Sunday, 2 January 2011

Lifestyles Of The Poor And Obscure

When I was a kid, we drank our Tang and Kool-aid out of recycled jelly jars.

"Oh, we did that in my family too!" a friend laughed years later when I confided this. "We used to break glasses all the time, so I guess my Mom got desperate." I smiled and pretended that was why my mother did this too: to keep her nice glasses intact. But the truth was, jelly jars were our nice glasses. Melmac cups and tin mugs were for every day.

I'm not sure how old I was when I realized that our family was vastly different from the ones around us. Of course, all families are different, and I know how privileged my life was: we had indoor plumbing, a roof over our heads, enough food at every meal. We had a t.v., a car, and the standard electric appliances, though I'm told my mother reluctantly agreed to buy a washing machine only after my older sister was born. We also had two parents, both of whom graduated from university, books on our shelves, and religion. But we were the only people I knew who bought Dutch Pride imitation ice milk.

"My Mom buys ice milk sometimes," a friend commiserated when I whined to her about this. "It's gross," she said, shrugging, "but she says she has to lose weight." My sisters and I were all rail thin and so was my father, but my mother was pudgy. What a relief to pretend our weird desserts were for diet purposes! The truth was that real ice milk would have been a treat deemed beyond our means, but admitting that would have been acutely embarrassing. "Imitation ice milk" another friend of mine queried in amazement, studying the label. "I don't even know anybody who eats ice milk!" Whenever my friends stayed for dinner, I learned to dread dessert.

Our clothes were another source of embarrassment: I was over ten years old before I had anything brand-new that wasn't from a mail order catalog, and I'll never forget the weird lack of smell, the exotic rustle of tissue paper, the bizarre smoothness of material that hadn't been washed a hundred times. Occasionally we bought our clothes at thrift shops, but mainly, we got hand-me-downs. When we were little, we got them from our three girl cousins in Florida, the youngest of whom was a year older than my big sister. This fortuitous age difference must have pleased our respective parents as much as the great distance between our homes displeased them: I can imagine how they must have sweated out the postage of a whole box from Florida to California -- how they must have weighed the package (on borrowed scales) again and again until it came to within a fraction of an ounce of the maximum weight.

Our uncle in Florida was a preacher who adhered to the vows of poverty out of sheer necessity; every few years when we received our long-awaited clothes box from Florida, we would pore excitedly over the threadbare dresses, skirts and blouses, smelling of mothballs and already ten years out of fashion. "Those clothes were hand-me-downs when we got them," my cousin told me decades later when we shared an apartment in Miami. "They were donated by people in our church, and don't think their kids didn't point that out when we wore their stuff to school!" It was a great relief to trade stories with our Florida cousins; they were the only people with whom I could share some of our family's more embarrassing economies, like recycled fat used as a sandwich spread, the vast bag of rags my mother kept as dusters, the fact that we recycled Christmas wrapping paper and tinsel year after year. In fact, swapping stories with our Florida cousins, we came out looking recklessly affluent. Their first house was a tar-paper-and-chicken wire shack with a pounded dirt floor. They shared their living space with snakes and small furry animals and dreamed of indoor plumbing. Years later, when we visited them in Pensacola, they had a proper house, but a shopping trip to the local grocery store was obviously still an occasion.

"Do you eat out a lot?" one of my cousins asked us in hushed tones. They had made one trip out to California years earlier in a battered old Winnebago, a vacation that was clearly the adventure of their lives, and I can still remember their admiration and awe on learning that we could actually afford to eat out once a week. It didn't matter that eating out meant a meal at the local taco joint; this still put us in an enviably higher income bracket. "Sometimes we eat at Thrifty's Drug Store," I bragged. "They've got a fountain there and it's really neat." My cousins practically swooned.

I loved eating at the fountain of Thrifty's Drug Store. In our heady pre-vegetarian days, their hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches were delicious, but my favorite meal was a hot roast turkey sandwich swimming in gravy, and a Sprite. We would sit in a battered Naugehyde booth at a Formica table with dozens of wads of spent chewing gum plastered to the bottom (we frequently confirmed this by bending down to look, always marveling at the different colors and sizes), and it always felt special. On very rare occasions, no more than once a year, we would eat at a smorgasbord restaurant called Sir George's where the water glasses were made of real glass and did not have the name of any beverage on them. When I was eleven, my friends and I were making fun of a nasty, ignorant boy in our class. "I'll bet he eats out at Sir George's!" one of my friends snickered. "No!" cried another, "Thrifty's! His Mom and Dad take him to the fountain at Thrifty's!" To this day, I remember my shock and confusion. Did they know my family ate there? Whatever the case, I vowed never to admit to this.

