Tuesday, June 22, 2021

How I Miss the Good Old Days!


RHYS BOWEN:

We had a leg of lamb the other day and I wanted to make Shepherd’s Pie with leftovers. I don’t like the way the Cuisinart grinds meat so I bring out my trusty Spode mincer. It’s probably 100 years old by now but it still works perfectly.  I’m not sure what it’s made of. Probably cast iron? Something that is now banned? I don’t care. It grinds.



This made me start feeling nostalgic for all the things that have vanished from our lives. Some have been replaced by technology: video games instead of board games, Roombas to clean our floors. And some are great: I love my latest version washing machine that uses little water and gets things spotless. I actually love my big screen TV.

But items that my grandkids look at with suspicion and astonishment? A fountain pen? A pen that has real ink inside it? Amazing.

I also have a whole box full of watches. You remember—those round faced wrist clocks that nobody wears any more, unless it’s an Apple Watch?

I have three Seikos, a gold Omega that belonged to my mother and a couple of Swatches. I wear one every day because they are water proof and I can bathe or go swimming with one on.  And I like to glance at my wrist to see the time.

However I lament those things that have vanished thanks to Health and Safety laws. Our kids grew up with a wonderful playground nearby. There was a fake cave system with a slide through it. A rocket you could climb on, a concrete sea dragon and concrete boat in a pretend ocean. They had a ball and used their imagination too. Now that has been replaced with the standard playground equipment plus the rubber mats beneath in case anybody should fall and sue the city.

When I was young my mother kept a bottle of Dr. Collis Browne’s mixture. It had been created to treat cholera in India in the 1800s and contained such items as morphine, codeine, as well as peppermint. You only put a few drops in a glass of water and it was perfect for upset stomachs. Actually you may still have had an upset stomach, but you no longer cared!  Of course this has now been transformed into a new mixture, minus the amount of morphine, that isn’t nearly as good. But apparently people used the last one for drug purposes.

I miss the freedom and carefree life that I grew up with. We had an acre of orchard in which I used to play all summer, often alone as we lived in a big house outside a village. I built a tree house and a trapeze. I I used to try all sorts of stunts on the trapeze, emulating my heroine, Patsy of the Circus from my favorite comic book. I never fell off because Patsy didn’t. And my parents never came out to see what I was doing and tell me it was dangerous. 

In the summer I used to go off on my bike all day, riding through the countryside, exploring river banks and villages. Nobody asked me where I was going. I was just told to be back before dark. Can you imagine letting kids do that today?

I’m sure I wouldn’t want to go back to those days really—hanging laundry on the line, shopping every day because we didn’t have a freezer, mending clothes because they had to last etc etc but I’m glad I experienced what I did and can look back with fondness.

So how about you—what do you miss? 

Do you still use household items from long ago?


73 comments:

  1. The world certainly has changed a great deal so, no, these days, I wouldn’t let my children go off on their bikes for the day although I grew up enjoying bike rides.
    I don’t miss having to hang the laundry on the line; I like my Roomba and the lightweight stick vacuum that doesn’t hurt my shoulder when I use it. I like the convenience technology provides, but there are times I wish I could go back to holding an encyclopedia volume in my hand instead of computer-searching on Wikipedia.

    What do I miss? Library card catalogs. Board games and jigsaw puzzle time with the Little Ones. Drive-in movies. The slower pace of things. The way of the world before everyone carried their own phones and lived out their lives on social media . . . .

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  2. The thing is, when I think about my "free-range" childhood, I realize it was made possible by a fairly significant degree of privilege. We lived in a safe, secure neighborhood full of stay-at-home moms who could be trusted to keep eyes out for rambling kids in case they got into trouble. I'm glad we have bike helmet laws; they would have saved a classmate's life if we'd had them in my time. The slower pace? That was because, as a girl, there were precious few after-school activities available to me (dance and scouts - that was it, and I was no dancer 😂). I guess what I'm saying is that, while I think back on my childhood freedoms fondly, I also try to think about their causes and costs, as well as their joys. And that mincer? My mom had one, and made the best meat pie ever with it...

