Most people who know anything about me recognize my love for bow ties. What most do not know is that I make many of mine, and I must say that I am pretty good at it, so good that I have made several as gifts and been told by the recipients that I should start selling them.
Those who have received bow ties from me like their size. They are no more than two and a quarter inches wide, rather than the “Pee Wee Herman” ties that are so corny. Also, I use unique cotton fabrics, for the most part, with unusual designs. One bow tie I made has images of bow ties in the fabric. I do everything in making my ties except for one critical aspect: I do not sew, and must rely on a seamstress to sew them. I could save quite a bit of money if I did the sewing myself. Thus, I have been given more and more thought to learning how to sew . I could take a class or I could rely on my dear wife, a former home economics teacher and an accomplished seamstress, to teach me.
Every time I think about pursuing sewing lessons, I reflect on a column I wrote some eight years ago about the popularity of making clothes in the past. I decided to resurrect some of the fond memories of sewing from back in the day.
How many of you have a sewing machine in your home today? While many of us had at least one in our homes, this appears to be a thing of the past. They once were as common as any piece of furniture. In my home, there were three sewing machines;. Both my mother and sister were big sewers. One of the machines was an industrial type that was a gift from my mother’s sister, who was a seamstress in a factory. There was also a Singer sewing machine, the type found in many households in the past.
The fancy border around the name “Singer” was etched in gold, red or green. Some sewing machine cabinet drawers had unique carvings. The treadle on the bottom of the machine powered it. A silver wheel had to be turned to move the needle. A spindle on top of the machine held the thread. The opening below the needle held a small metal spool called the bobbin. It was fun just watching my mother or sister operate the sewing machine. While it appeared simple to operate the treadle, I can tell you from failed experiences that it was quite difficult because of the coordination required. This is a major reason I have not tackled the operation of a sewing machine today. However, with today’s technology, I understand the process is much easier
My mother and sister had a small sewing machine in the kitchen, where they could sit and watch television or listen to the radio as they sewed. This is what I need for my bow tie projects. If I could learn to sew, any room in my home could become a sewing area.
Not everyone had a sewing machine. However, everyone who sewed had a pair of scissors. Serious sewers have special scissors for different jobs. I have special scissors for cutting the fabrics for my bow ties. For a child, there was nothing worse than using your mother’s “good” scissors for something other than cutting fabric. Even if you attempted to be discreet, your mother knew when you had “borrowed” them. One lesson we learned quite early in life was, “Do not mess with Mother’s scissors.”
I make my bow ties for pleasure, not out of necessity. While some people sewed for pleasure in the past, the economics of the times often meant sewing out of necessity. In those days, as the oldest child got new clothing, younger children in the family received hand-me-downs. Knowing how to sew was the only way to get children something new and fashionable. Adults also depended on sewing skills to look good. Back then, sewing part of the home economics curriculum in junior and senior high school. Some of you learned to sew by taking lessons at Sears or at fabric stores.
A number of people have told me they learned to sew by observation and practice. They watched family members sew, and through trial and error they learned the skill. Sewing, however, started long before anyone sat down at a sewing machine. Your mother might go through a McCall’s or a Simplicity catalogue to pick out a pattern. Next was the big decision of picking a fabric. Today, stores with a wide selection of fabrics are generally located in so-called garment districts. However, some sewing enthusiasts are fortunate like me and can find a good fabric store right in their own backyards. Such a store is quite close to where I live. Back in the day, there was at least one right in your own neighborhood. Downtown department stores had large selections of fabrics. When I went with my mother as she purchased fabric, I enjoyed watching the sales clerk pull it through a measuring device. The final step was to locate the color of the thread and other accessories most suited to complete the project. Then it was back home, where the real challenge was to transform the pattern and fabric into a finished garment.
Looking back, I wish I had incorporated sewing into my junior and senior high school curricula. When home economics was offered as an elective, I selected the cooking aspect. Still, I enjoyed watching my mother lay out her fabric, secure the pattern to it with pins and then cut it, following the outline of the pattern. I recall the entire process, by hand or machine, as very tedious. The entire process generally lasted weeks. I recall walking by a dress or suit hanging on a dress form and wondering when it would be ready to wear. The effort that went into completing a garment, especially making buttonholes, resulted in a great deal of pride in the sewer. Obviously, I paid some attention to this process as I carry out many of these steps in my bow-tie sewing. From selecting fabrics to making my own patterns I have learned much from observation. I have even managed to squeeze fabric glue into my bow-tie-making projects.