"Those people!" I heard someone scoff at a party a few years ago. "They're so backwards, they don't even know what a fish fork is!" My first impulse was to laugh, as though as I found this funny too -- the idea of not knowing what a fish fork is! But I didn't know there were such things as fish forks until I was over thirty. And up until I was twenty, the only fish I knew came out of a can.

I'm a rich snob now: I buy real ice cream once in a while, and I can scale and gut my own fish if I have to. My rag bag has worn-out scraps from Japan, Mexico, Turkey, and China in it; I may buy my clothes at thrift shops, but they are posh thrift shops, and the clothes are nearly new. But I ate at Thrifty's Drug Store and I loved it. And God smite me if I ever laugh at anybody for not knowing what a fish fork is.


Robert the Skeptic said...

My father-in-law is a child of the Depression. He had way more income than he needs and squirrels most of it away. He complains bitterly about the price of everything and defers maintenance on his house because it "costs too much".

We gave him a tour of our new 2,000 sq. ft. home that now has a bathroom big enough for both my wife AND me to use at the same time, an "office" instead of taking up the guest room, and a "bonus" room for Nancy's projects. He calls our place now "The Mansion".

Kim Ayres said...

My father's income varied dramatically over the years of my childhood and youth. From absolute poverty, to living in a 23 roomed house with outbuildings, to near bancruptcy and huge debts. From rental to home ownership to rental. We moved house every few years and lived in several different areas of the country.

Stability in income, living in one house for life, and growing up with extended family nearby were the kinds of things I used to think were really odd in other families.

Charles Gramlich said...

I never really knew we were fairly poor when I was growing up. At least money wise. we had land but not much disposable cash. But we did pretty well all right anyway.

Robin said...

When you describe Thrifty's, it sounds cozy, not cheesy. So those nasty kids can go "you know what". (I felt really menacing when I wrote that.)

I grew up pretty darn middle class, so I'm not really eligible for whining about this subject, though I'll happily complain about just about anything. After all, I managed to write a whole complaining blog about my son getting in to the college of his choice. My mom used to make me buy any clothes over 5 pairs of pants and 5 shirts (enough for a school week) with babysitting money, and I thought that was pretty rough.

Robin said...

I just read my comment, and I meant that I can be a whiner, not that you were whining. You certainly don't whine. I take back the word whine. *feels embarrassed and self conscious*

Bish Denham said...

Growing up on St. John most of the 800 residents, including us, lived in tiny wooden shacks, some with dirt floors. We had privies and leaky roofs. None of us had electricity or running water. Yet we were all clean and well fed. We had land but not a lot money. It was a wonderful time. My mother called it glorified camping.

angryparsnip said...

You can look back at something from your childhood and wonder....
I loved my childhood because my Mum did such a great job stretching every penny besides being a great cook and seamstress. I just assumed everyone lived as we did.

Do you remember Green Stamps ? You got them from the grocery store, gas and drug store after buying an item, You saved them in books and then went to the Green Stamp Store to redeem them. We rode the bus sometimes to get there.
Many a Christmas Gift came from that store. It was just what everyone did.
Just like sitting at the kitchen table together reading the Sears and Roebuck Catalog when it came in the mail.
Picking out things we liked, wanted or needed.
Wonderful memories from my childhood.
I am sure my Mum had a hard time making ends meet but I didn't know it.

cheers, parsnip

Mary Witzl said...

Robert -- I don't blame your father-in-law for calling your place 'The Mansion'. Our flat has a garden, a guest bedroom, and two lounges. The roof leaks in several places, our fence is falling down, and my husband worries constantly about money, but as far as I'm concerned, we're rolling in luxury.

My parents lived through the Depression too, but my mother claimed her family never felt it, they were so poor to begin with. I didn't believe it until we went back to Kentucky once to see where she grew up. They really DID have only one room for eight people, an outhouse a good distance from the backdoor, and a 2 1/2-mile walk to school. It was a sobering revelation.

Kim -- 23 ROOMS? I know somebody who once lived in a house with 23 ROOMS? I'm utterly awed by that! I can only begin to imagine what that must have felt like growing up with such fluctuations in your lifestyle, but now I can see why you became a philosopher.