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    1. Ah, Helmets, Kerry. You are right. My brother’s friend was knocked of his bike and killed. So sad!
      And in England there was a policeman almost on every corner of hood and bad neighborhoods, ready to help a wandering child

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  3. I use my mother's 1947 Mirro cookie press for Christmas cookies every year.

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  4. I have a few things in my kitchen that were my mother's or grandmother's. I have the best potato peeler that just gave out after 100 years worth of peeling apples and potatoes. Nothing new works as well! I hand grate my potatoes for latkes. I prefer it that way.

    We did bike all over town. Irwin tells stories about how far he'd bike in a day. His folks never knew. I'd never have let my kids go that far without knowing where they were going.

    Yes, I miss some things. But it is probably nostalgia.

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    1. I'm with you, Judy, on hand-grating potatoes for latkes. It's the best way to get the shreds thin enough to cook up crisp.

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    2. Right, Hallie! Hurray for crispy latkes!

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    3. Our cheese grater was John’s mothers’ and grated cheese fast and perfectly as you turned a handle. We’ve not found one that works as well since

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  5. Gosh, there are so many more people now, almost eight billion, as compared to the 2.5 billion in 1950. Most of them now driving cars, etc., land cleared to house them all, and other land cleared for shops and factories and other ways to clothe, feed, and entertain us. Life is so much more complicated, a price for all our convenience. It's so much harder to know your neighbors than it was when I was a kid. Everyone knew everyone, and woe betide the kid who got in trouble, even if mom's eyes weren't on him or her. Somebody's were.

    Rhys, we also have an old meat grinder, maybe not as old as yours, but I think it's made of something like cast aluminum. We use it every fall when we process venison to grind it for burger. In fact, we had venison burgers last night with the first tomato from the garden. The only other ancient kitchen gadget we have is a waffle iron that probably dates back to the 1950s. Steve replaced the cord on it at least once.

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    1. I mourn the demise of my old waffle iron. The inner wiring got gunked up and I was afraid it was going to catch fire. New ones just don't cut it.

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    2. They don't! We tried a new one and ended up taking it back or giving it away, because it just wasn't useful.

      To be honest, I am not a waffle fan, and the gadget is still unpacked in the basement since we moved two years ago. Steve loves them, but I'm not reminding him of the thing unless we have the whole family here someday.

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  6. This is lovely. I cherish my childhood. We climbed trees, built rafts and floated them (unsuccessfully) on the river that ran beside my house, explored caves we found, played all day, outside and unsupervised. My knees still bear the scars of falling from what we called the Merry Go Round. No on panicked, no one sued, no one thought it was anyone's fault.

    My mom had your exact grinder. My parents used it on a regular basis. Not sure what happened to it. I have their potato peeler, grapefruit cutter, and maple wooden spoon, worn down on one side from generations of use so it curves nicely to fit the round of a pot. My parents were married in 1941, the peeler and the cutter were wedding gifts. The wooden spoon my mother purloined from her childhood home. No telling how old it is.

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    1. The curved wooden spoon! What a treasure. Isn’t it special to think of family every time you use something?

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  7. I still use my mother's electric carving knife, a wedding present for her in 1971. Still sharp after all these years.

    Kerry is right. I had a pretty "free range" childhood. But even though I'm from the latch-key generation, I lived in a quiet, middle-class suburb where there were a lot of retirees at home, in addition to a few stay-at-home moms and a babysitting grandparent, to address any trouble.

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  8. I still hang clothes on the line and use my mother's Mirro cookie press and her sifter. We had a meat grinder like yours, Rhys, and I wish I still had it.

    We walked or rode our bikes to school when I was growing up. It was maybe two miles away, and I did some crazy stuff heading home alone. My town now has a lot of middle school and high school kids walking to school and back, but not younger than fourth grade. We also had a cough syrup that must have had codeine in it. I always wanted just a little more!

