Fun on the Farm – Throwback Thursday

Growing up with seven brothers and sisters was always interesting, sometimes enjoyable, and often aggravating. We had tiffs and spats but also managed to play very well together frequently. I did not appreciate it at the time, but I realize that we were blessed to grow up in that environment. There were plenty of chores around the house and the dairy farm to keep us busy but we did find time for fun.

Sometimes all eight of us kids would play touch football, softball and wiffle ball with 4 person teams, but mostly the older boys didn’t want to play with us little kids.

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Youngest brothers with pet rabbit and kittens

We four or five youngest kids entertained ourselves in many imaginative ways. The family moved when I was in first grade and our new farm offered new opportunities. The entire farm was our playground. We had an old quonset hut on the farm that mom had outfitted as a playhouse. It contained old pots and pans, dishes, and empty boxes of cereals and other food items, games, books and a variety of  old furniture. We had dogs and cats, all of which were outside animals. My brother had a rabbit named Snowball.

Dairy farmers used powdery lime on barn alleys to absorb liquid, neutralize odors and prevent slipping. The powdered calcium carbonate was delivered by the truck load to the farm. We had a small outbuilding dubbed the lime shed used for storing the barn lime. Wheelbarrow loads would be hauled to the barn and kept in an old barrel for immediate use. But the large pile of lime in the lime shed was a play area for my little brothers and me. During hot summer days the lime remained cool. We could spend entire afternoons out of the sun in the coolness of the shed. We were road builders. We used my brothers’ Tonka trucks and various materials from around the farm like small sections of concrete drainage pipe, concrete blocks and bricks and built quite elaborate road systems in the lime. Were these roads precursors to the super highway system?

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The Button Box – Throwback Thursday

imageOne of my favorite things around the house when I was a child was mom’s button box. A lifetime of buttons was saved in that box. Mom’s collection likely started before she met and married my dad, although I can’t say that for sure because we never discussed it.

What I do know is that when our clothes were worn out, we would cut off all the buttons before the garment was thrown in the rag-bag.  My parents were children of the Great Depression and nothing was wasted. Since there were eight kids in the family, clothes were handed down from one of us to another. Nothing was ever disposed of until it was threadbare and there was no chance of patching it yet again. And at that point the buttons were cut off. Some of the old clothes would be used for cleaning rags or shop rags but many of them went into the rag-bag.

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Easter Memories – Throwback Thursday

imageThe season of spring brings the holiday of Easter. Growing up in my Catholic Christian family Easter was the greatest celebration of the year.  For the 40 days of Lent we had practiced sacrifice, amped up prayer and charity in preparation for the death and resurrection of the Lord.  Holy week was a time of prayer and church services, culminating in Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Christ to save humankind. On Good Friday afternoon, all businesses in our community were closed from noon to 3 p.m. in honor of the time Jesus hung on the cross.

We attended Sunday mass every week, but on Easter Sunday it had special meaning. For me, the greatest significance of Easter is the religious meaning.  Easter has now become  commercialized to the point that faithful Christians may not think about the religious meaning.

The spring holiday further represents newness.  A tradition dating back for generations is having new clothes for Easter Sunday.  My brothers and sisters always had new-to-us clothes which we were always so proud of.  With eight children brand new clothes for each of us were out of the question, but we always proudly wore the clothes that we did get. Girls and women were required to have their heads covered at Mass, so my sisters and I always got a new-to-us hat for Easter. They would not have been classified as the traditional Easter bonnet, but it was part of our Easter tradition. Continue reading

Party Lines – Throwback Thursday

A nostalgic trip back to the 50’s has to include a discussion of life before cell phones, smart phones, instant messaging, Twitter, Instagram and all those new-fangled gadgets that we take for granted these days. The advances in communication over the last 50 years are truly remarkable.

image My family got their first telephone in the 1950’s. It was one of those oak, wall-mounted boxes with a crank handle. It was rather complicated to use and I don’t think anyone besides my mother ever used it. To use it the receiver was picked up and the crank was turned a certain number of times. The caller would be connected with the switchboard operator. She would be given the name or number of the person being called and make the connection. In the earliest days the numbers would be just a 3 digit number, like 3-9-7. Continue reading

Currier and Ives – Throwback Thursday

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Growing up in a family of 8 children, we sat down to dinner every night at our very large kitchen table. The table perfectly held the 10 family members with mom and dad sitting at the opposite ends and four children on each side.  We always sat at the same places at every meal.  We used our “everyday” dishes, which was a mismatched set of different plates, cups and silverware.

