Random Thoughts

Now I can reminisce

... so many things have changed  

by Eleanor Jenkins

I just celebrated my 80th birthday. While trying  to fall asleep last night I realized so many things have changed since 1929. Transportation, communication and what else? has changed a millions times in just those few years.

That was the year my mother could put the old ice box on the junk heap as she bought a beautiful giant Fridgidaire we loving called the "fridge". She would no longer have to sit at home and wait for the ice man to deliver her ice to keep the food cold. The ice cube trays were metal, and had inserts to put in after the tray was filled with water. Sometimes Mom would ditch the ice cubes and put in a mixture of milk, eggs, and flavoring and called it ice cream, but the dips of Breyers ice cream from the local candy store always tasted better. The store had a big poster, with a green leaf with the word Breyers, (in red) in the center of the leaf. It was a local ice cream made in Philadelphia and could only be sold at that time in Pennsylvania.

Mom also bought a Cunningham player piano the year I was born. My brother was six that year and she wanted him to take piamo lessons. But for me, from an early age, I can remember, holding on to the piano so that as I sat on the piano chair, I could still reach the peddles to crank out a song on one of those piano rolls. I have a box with 100 player piano rolls in the attic with nothing to play them on. I would love to be able to play again, 'The Wedding of the Painted Doll' or some of the other songs, whose titles I have long forgotten. Give me those old piano roll blues!

Communication was so much simpler then. To contact a relative, friend or business you sat down, wrote a note put it in an envelope, a three cent stamp on the corner and send it on its way. Few families had personal phones. We lived near a corner store that had the phone booth in the store. We would go there to place a call, or if someone needed to get in touch with us in a hurry, they could call there and the store owner would trot over to our home, ring the door bell and say 'phone'. We would grab a coat, drop a nickel in his palm and run to the store to answer it. I can remember how hard it was for old shorty me to talk on that phone. I would have to stand on my tippy toes to reach the coin slot on the top and get my mouth close enough to the mouth piece.

The mail man delivered mail twice a day and in December even on Sundays. My mother used to talk about a wireless radio. Some time in the '30's she bought a Zenith Radio. Today I guess you would call it a console. The radio was about 5 feet high encased in a beautiful wooden case. There was three dimensions. First was what we now call the AM radio, pulling a lever, we had the foreign radio, another lever we got the short wave. My Dad used to listen to the short wave section during the war years. Many a night I would set up the card table in front of that radio to do my home work and listen to radio programs, like Bob Hope. Better be finished my home work by then as he came on at 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights.

Heating our homes is so much simpler today. Heating the house with coal meant going down to the cellar every morning, raking the coals, and if the fire went out, as it often did, start another to heat the house so the house would be warm to get ready for our day. We had a coal bin in one corner of the cellar (we could never consider it a basement). The window at pavement level opened in so that the coal man could open it, insert the coal shute and the little man would climb into the truck to sweep the final coal of the measured number of tons ordered into the coal bin. That swoosh, swoosh sound of the coal flowing into the coal bin is lost forever.

Mother did the wash every Monday. In the middle of our cellar, an ABC washing machine stood. (I just tried to google for that to refresh my memory. Google  came up with many pages of other washing machines, but nothing that looked like mom's machine.) I do recall as a small child, standing on tip toe to reach the crank of the wringer, Mom would start the towel into the  wringer and I cranked the wringer to squeeze the water out.

For transportation, we always took the trolley. We would walk two blocks to the trolley stop. Walking towards that trolley stop, we would have walked past 4 or 5 cars on the street. Our block had businesses on the corner at each end of the block, on both sides of the street. At our end, the butcher shop was on one corner, and a candy store was across the street, there was a "tap room" on the third corner, and the fourth corner at our end of the block was a cemetery. But that could be another story.

City transportation was trolleys, subway and the elevated train. As I recall buses came into being after WWII. We lived close to the city's horse and wagon stables. Every morning as the ash men started out at record speed to start their day, dust would fly all over every thing including those cars that couldn't protect themselves.

The families that lived on our block were from different backgrounds. For example, the family two doors away from our house had a trucking business that delivered things around the city. The trucks were actually wagons drawn by horses. I can still visualize watching the rail freight trucks delivering the hay for the horses. My cousin was a truck driver for a moving company.

In the middle of our block, the richest man on the street lived in a house and he had a garage for three cars. Across the street from our house, there were four garages for rent for the few other neighbors rich enough to own a car. We had a doctor living in our block, but don't remember seeing a car in front of his house. The one car, on the other side of the street belonged to a local politician. Later, when I was big enough to walk down the street, I remember seeing a man dressed like a chauffeur, wiping off the dust that had accumulated since the day before on one of the cars.


August 7, 2009


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