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    1. I was a "croupy" child. My parents regularly gave me terpen hydrate (sp). It tasted awful and supposedly had some kind of opiate in it. It worked, but oh, how I hated it.

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    2. Oh yeah. Turpin hydrate of codeine was part of my childhood too. And something nasty called cream of susxedine which was generic Maalox flavoured with chocolate mint. I can't eat chocolate mint to this day which puts a real dent in the Girl Scout Cookie consumption.

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  9. I still have my grandmother's meat grinder, just like Rhys's! And I do occasionally use it when I get truly ambitious and want to make a French country pate, usually as a special gift for my husband who's the only person (just about) that I'd go to that much trouble for, and who will truly appreciate it. We still have a phonograph and stacks of vinyl. And until last year the phone in the front hall was rotary dial - such fun watching youngsters try to figure out how to answer the handset, never mind dial.

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    1. My mother used to make "ham salad" with her meat grinder, made from chunk bologna and sweet pickle relish.

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    2. We also have stacks of vlnyl records that John won’t part with. I bought him one of those gadgets to convert them to mp3s but they are still in my family room

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  10. I wish I still had my mother's meat grinder. I see one every once in a while at flea markets or garage sales and always talk myself out of buying one. When we had leftover ham, she'd make ham salad with homemade mayonnaise. I have her mayonnaise recipe, but have never made it.

    I didn't have a bike as a kid, but we did play outside and all over the neighborhood. We went home for meals, then back out after dinner. We had to go home when the street lights came on. I had metal roller skates that clamped on my shoes and we'd race up and down the street. I still have the skate key, but the skates are long gone. I also remember waiting on the front porch with a quarter for the ice cream truck to come by.

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  11. I have a grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer that works as well as the one my mother had, identical to Rhys's. Maybe better as I have a choice of grinds on it, from coarse to fine.

    My childhood I miss, back when all my parts were factory installed and nothing hurt. Other than that, I don't think the "good old days" were very good in this country unless you happened to be a WASP. And a straight one.

    Other than youth, all I miss is my friends and family who are no longer alive.

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    1. Ann, I agree: "I don't think the "good old days" were very good in this country unless you happened to be a WASP. And a straight one."

      And those "good old days" weren't so very long ago, and in some places haven't gone away.

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    2. No, they haven't gone away for so many. I do get nostalgic about summer evenings and fireflies and never worrying about anything more than a math test -- which I didn't worry about at all anyway.

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    3. So true, Ann! Although I do think that things were easier for young families after WW2. Easier to buy a first house, to pay for college, to get a lifetime job

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  12. I still have my mother's potato masher and my grandfather's yankee drill. My sister has kitchen knives that date back to my grandmother, as well.

    Like many of you, I got to roam freely after about the age of 9 or 10, but I stayed pretty close to my neighborhood. I could walk to my elementary school, and most of my friends lived within a three block area, so we would band together on our bikes and go out adventuring. There was a small drug and sundries store with an old fashioned soda fountain about four blocks away, and it was our huge treat to ride our bikes up there for lime phosphates on a hot afternoon.

    One thing I miss now is sidewalks. My house is in a 1960s neighborhood, where everybody drove, and all the life of the house is turned inward, to the den and the back yard. There is a sidewalk across the street from me, but not in my yard, and there is no continuous network of sidewalks throughout the neighborhood. If I want to walk the three blocks to Deb's house, at least one of those blocks is going to require me to walk in the street, around cars parked at the curb. Maybe I need to refurbish that old bike?

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    1. Oh, Gigi, I forgot. I have my mother's potato masher, too. With a brown/orange Bakelite handle! I wonder if they are the same.

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    2. Mine has a wooden handle, with chipped red paint. I don't really remember Mom making mashed potatoes often, so who knows how old it is, or if it came from her mother.