The thing that used to amazed me about other families was parents who bought what their kids asked for without any bickering. It just didn't seem fair that some people led such a charmed life.

Charles -- The story in my family was that my great-grandfather sold his ranch to developers because he was tired of growing oranges. Many decades later, that land became Disneyland. I don't know if that's 100% true, but it's such a great story I've never bothered to find out.

Robin -- I hardly ever STOP whining! But I figure it's better to be up front about it. It's the repressed closet whiners who give us all a bad name.

The food at Thrifty's Drug Store was utterly delicious. There were chocolate cakes and lemon meringue pies oozing onto plates under glass display cases; there was 10 cent coffee in big, thick mugs, and pastrami sandwiches and tuna melts. And best of all, Thrifty's was the home of the super-duper hot fudge sundae, the best hot fudge sundae I've ever had in my life. To this day I remember it with fondness. My snooty friends didn't know what they were missing. I didn't stand up for Thrifty's then, but at least I'm giving it its due now.

Bish -- You grew up in paradise! When I want to make my daughters envious, I just tell them about all the fruit you had around as a child (they dream of mango and grapefruit trees).

My mother used to tell us about the first time she encountered a flush toilet at the age of 18 and didn't know what to do with it. I can't imagine how she and her family coped with an outside privy during the long, cold winters of her childhood. If I had to use a privy, I'd prefer one in the Virgin Islands.

AP -- You and I could definitely swap stories! We faithfully collected both blue and green stamps and loved going to redeem them, and we lived for our Sears and Roebuck catalog; even if we didn't order anything from it, we loved looking at the clothes. We yearned to look so wholesome and well turned out.

My mother was the world's best mother, but she was sadly not a gifted or inspired cook. Still, the meals she prepared were generally wholesome and tasty and her apple pie was always delicious. Looking back, I think she managed very well. But I never could bring myself to eat her intentionally burnt cabbage or her peanut butter and mustard sandwiches.

Vijaya said...

I didn't know for a long time that I was poor because others were poorer still, with threadbare rags covering their bodies and not even a pair of shoes to hide their calloused and bleeding feet ...

NO matter what, in our one room and kitchen, laughter filled the air. Once in a while I'd catch my mother crying and it's only years later that we talked about how difficult it was for her not to have enough food for us. Children are resilient. I became a thief, stealing mangoes. It took me many more years to realize that poverty does not give you the right to steal.

Mary Witzl said...

Vijaya -- When I was in the third grade, somebody teased me for being poor. I was enraged, but my mother was amazed: how could anyone think we were poor? We had SHOES! I could never whine about not having what my friends had: my mother had stories like yours, about children she knew who grew up with rickets or died from diphtheria; about not being able to go to the doctor or the dentist; about wearing shoes only during the winter when you absolutely had to. The older I get, the more I see that the worst poverty isn't not having things, it's being dissatisfied with your life, whatever it happens to be.

But I'll tell you one thing: if I was truly hungry, I know I'd steal mangoes. I might feel guilty afterwards, but I'd still do it.

debra said...

Your poignant post has touch a chord in me, too, Mary. My parents were children of the Depression, and the story was that my father's father lost everything. I think that things were a bit easier for my mother's family
I have a vague recollection of green stamps or something like them. And I have a clear memory of being different from the other children in the area we moved too, because we didn't have a lot of the things that they had. When I was old enough, I left that place, and have never returned.
My sweet memories are of the neighborhood we lived in during my early years, where we traipsed through the yards to each others' houses and where clothing and everything else, including chicken pox, was shared.

Miss Footloose said...

I loved reading your life story! You had all you really needed, and more than some who had more material wealth. Embarrassment is hard to deal with when you're a kid, but in the end your experiences growing up gave you a great perspective on life, and what really matters.

When I was young my family lived in a ground floor apartment with a garden in Amsterdam. There was a WC, toilet, but no bathroom. You washed in the kitchen. Then my parents installed a bathtub ... in the kitchen. It was the only place there was room.

Because we had a little garden, we felt very lucky; the children living in the three upstairs apartment only had balconies. My mother always allowed them to come down and play in our garden when the wether was nice. We learned to share.

Children growing up having everything and thinking their blessings are normal, often grow up with a sense of entitlement that is not healthy.

Falak said...