Back in the day, many people did all of their sewing by hand.This is truly a lost art. Whether your sewing project was completed by hand or a sewing machine, some things were always present. Every serious sewer had a sewing box. Spools of thread of all sizes, colors and weight could be found there.Needles of all sizes, pincushions and thimbles were also present. While a yardstick had to be close by, a measuring tape was also part of the inventory. Yo also just had to have a needle threader. The older one became, the greater the need for this device. I know this to be a fact, as I must use a needle threader. While not in the sewing box, t a small oil can had to readily available, as sewing machines had to be regularly oiled. As for buttons, seasoned sewers had button boxes.
Sewing is not dead, but it is clearly dying. Sewing projects were routinely performed in dry cleaners; this service is slowly disappearing. Good tailors are almost nonexistent. There are no more signs advertising, “Seamstress for hire.” Does anyone know of a good and reliable invisible weaver? In the entire Delaware Valley, I know of but two, and choose to send major projects to New York City.
For many of us, the cabinets that held sewing machines proudly used by our grandmothers, mothers and sisters have been converted to tables or holders of plants. Fond memories prevent them from being discarded. Any thought of using these machines for sewing is left to those days when sewing was necessary but yet full of fun; those days that have been left back in the day.
It has been more than two months , but my mind still continues to go back to an event on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, that brought back fond memories of something I did on many occasions as a young adult but had not done in a number of years. As the old folk used to say, “Quiet as it is kept,” it is something many of you probably have not done in years.
You probably have not done it with the vim and vigor you once did, as time has a way of slowing down the body. If you were attending the same event as I back in December, then perhaps it left you with similar thoughts. You see, I gathered with fraternity brothers, friends and strangers to party together at an old-fashioned cabaret sponsored by my fraternity, the Philadelphia Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc. As I observed what was going on around me that evening, my thoughts turned to cabarets that many of us enjoyed immensely, back in the day.
The cabaret of Dec. 28 was held at the Lulu Temple in Ambler. Just the location made it clear that it was different than cabarets of the past. The location was certainly different from those cabarets we attended back in the day. For me, the thought of a cabaret went hand in hand with the Imperial Ballroom, on 60th Street near Walnut Street. A cabaret at any other location in the Philadelphia area could not top this ballroom. There was something about its atmosphere. The Lulu Temple was not the Imperial Ballroom. Nor was it the Adelphi Ballroom, nor the Orchid Ballroom, nor the Olympia Ballroom, all located in West Philadelphia. You might recall other West Philadelphia halls such as the Republican Club, the Elks Home and the Fairview Golf Club, where you attended cabarets. The last back-in-the-day-type cabaret I attended in the Philadelphia area was many years ago at the Wynne Ballroom in Wynnefield. However, if you grew up below 52nd Street, in the famous “Bottom,” you attended cabarets at the George T. Cornish Post and the Cornucopia.
There were smaller halls that were more suited for dances, yet cabarets were held at these locations. How many of you were around when smaller cabarets were held in the second-floor halls at Broad and Girard and Broad and Erie? I cannot recall their names, perhaps you can’ However, I am sure you remember Times’ Plaza and the Starlight Ballroom that had Broad Street locations. What about Barber’s Hall, Venango Garden, Reynolds Hall, formerly known as Chris Perry Elks Lodge, Wagner Ballroom and Tropical Gardens, in the basement of Reynolds Hall. Do you recall attending cabarets at the Carman, which originally opened as an elegant movie theater that many remember as a skating rink, that stood until 1978 at Germantown and Allegheny avenues? While you may associate the Blue Horizon in North Philadelphia, with boxing matches, this facility also held cabarets and dances. Other popular ballrooms and halls that you or your friends may have patronized for cabarets were Elite’s Ballroom, Fleisher Hall and O.V. Catto Club all in South Philadelphia. Then there were Town Hall, Baslov Akim Belzer and Tymes Auditorium in Center City. Chel Ron Ball Room on Cheltenham Avenue was another place where many attended cabarets. I decided to point out these facilities, even though discussed in previous columns, to bring a smile to your face. After all, these are some of the places where many of you shared your teenage and young adult years, back in the day.