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    3. Cherry phosphates! I’d forgot all aboutvthem

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  13. Never mind all the good things that I had fun with, I will tell of my kids. Born in ’79,’80 & ’90, they were brought up on a farm. Here they played as they wanted, did what they wanted, did what I wanted, slept with racoons, learned what birth was, why meat was, that dead was dead – just a real life story.
    Every summer there would be one perfect day and we take the two dogs and would walk (1000 ft) down the road to a stream that was peaceful, quiet and cool (and full of mosquitoes). We took an old schoolbag packed with 1 egg sandwich each, 2 Oreo cookies each and a can of coke each. We would drop the coke into the river, stall a bit and then enjoy the most delicious lunch ever – feet in water, dogs spraying and mosquitoes munching us. After the papers were packed back in the schoolbag to take home, we splashed, played, read a book and chased sticks in the dappled sunshine. It was nirvana!
    My youngest son went for a walk on Vancouver Island this weekend. He sent a picture of a stippled river. The comment read “Oh how I wanted an egg sandwich, and Oreo and a Coke...”
    Memories are made of this.

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  14. We recently replaced our truly old stove and truly old dryer. I noticed that the new ones don’t get as hot as the old ones did. They were probably dangerous, come to think of it, and probably some new safety rules are in place now, but it was much more successful when they were hotter.

    We don’t have a record player, but I wish we did! Or maybe we do, some more in the basement. But we do have boxes and boxes of vinyl records, which I am eager to look through. Our grandson who is about to go off to college, if you can believe it, is coming for the Fourth of July, and maybe he will be intrigued also!
    And I still wear a watch.

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    1. I replaced my old dryer back in 2008. As the installation guy was showing me all the ins and outs of the new one, I marveled at the light inside the drum. "How long have they been doing that?" I asked, because my old dryer never lit up a day in its life.

      "About thirty years," he told me. Those dryers were built to last!

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    2. I forgot. Our dryer is about 30 years old. It’s gas. It still works. Why get a new one?

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    3. I got the new one because the timer died and the drum was leaving rust spots on my clothing. If it hadn't been for that, I might still be using it.

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  15. I miss knowing your neighbors. I miss hanging outside late at night without fear of danger. I miss the slow pace - no one was in a hurry to get somewhere. I miss people being courteous. I miss people having respect. I miss libraries being quiet.

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    1. So true, Dru. Whatever happened to common courtesy, humanity, and humility.

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    2. I miss the quiet before and after the service at church when you would listen to the organist. Now people talk over the music. Irritating and rude.

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    3. Deana, find an unprogrammed Quaker Meeting - it's all quiet!

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  16. We used to pack a picnic and go off across the fields to the nearby woods, where we would explore, eat our 'lunch', then head home. The barn was supposed to be of-limits, but we explored that too.

    What I miss the most was the unexpected--grandparents coming for a visit for no reason--no special holiday etc--and the entire clan gathering at our house, the house bursting at the seams with grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins and my mom beaming, my dad making silly faces, my grandfather's sly humor and chuckle.

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    1. Friends dropping by unexpectedly without waiting for an invitation!

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    2. Nowadays, I don't call to chat without okaying first via text! Most phone calls feel too much like barging in now we can communicate electronically.

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  17. Teeter-totters. There was a great one in the large city park. Then it was gone. The heavy metal U shaped stand was in the ground for while. The city probably needed a jack-hammer to get it out. Jungle gyms are now climbing structures. If you fell, you landed on dirt. Crayons. I kept a little one busy yesterday while his mom tried to get her computer issues fixed. I had three colored pencils and plain paper. He was a bit hyped up at the end of a long day but it worked for a few minutes. His mom commented how her son loves his color pens. I remember fat crayons with a flat side and a curved side so they wouldn't fall off the table. Do they still make those?

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    1. Crayons are definitely still around and still happily used by little kids, Deana - although I don't know about those no-roll versions!