My mom had two sets of good dishes, one was cream-colored with gold trim and the other was translucent white china.  We had a large extended family so any special dinners required a lot of place settings.  We had a dining room table to which several leaves would be added when we had special dinners and used the good dishes.

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Cousins – Friends Forever?

Cousins are those childhood playmates who grow up to be forever friends — Anonymous

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Ready to go swimming at a family reunion. I am the one in the droopy drawers who awkwardly was not looking at the camera.

Besides growing up with five brothers and two sisters, I was blessed with 45 first cousins.  My father came from a family of 9 children and my mother was from a family of 5 and family gatherings were large, crowded, boisterous affairs.  Most of us lived fairly close to one another and we saw each other rather frequently.  Outside of school, I spent more time with my cousins than any childhood friends.

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Play Is a Child’s Work

2 boys“I’m bored.”

“There is nothing to do.”

These comments are heard way too often from children today. In our world with small nuclear families, where we likely live far away from extended family, don’t know our neighbors, and worry about protecting our children from threats of society, the spontaneity of childhood is diminished. Play dates have to be scheduled. Children expect adults to provide activities to entertain them.  Contrast this with an agrarian society where children were first expected to do their chores and free time was easily filled with a diverse number of activities and interests. Even if they felt bored they were not likely to admit it lest they be assigned another chore.

Today kid’s lives are frequently too structured.  Children at times are scheduled very heavily into different adult-driven activities. They are too often given unlimited access to TV and electronic games. While these might have a place in a child’s life, the right balance needs to be developed. Children need to be able to explore and figure out things on their own and to be spontaneous without being directed by an adult.

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Child’s Play

imageThe things that keep children most entertained are often not the expensive flashy toys, but rather simple things found around the house. Very young children can be absolutely delighted playing with pots and pans, or cardboard boxes. As a young child in the 50’s, I certainly did not have the  quantity of toys that American middle class children have today. But I was never bored. I always found a way to entertain myself. In my case I was aided by having seven brothers and sisters although the oldest of my brothers were too mature (and too cool) to play some child’s games.

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Childhood Memories

We Prayed for a Baby
We Prayed for a Baby [1956]
Every now and then I hear about someone who has vivid memories from when they were three or even two years old.  That fascinates me, but I surely do not remember things from that far back. I do have some clear memories from when I was five years old.  I am confident of the age because my older brothers and sisters were in school and I was not.  In addition, my family moved when I was in first grade and I can identify the old farmhouse as the setting of my memories.

I had two younger brothers,  21 months and 5 1/2 years younger than me.  My first lesson in faith revolved around the birth of the baby brother. My little brother and I told our mother that we wanted to have another sister or brother.  Mom told us that if we prayed to God we might get one.  Oh my, we prayed.  And, voilà!  We got a baby!  And almost immediately! That sure convinced me of the power of prayer and of God.

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The Attack Rooster

imageIn an old photo album that my mother started for me 50 years ago, there is a grainy, dark, black and white photo of a rooster perched on the corner of a roof. I cringe when I see that picture.

I grew up on a Wisconsin farm as the sixth child  in the family.  Our farm was primarily a dairy farm, although in my earliest years we also had pigs, chickens, geese and ducks. I remember the bantam roosters. They were a beautiful rich coppery red, with shimmers of blue and green in their  dark tail feathers when the light hit in the right way.  They were also vicious, mean and unpredictable especially when children were around.

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