The Kappa cabaret of last year mirrored cabarets of the past in many respects. I got a kick out of watching cabaret-goers, older folk in particular, lug their food and beverages into Lulu Temple. Some had borrowed small carts as what they brought from home was much more than they could physically carry from their automobiles. Plates of fried chicken, or “yard bird,” and “tatoe salad”, as it is called by back-in-the-day brothers and sisters were visible. Numerous bottles of alcoholic beverages were observed. However, I did not see bottles of the “hard stuff” prevalent at cabarets in the past — Old Grand Dad, I.W. Harper or Old Crow. Even the drinks for the more sophisticated people were not to be seen. Back in the day, cabarets had bottles and bottles of Gordon’s gin or Smirnoff vodka, Bacardi rum or Canadian Club. I did not see bottles of any of the wines at this cabaret that we could only afford back then such — Thunderbird, Boone’s Farm, Mad Dog, 20-20, Tiger Rose or Gypsy Rose. Nor did I see participants becoming “tore up,” which is typically the result of drinking these wines or hard liquor. I did not see people who were a bit sweaty and somewhat smelly; this was noticeable at cabarets back in the day, even in the winter. The reason is quite simple; people did not party until they dropped as they did at cabarets back in the day.
Most of the old-school folk in attendance could not sit still as music from the past was blasted by a disk jockey. Even those who had not danced certain dances for years found it easy to quickly pick up the “cha-cha,” “stroll,” “horse,” “twist,” “mashed potato” and the “jerk.”, I did not see anyone with the energy or the courage to do a dance from the past that everyone did back then. The average age of these cabaret-goers meant it was no joke to try to do “the slop.” How many couples were dancing the “slow grind”?
The thought of leaving and stopping at a “short-stay motel” or even snuggling up in an automobile after leaving was just a figment of one’s imagination. For most of those who danced this intimate dance, it was just a matter of going home, getting in bed and going to sleep. These cabaret-goers had minds and hearts that said one thing, but bodies that said something significantly different. Perhaps the most popular dance was “the bop,” which has remained popular over the years. In recent years I have observed people, young people in particular, trying unsuccessfully to dance the” bop”. If you can smoothly do the “bop”, you are clearly from, back in the day.
While the Lulu Temple was a nice venue, you could not have been from back in the day and not have attended cabarets at places like the Crystal Ballroom in the Broadwood Hotel (later the Philadelphia Hotel) at Broad and Wood streets. The most elegant cabarets and dances were held in the Sheraton Hotel at 17th and J.F.K.Boulevard.
While you got dressed up for all cabarets, you got “dressed to kill” when you went downtown to these ballrooms. Men wore suits and ties, women wore dresses. This was not the case at last year’s cabaret. I wore a suit and tie; few other males did. For the most part, men and women were dressed casually. They even wore jeans. Those of us who are “old-school” cabaret participants recall that we got “chocked up” to attend cabarets. Men wore Edwardian and Nehru suits. Some sported the Ivy League look. There were also “iridescent”, mohair, silk and wool, Italian knit, sharkskin and “Continental” suits. Suede shoes, cordovans, alligator or lizard shoes, white or brown bucks, desert boots and high-top comfort shoes were the footwear of choice. Women were decked out in fishtail dresses, straight, long dresses or tight skirts, with nylon stockings with seams or fishnet stockings. They even wore hats and gloves, something not even seen in church today. I did see several men wearing big hats at the cabaret on Dec. 28.
If you found yourself sitting around doing little or nothing last Saturday evening, just think about what fun you could have had if you were at a fun-filled cabaret with all of the frills; the type of cabaret many of us experienced and looked forward to, back in the day.
I have been writing about snow and frigid temperatures for too many weeks. It started before the official start of winter. Bundling up in an attempt to stay warm in this has depressed me. The Farmer’s Almanac predictions are bearing fruit.
This winter is unlike any we have experienced in recent years. Some say it is climate change. But a friend recently pointed out something white folk have been saying for more than 200 years and that you probably have heard your parents: “It will be a cold day in hell before a Black man becomes president.”
While most of us feel good about our Black president, I do not believe any of us enjoy these conditions. But, I cannot help but reflect on fond memories of playing in the snow, back in the day.
