to a Dairy Queen that was around the corner and got milkshakes. Other times we got together with other youngsters in the neighborhood and walked for blocks and blocks talking and laughing.

I also remember sitting on my grandmother’s front porch after supper (southern for dinner). Everyone either sat on the porch or went walking back then. Those walking stopped to talk with those on the porch and all the children ran and played in the yard.

Back then everyone knew everyone else in the neighborhood and they all helped raise the children and solve each other’s problems. There were three old maid sisters who lived in our neighborhood. They each had their own talents and one showed about her sewing, one about her flower garden and one how to play the piano. A widow next door taught me how to tat and an aunt taught me to crochet. The widower across the street had hens and he took me with him to the hen house to help him gather eggs. That was the way he earned a little extra spending money. I learned so much from all of them. As they taught me their different talents, they also talked to me and I learned much about people and life. There isn’t much of that now. A great loss I think.

It seems a shame that these customs have changed. It was a pleasant warm feeling to know everyone. Now you might know your neighbor but not spend as much time together or know each other well. I think children have lost the most.

Several years ago when I worked at the Commonwealth in Scotland Neck, I decided to go out one day and see if I could find any children playing in pools or sprinklers to take a picture for the paper. I probably don’t have to tell you there was not a child to be seen in the whole town. Most children now are playing on the computer or some electronic game or watching television. It cannot be as healthy for them mentally or physically. Maybe that is why the statistics say we have so many children overweight and unhealthy. It could also account for the violence and suicide rate. Many television programs and games are very violent and even the cartoons I see now depict violence in a much more graphic way then the old ones.

There is much good in the progress we have made in the years since then, but our lifestyles could be improved with a look at the past.