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  18. My mother had a similar meat grinder she'd clamp on the table to make mincemeat. Also, she used a wringer washing machine that had to be hooked up to the sink with hoses and clothes had to be hand fed through the wringer. Goodbye buttons! Eventually, goodbye wringer washer.

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  19. My Mother had one of those grinders. She made beef hash with it. I've tried and tried to recreate it without success. What I still have in my kitchen are the cookbooks -- my Mother's Settlement Cookbook and my Grandmother's church and community cookbooks.

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    1. I have all John’s mother’s cookbooks including war time recipes. Great for my research

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  20. My brother once pointed out that neighborhoods were kept safer when folks sat outside on porches, talking and waving to passers-by, but with a/c everyone is inside. I spent summer hours reading under the locust trees, and walking or biking to the library for more books. As Liz and others pointed out, most moms were home and ready to intervene if there was trouble, and we were free to wander, as long as we were home for supper and then before dark. Missing? Casual conversation with random folks encountered as we go out other business, already curtailed by focus on phones, but increased by COVID isolation. I had stopped wearing my watch, but may start again. I know the info is on the phone and iPad, but it's not as easy to glance at. Oh, and using cash . . . will we be doing much of that? I bought a bit of produce at a stand yesterday, first time using cash in a year. It felt oddly hazardous.

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    1. March 2020 I took out $200 from the bank and haven’t used it all yet!

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  21. cj Sez: I also wear a watch so I can twist my arm and see the time instead of hauling out a cellphone. I hang clothes on the lines strung between poles behind my laundry room door. I go to Farmer's Markets and buy stalks of Brussels sprouts that are too many to eat so I share with a neighbor or the kids. My neighbor and I have a gate to walk through the fence line between our yards. I hang on to some of the old ways and things like my mother's apron, her bread pans and rolling pin, not so much for nostalgia but because they comfort and ground me in this raucous world.

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  22. cj Sez: I also wear a watch so I can twist my arm and see the time instead of hauling out a cellphone. I hang clothes on the lines strung between poles behind my laundry room door. I go to Farmer's Markets and buy stalks of Brussels sprouts that are too many to eat so I share with a neighbor or the kids. My neighbor and I have a gate to walk through the fence line between our yards. I hang on to some of the old ways and things like my mother's apron, her bread pans and rolling pin, not so much for nostalgia but because they comfort and ground me in this raucous world.

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    1. I'm a clothesline person as well, CJ! Nothing smells as good or feels as clean as clothing that's been hung out in the sunshine.

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    2. I'm right there in the clothesline crew!

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    3. community standards won't allow clothes lines in Arizona where the sun shines every day. Spoils the appearance. Sigh

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  23. Kitchen gadgets survive through time. I have cookie cutters I treasure and use. I turned a couple into Christmas ornaments. I treasure my childhood memories. I love my electronics. I miss phone books. I loved using them for quick access to businesses and I love looking at names. Alas, we are all supposed to use are electronic devices to look up businesses and no one wants you to know their phone number. Landlines are a rare item. I still want to reach for that elusive phone book.

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  24. I miss neighborhood kids gathering in a front yard in the summer evenings to play games like freeze tag and red rover.

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    1. Pat, my kids got to play those games... when they went to summer camp.

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  25. Something I don't miss, international version: the old phone system! When I went off to Italy for a summer, my only communication to and from home were postcards and airmail letters (I would pick up mine at the American Express office. Anyone remember that?

    Meanwhile, Youngest has been in Kosovo for the past nine days, and we've been able to communicate regularly, for free, by DMing each other on Twitter. I can send her pictures of her pup, who is staying with me, and she can send pics of her having fun in Pristina.

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    1. Julia, I traveled alone to Vienna in my early teens and wrote my mother a postcard to say I had arrived. Can you imagine doing that today?