As children we looked forward to the snow. It often meant school closing, just as it does today. It also meant an opportunity to go outside and play in the snow. As one who has held onto many childhood possessions, I regret not keeping my sled as a conversation piece to share my fun-filled moments with family and friends. Many of you had a favorite hill. I had one and it almost turned into tragedy. Mine was a long driveway at a nursing home. As I was sledding down it one day, my cousin, stationed in the street to let me know when an automobile was coming, failed to do so. My sled went directly under the automobile, but I had rolled off upon seeing the automobile.
You probably had the same type of sled I had — a “flexible flyer” that had wooden slats and metal runners. The handle, a wooden crosspiece, helped tor steer the sled. Most of these sleds had a rope that went through holes on the steering bar. Because of the sled’s flexibility, riders could sit upright. Most of us, however, descended a hill lying feet first or head first. You pushed on the steering apparatus with your hands or your feet. This type of sled operated best on hard-packed or icy snow. The runners would sink into soft snow, preventing the sled from moving. If you wanted to go real fast, you either ran up to the sled while it was on the ground and jumped on or ran holding it and flopped onto the snow. This provided the optimum way to reach a high level of speed. If you did not have a sled, there were alternatives. Some used trays, cardboard, folded blankets or sheets, trashbags, laundry baskets or trashcan lids of trash to sled downhill.
Another way to have fun in the snow was engaging in a snow ball fight. Some were planned ,others impromptu. The challenge of a snowball fight was inevitable in our neighborhoods of the past. A snowball fight. Well, it is a game in which snow is packed into balls that are thrown at others . It was never seen as a violent game; just a game of fun where one youngster got the better of another. Some snowball fights were between two groups of youngsters. Then again, some of you hid behind buildings and threw snowballs at automobiles going by. I am reminded of a time when I did something bad in elementary school. When the teacher left the room, I cracked open the window, scooped up some snow, made a snowball and threw it at some kids in the front of the room. Fortunately, no one told on me.
Some of you may have made snow forts from where you carried out your snowball fights. You built snow walls for a half-circle fort. You may have built other structures such as houses, stores, schools and churches that became a community.
What did you do when the ground was covered with snow and there was no playing on sleds and no snowball fights? You built a snowman! You shaped a small ball of snow in your hand and rolled it until it became large enough for a base.You then rolled additional balls to make the midsection and the head. Everyone used coal, rocks, or other dark items to make the eyes; a stick for the mouth; and, something appropriate for the nose. Large sticks were pushed through the upper section of the snowman for his arms. Old gloves were then placed on the end of the sticks. Of course, every snowmen had to have a hat as well as a scarf.
While it was the children who typically played in and enjoyed the snow, some adults participated with them, not playing in the snow, but playing with it. Did any of you make snow ice cream? If not, with the next snowfall, try it, as it was a childhood favorite. You must start with clean snow. A friend told me that her mother never made snow ice cream from the first snowfall; she waited for subsequent ones ,as the snow was clean. It is fairly simple! Here is one approach: Mix one cup of milk, one cup of sugar and one half-teaspoon of vanilla and then scoop up freshly fallen snow to add to those ingredients and mix together. This is truly a nostalgic treat from back in the day.
Understand that I am not suggesting that young people today do not play in the snow. I do not see it the same way that I played in the snow during my childhood. Television and the digital world have done much to change things. One thing is for certain; our generation has little to do in or with the snow. Like you, I am not looking forward to any more snow, although I suspect that since this is February, there is more to come. So, at the next snowfall, do not become depressed as many of us have been over the last several weeks due to our inability to get out and get around. Simply take advantage of the snow, if it is no more than making a snow angel. But go a step further and resurrect some of your fond memories and engage in many of those snow-related fun things, provided your health and physical condition permit, just as you used to do as playful little boys and girls, back in the day.
So what were you doing two Sundays ago (Feb. 2) — as well as on a Sunday some 47 years ago? In fact, you may have been engaging in this activity each year since Jan. 15, 1967. Hint! Hint! It is all about that brown, oblong ball that can only be used to play the game of football. You were likely viewing some portion of the Super Bowl.
But, as you watched the Seattle Seahawks thump the Denver Broncos, while wishing that your favorite team was a participant, did you give any thought to how this year’s Super Bowl compared with Super Bowl Sundays “back in the day?”
Like many Super Bowl-watchers, you may have gone into your family room, recreation room or downstairs into your home entertainment center to view the big event. You may have watched it on your oversized, flat-screen, color television with an enhanced super sound, and from the ease and comfort of your Eames chair, Barcalounger or other favorite lounge chair. But it was not this way, back in the day.