I love the tone of this post :)
My mum lived in a two bed room apartment with almost 20 other people as part of a joint family. Having lost her father at an early age she learnt to make the best of what she had and accept that her cousins would always live much more comfortably than she did even though they lived in the same house. When I had to live with half that many number of people in teh same house I had enough. My dad tells me of his childhood when going to bed without a meal wasn't uncommon. My brother thinks skipping his evening snack is torture.

Thank You for reminding us about how luxuriously we {the generation I belong to} live. We who think that not having the latest gadgets, clothes and a room to ourselves equals denying us our human rights

Mary Witzl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Witzl said...

Debra -- It's lovely that you can remember good things about growing up materially 'impoverished' (I hate using that word as it suggests deprivation; not having everything the people around you have is NOT being deprived.

I'm convinced that as long as you have the basic rudiments of food, shelter, education, and health, you're fine. People who grow up without hope, love, or joy are deprived.

Miss Footloose -- Your mother sounds like a great neighbor -- and parent. Arguably, having a good mother is the greatest fortune of all.

Years ago I stayed with friends in Tokyo who also bathed in their kitchen. Their bathtub was a big plastic basin they hung out the window. Every few days, they'd heave it indoors, rig a shower curtain around it, and fill it with a hose from the kitchen sink. Filling and draining it was quite a process and it made me VERY grateful to have my own bathroom.

Amen to this: "Children growing up having everything and thinking their blessings are normal, often grow up with a sense of entitlement that is not healthy." The best thing we can teach our children is to appreciate what we have. I don't think this is something we can do verbally: we have to show them by being truly grateful ourselves.

Falak -- Thank you for that thoughtful comment.

Friends of mine lived through the Korean war and suffered terribly. They could remember eating grass, digging up snails from the garden in the wintertime, and consuming every grain of rice in their bowls when they were lucky enough to get it. Their children considered themselves hard done if they couldn't afford the latest brand of running shoes. My cousins who grew up poor have similar issues with their children. It is hard to be able to give your children much better and more than you had as a child, but not manage to pass on your valuable experiences.

Sometimes I dread to think what my grandchildren will expect from life. I just hope they won't think that clean water and air are impossible luxuries.

Chocolatesa said...

I remember living in a mobile home that was originally the summer house until my dad lost his job and we had to sell the big house to move into it. After that my dad wasn't able to find work in his profession any more (electrical engineer).

I remember going to the food bank, going to the thrift store in the same building, and bringing my lunch to school in plastic milk bags and getting teased for it. Having baloney or mock chicken sandwiches till I was sick of them.

It was a huge thrill to go shopping for clothes for the first time when I got one of my first jobs during my last year of high school. We didn't own a vcr or a microwave till I was 13 or 14, and never had any video games.

I remember we had an old-fashioned toaster, the kind that you lay your toast flat in it and then close the top on it, and it flattened the bread completely. We also had a 70's ringer washer in 1993, which my mom named the "Old Faithful" because it was still running after so long.

My mom was a great cook though and always made delicious wholesome food with what we had, lots of whole grains and beans and peas and stuff. I remember when we first started buying butter once we could finally afford it I loved the flavor of it so much compared to margarine that I'd eat it straight :P We never owned a dryer, or a properly functioning lawnmower.

But I wouldn't trade my childhood for anyone else, no matter how affluent. I got to spend lots of time with both my parents, and grew up loved and well-fed.

Carolie said...

Mary, I truly treasure your writing. You always strike a chord no matter the subject, and I am so grateful!

I was a scholarship student at a rather exclusive girls' school. All my uniforms came from the thrift shop, and my mother would carefully remove the name tags of other girls and stitch mine in.

We had one rattletrap car, and every morning (I have no idea how she did this), my mother would give us all breakfast, then bundle three children into the car and take Dad to the train station so he could go to work. Every evening, the same thing -- bundling up three kids and going to the train station to pick up my father. EVERYONE I knew had two cars, and a color TV.

Later, much to my mother's intense dismay, we were on food stamps for a while.

And yet -- it never occurred to me that we were "poor" when I was small. I enthusiastically would beg a can of vegetables or a jar of homemade jelly from my mother to take to school near Thanksgiving, for "the poor people." We had food, clothing, a car -- we weren't poor!