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    2. Julia and Rhys, when I arrived in Oxford on my own, I sent a postcard to let my Mother know that I had arrived. At that time the text option on the mobile phone did Not exist yet.

      Diana

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    3. Julia, my daughter in Kenya calls me more now than she did when she lived in the States. And it's free. It's a new world, for sure.

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  26. Old fashioned rotary beater. I have had it since my very first apartment, where there was no room for an electric mixer and whisks were not yet common in US. I've whipped cream for strawberry shortcake, mixed up pancake batter and beaten egg whites for a souffle. Now I mostly use my KitchenAid, sure, but it did its job very well back in the day. (And I dont miss box graters for potato pancakes at all. I remembe rmy bleeding knuckles!)

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  27. "The good old days are good and gone. That's why they're good: because they're gone." Loudin Wainwright III 'Old Friend'

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    1. yes. Let's not forget- as an example - that the wonderful smell of line dried wash came from women lugging wet laundry outdoors and hanging it in both summer and winter, wearing boots and a winter coat and mittens. ( I remember my mom doing it) Lots to be said for indoor dryers!

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  28. Rhys, it sounds like you had an idyllic childhood. What do I miss about the old days? I miss the soda fountain places that used to exist when I was a kid. I remember the fountain pens. Books still exist, though. There was a coffee grinder from my childhood that was given away and we have not been able to find another one like the one we had.

    Diana

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  29. My mom still has her old meat grinder. She used it to make hash when I was a kid. I loved corned beef hash!!! My brother and I ran completely wild as kids. Because I didn't know any better, I did the same thing to the hooligans - booted them out the door in the morning and told them to be back by dinner. This might be why they are called the hooligans. Their shenanigans - much like mine with my brother - are legendary. None of their friends had these adventures. I find that so sad. Oh, and I do miss having clothes dry on the line. I just loved how fresh they smelled.

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    1. It's so sad that today's kids don't have adventures, and often don't know how to play. Our kids played games with their imaginations all the time. Kids came to our house and had no idea how to play with the Playmobil little people or anything that didn't have batteries and instructions. So sad.

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    2. Rhys, I remember the Playmobil little people and I remember the LEGOs. I think kids still use LEGOs these days.

      Diana

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  30. Oh, those carefree days of childhood. I lived in an area where there was an outer circle of houses and one street going through the middle, called Deerfield Village. Geographically it wasn't a village, of course, but it was in so many ways for those who lived there. It was set off from the busy flow of traffic, and everyone knew everyone else. In the summer, we kids would go out the door in the morning, often on our bikes, usually returning for lunch, and then stay out until dark. Sometimes we were out after dark, too, watching the lightning bugs or playing "Red light, green light, hope I see a ghost tonight." There were some fields behind our little area, with a creek. We were out during all the seasons, not just summer, but it was summer when we ran with the wind. I'm still great friends with my next door neighbor Jimmy, who now lives in Tucson, and my friend Phoebe, with whom I actually played indoors, too, with our Barbies. It was the best of childhoods, and I'm grateful that I had it. Well, all except for the part where my brother chased me with grasshoppers.

    Rhys, my mother had one of those "iron" grinders that she used to grind up the cheese for her pimento cheese that she fixed. She also made her own mayo for it. I will never have a pimento cheese sandwich as delicious as my mother made ever again. Even my husband admits that there is no equal to it. I didn't get the grinder after my parents died. I'm not sure which sibling did.

    And, Rhys, I meant to comment yesterday on the beautiful drawing of yours in the Venice Sketchbook. You have great talent in that area, and I think it's wonderful you sketch places when you travel. I so wish I could do that.

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  31. I still wear a watch and listen to records. As I live in my childhood home, I have all my mother's kitchen things. Pretty sure she had that grinder but I don't know how to use it. I do use the potato peeler, potato masher, and other things. We could go from 21st to 29th Streets by ourselves. I really miss the woods and meadows that have been replaced by warehouses. Of course, my friends and family are missed the most. Stay safe and well.

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