For many of us, viewing the Super Bowl meant gathering around the one black-and-white television set that was in the living room; maybe it was in the kitchen or dining room. Very few of us found ourselves in a separate room utilized solely for watching television. The family’s only television was often not much more than 16 inches.
If you recall, the reception was not great, and you had to constantly adjust the television’s “rabbit ears” in an attempt to obtain better clarity in the picture. The food and refreshments I recall enjoying while watching the Super Bowl back in 1967 consisted of potato chips and a soft drink.
The elaborate meal that many of us enjoyed during this year’s Super Bowl was not even on the radar screen. Because the Super Bowl was played much earlier in the day, a meal that was equivalent to a Sunday dinner became a part of one’s Super Bowl television watching activity.
Now, please do not ask about large numbers of people coming together in what is a Super Bowl party today. Well, there were no Super Bowl parties that I know of or that any of my associates can recall, in connection with the early Super Bowls. Two weeks ago, however, I was invited to several Super Bowl parties at homes of friends. I did not take any of them up on their invitations, as I prefer to watch the game in a quiet environment without a lot of people engaging in “chit chat” unrelated to the Super Bowl; not paying much attention to the game and just making a great deal of noise.
I know that some of you went out to restaurants that were rented solely for a Super Bowl party; and, from what some of the participants of one of these parties told me, they really partied. These Super Bowl parties, whether in homes or restaurants, are recent creations and did not exist, back in the day.
What two teams were in the 1967 Super Bowl or what was known in some circles as the Supergame or the AFL-NFL World Championship Game? I know that this is difficult; most of us cannot recall the two teams that played in last year’s Super Bowl game.
Before the two leagues merged into the NFL, one of the participating teams for the Super Bowl came from the AFL and the other team came from the NFL. The game was played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in L.A. Like this year’s Super Bowl, it too was played outdoors. The 1967 game was not a sell-out and remains as the only Super Bowl that was not.
You may have heard an official attendance of 82,529 at MetLife Stadium — with an additional 111.5 million home viewers for this year’s Super Bowl on Fox-TV. Back in 1967, the Super Bowl was televised by two different networks, NBC and ABC.
The Green Bay Packers won over the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 35 to 10 in that game, making the win a rout, just as was this year’s 43 to 8 victory by the Seahawks over the Broncos.
Some familiar names from this year’s Super Bowl include Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno and Eric Decker for the Bronocos or Marshawn Lynch, Michael Robinson, Golden Tate, and the so-called thug that graduated from Stanford University, Richard Sherman, for the Broncos.
While you may not recall any of the players from the Super Bowl of 1967 “off the top of your head,” they include Hall of Fame players Len Dawson, Emmitt Thomas; Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson for the Chiefs; and Bart Starr, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis, Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung who did not play due to an injury but did suit up for the game, for the Packers.
Before the Seahawk’s Russell Wilson, only one other Black played quarterback in the Super Bowl back in the day. That player was Doug Williams, who attended Grambling State University and played for the Washington Redskins in the 1988 Super Bowl.
The underdog New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts, becoming the first Super Bowl victory for the AFL. Whenever Super Bowl games are discussed, this game is generally on the lips of most Super Bowl aficionados.
I suspect that a number of you have some memory of the third championship game between the AFL and NFL that was officially named the Super Bowl. The flamboyant Joe “Broadway” Namath who appeared at the Miami Touchdown Club days before the game and boasted about a victory in this game.
So do you remember any of the half-time commercials during the first Super Bowl or any of the early Super Bowls? The $4 million for a 30-second commercial in this past Super Bowl is a far cry from the $55,000 paid for a 30-second commercial for the first Super Bowl. Unlike recent Super Bowls, there were not large numbers of people watching television just to see the commercials. There were ads from Pepsi, Volkswagen micro bus and Polaroid swinger. One commercial that premiered in 1979 but reached an iconic state during Super Bowl XIV in 1980 featured Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro defensive lineman “Mean Joe” Green tossing a young boy his game jersey in return for the boy’s Coca-Cola. This is one of my favorite Super Bowl commercials from back in the day.