Then in 6th grade, something changed. Girls in my class would ask me why I didn't have the same quality coat as they wore (Veronica had TWO rabbit fur coats with embroidered cuffs!), and why my mother didn't take me to New York City for my annual Christmas dress. Someone pointed out (loudly) that the tunic I was wearing had once been hers (she noticed a familiar mended place at the hem). And I realized that when I spent the night with Heather that she had servants -- real servants. I stopped wanting anyone to come to our warm, cozy, chaotic house, because I was embarrassed by my parents, my brothers, our home. I stopped telling my folks about school events, hoping they wouldn't come and embarrass me.

Luckily for me, Mom realized what was going on. She and Dad made the decision to take me out of that school, despite its sterling academic reputation and the full scholarship. They reasoned that I could learn anywhere, and with my voracious reading and my thirst for knowledge, I'd be OK no matter what. It was more important to them that I not grow up believing we were somehow lacking, or that I was entitled to something more, or that I was in any way a "victim."

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Mary Witzl said...

Chocolatesa -- You know, all of us who have led frugal lives are in our own club: your story resonates with me on every level.

My mother's washing machine (my father might have bought it but he never once used it) washed all our diapers and lasted until I was finished with high school. There was no built-in obsolescence back then, because our refrigerator's performance was also exemplary. We never owned a microwave, clothes drier, or vcr either, and our lawn mower was virtually an antique. The idea of a dishwasher made us laugh: what did we have hands for? And having butter on my toast will always be a treat -- which is all the better for my waistline and cholesterol level.

The image people in other countries have of Canadians and Americans is heavily influenced by Hollywood and tourism, but the truth is there are plenty of people who have had our experiences. I'm glad you feel the same: that your lifestyle, though materially compromised, was actually a very good one. You had what a lot of people never get to experience: the love and attention of two parents. Best of all, you're well aware of just how privileged you were.

Carolie -- I don't think I've ever had such moving, thoughtful, wonderful comments as I've had on this post. Reading your comment brought tears to my eyes: what great parents you have! Please tell them that for me.

The last year we were in Cyprus, we took our youngest daughter out of the expensive school she was attending for similar reasons to your parents': one day, a girl complimented her on her trousers and asked where she'd gotten them. My daughter innocently replied, "Kyrenia Animal Rescue." After expressing her shock and horror, the girl told her NEVER to make the mistake of admitting that she bought clothes at charity shops, that the other kids would torment her endlessly for this. We soon saw that the kids she was mixing with valued money above everything else. They had other issues too, but the money thing bothered me more than anything else. We took her out of school and for the next year, she essentially taught herself at home. She got good grades and was able to move on to the next level. This way, she never had to apologize to snobs for not buying designer clothes at extortionate prices.

Writing this post, I hoped to convey the joy I had growing up, and the funniness of it all, despite the acute embarrassment. I think I fell short of expressing that, but reading all of these great comments has been a wonderful experience.

MG Higgins said...

What a touching post, and reading through the comments, it seems a lot of us grew up not exactly affluent. Could that have anything to do with now being writers? I had to laugh when I read "ice milk." We always ate ice milk (although not "imitation!") because of the cost. The carpeting in our house was used, from the church sanctuary when they renovated. I got one new outfit before school started, otherwise my clothes were hand-me-downs from my wealthy cousin. Those Lanz wool sweaters and pleated skirts were wonderful! Somehow, my mother pinched pennies and made it all work for us. I don't know how she did it.

Mary Witzl said...

MG -- Church carpeting? My mother would have LOVED getting some of that for a song! And Lanz wool sweaters and pleated skirts sound marvelous -- were those the skirts girls wore big gold pins on? We didn't have any relatives rich enough to afford such things -- or rather, none with girls.

Once in a while my mother would get reckless and splurge on ice milk. When I was eleven, the school nurse got upset because my sisters and I were underweight. She had a little talk with my mother and for a blissful two months, we had real butter and ice cream at home. But we must have put on a little weight and then it was back to Dutch Pride -- such nasty stuff! Still, I remember my childhood with real fondness and joy, and like you, I wonder how my mother managed so cleverly. Good thing she actually enjoyed pinching pennies!

Anne Spollen said...

The whole idea of green living and repurpose/reuse, recycle - that describes how we lived. When the jelly jars got too yucky from washing, they were used to hold buttons or screws.

Never knew any other way to live until I began sleeping over at other people's houses. They were decadent - they used dryers instead of clothes lines, didn't clip coupons, and donated perfectly good clothing that could be handed down. What an odd bunch!

I got confused by the phrase "going out to eat" - that meant to a relative's kitchen, not a restaurant.

But I remember having a lot of fun -

Pat said...

After Bjetman's poem 'serve the fish forks Norman' or words to that effect, one is more likely to scoff at someone who knows what they are and yes I did have some given as a wedding present. Their raison d'etre - they prevent one's normal cutlery smelling of fish but I never bothered to use them. Inverse snobbery can be quite confusing. It's good we remember our roots but did your Dad wear clogs? Mine did:)

Marcia said...

Way back when, there was a brand of jelly sold in jars MEANT to be saved and used as juice glasses. My mom bought it until we had a nice collection.

I grew up with just one sister, but most of the families around us were large. They ALL drank powdered milk instead of fresh. My mom bought from the milk man, though. And she bought name-brand products if she preferred them. She always said, "Buying something you don't like just because it's the cheapest is a waste of money." But I did hear the phrase "We can't afford it" often enough. I think people have always made choices about what they will and won't afford with the money they have.

As always, excellent post.

Meg McKinlay said...

I love this post, Mary. We were not poor but my parents scrimped to send us to an independent school where we were completely out of our depth, means-wise (no car, homemade uniforms, no extra curriculars, always 'forgot' to wear free dress on casual days, etc). It was challenging in many ways, but also formative.

For what it's worth, I am in my forties, live in a port city, and had never heard of a fish fork until just now. :)

Kit said...

Great post, Mary. Just think that today a lot of those ideas like using jelly jars as glasses could pass as green recycling stylishness. makes it easier to be frugal these days. My kids love hand-me-downs and rooting around at jumble sales now. Just hope that lasts into the teenage years.

Mary Witzl said...

Anne -- I too was shocked and stunned to see the clothes my friends' families threw out, so many of which were as nice as (or nicer than) the things we bought. People who used driers were terribly decadent, but when I go back to California now, that is the norm. It seems such a waste given how dry and sunny it is there.

Whenever I tell people how we grew up, they always assume that my childhood must have been very bleak. But it was loads of fun! To this day, frugal living is a challenge and a way of life -- the only one I can imagine. I'm sure if I won the lottery, I'd still have a compost pile and enjoy shopping at Oxfam.

Pat -- My father didn't wear clogs, but if he had, it would have been deeply cool, though very unusual, in America. Was there some stigma attached to clog-wearing in the U.K.? My father DID wear a pith helmet because he was out in the sun all day. I was proud of that. My mother's polyester thrift shop dresses didn't excite the same admiration, but the older I get, the more impressed I am by how frugal she was -- and how much she enjoyed it.

Marcia -- Those jelly glasses had grape vines on them, didn't they? I'll bet there are baby boomers out there who are collecting them now! Wish we hadn't broken them all...

"We can't afford that" is something kids NEED to hear once in a while. It always amazes me to hear people saying that all they want is for their kids to be happy. That isn't all I want. I want my kids to be decent and kind, not spoiled and entitled -- and to learn how to cope with disappointment. Telling them when you can't afford things is one way to help them develop character.

Thanks to you, I'm feeling pleasantly spoiled: we almost never drank powdered milk!

Meg -- It's great to know I'm not the only one who managed to reach adulthood without using fish forks!

I used to dream of going to a good private school where you had to wear a uniform. I never considered the class issues -- that if your family wasn't rich you had to hide that. I always pictured all the girls being jolly and kind and helpful to each other, but I now know otherwise, especially after reading your comments and Carolie's.

Kit -- Our daughters actively preferred used clothing until they were in their early teens. They're slowly getting back into the thrift shop habit now, especially because our local ones are so good. I hope your kids enjoy jumble sales and charity shops for years to come!

Carole said...

Great post. I grew up without electricity and running water. Once a week on Saturday dad would make the two mile trip to a fresh water spring, fill our cream cans, and bring it home for our SAturday night baths and drinking water for the coming week. Then we took baths in our round tub, two at time from the oldest to the youngest. And then we used this water to wash our clothes. Good times.

I remember comments in school such as, "I don't care how poor people are, they can always be clean." I had no idea they were talking about me.

Mary Witzl said...

Carole -- If you ever decide to write a memoir, I will be first in line to buy it. I know I could just about manage to get along without electricity, but I can't even begin to imagine how you managed without running water. What an incredible story you could tell!