The halftime entertainment of two weeks ago is still being discussed by many of those that watched the Super Bowl. This halftime event, like half-time entertainment in many Super Bowls was outstanding and in many instances, memorable. Whether it was Janet Jackson, Beyoncé or this year’s Bruno Mars and Red Hot Chili Peppers, I doubt if any of you will compare the halftime entertainment of the first Super Bowl with the halftime entertainment of today or recent years. The first Super Bowl halftime show featured American trumpeter Al Hirt. For Black Americans, however, one aspect of this 1967 halftime ceremony that caught their attention and generated discussions for weeks after the game, was the appearance of the marching band of Grambling State University.
Given the growth of the Super Bowl over the years, there is little doubt that it will be even bigger in 2015. While I cannot speak for you, there is one thing for certain that relates to my interest in Super Bowls of the future. In spite of the increased fanfare surrounding the event, I will not do as many of my friends and colleagues do by making this event a festive affair. Instead, I shall sit home in my easy chair and “take in” the Super Bowl in a quiet yet fun-filled three hours, just the way I used to do, back in the day.
When I sat down to write today’s column, my mind was focused on a particular subject, but events of the past several days took me in another direction. You may recall that in that column, I went back in time to how we coped with cold weather; not only trips outside of the home, but also cold temperatures inside of our homes. The words of my mother caused me to change my topic; words whose roots are found in many verses in the Bible; words that you have encountered on many occasions: “You will reap what you sow.” So there I was only days after my column of last week appeared in our newspaper, at home in the dark, no heat and no power. After a day without power during which time my family and I struggled to survive, my wife said to me, “This is truly an experience from back in the day.”
I am not suggesting that my writing of last week’s column had anything to do with what I am currently experiencing. Things just happen! You may recall that in last week’s column I warned everyone else about snowy and frigid weather; perhaps I should have warned myself.
I must say that it is rather ironic that last week, I looked at ways we survived in the cold in the past and this week I am being confronted with ways I can survive, if but on a temporary basis. By the news reports, I know a number of you, like me, had no power. So, did you try to dig up some things people did in the past to survive the frigid temperatures in your home today? Well, I tried, but I must admit, with limited success.
Just arriving home from the office on Wednesday evening created unwelcome challenges. There was no electricity, thus there were no lights. I saw immediately that my wife had secured all of the flashlights that enabled us to maneuver our way around our home. In the kitchen, in addition to the flashlights, my wife had resurrected an old standby from the past. Several candles on one of the kitchen counters provided a fair amount of light for this room only. Fortunately, our gas stove’s burners enabled some light cooking. So I ate dinner by candlelight and my wife, son and grandson played a game of Monopoly to pass the time, hoping that the power would soon return. As much as I dislike the use of candles because of safety concerns, they were a welcome sight, given the circumstances.
As the absence of power was a major issue throughout Montgomery County, I wondered how many other families had access to candles, or perhaps lanterns, things that were basic to our survival today just as they enabled many of our grandparents, parents, neighbors and friends to survive, back in the day. I wondered how many of my friends were surviving in homes where electricity was the source of all power and services.
Not having power for lights was one thing, but not having power for heat was far worse. My home uses gas for heat and hot water. However, the lack of electricity, which is required to aid in operating my gas furnace, made conditions horrific. So, why did I not borrow a back-in-the-day practice — using the kitchen oven? You should know that much of today’s sophisticated equipment depends on technology. Those of you who have modern gas stoves know, as I learned during this experience, that the ability to light one’s oven today requires electricity. While the stove’s burners easily operate, you can push the button to operate your oven all you like and nothing will happen, as an electrical current is required to ignite the flame. Of course, lighting the oven with a match is not out of the question, but it is something with which I am not very comfortable. Thus, getting heat from one’s kitchen oven today is not that popular. It was quite common, although not completely safe, back in the day.
As I sat in my cold home, having difficulty obtaining hotel accommodations due to the widespread outages in thousands of homes in the area, I recognized I would not be going through all this if it was back in the day. While it may have been dark back then because of not having electricity, it would not have been cold. Just go back to last week’s column where I described how many homes were kept warm. I did not think I would ever miss it, but I must say that I would have given anything for a coal-burning furnace. Forget about the hard work associated with a coal-burning furnace that I described last week. As I shivered getting in and out of bed, my mind went back to those large vents, in particular in those small row homes that many of us occupied, that had such furnaces. What I would not have given to see a coal truck outside of my home, running its coal chute down, through the basement window into the coal bin! Shoveling the coal into the furnace; lighting the fire; stroking the coal; banking the furnace at night, sifting the coal to go into the ashtray and placing the ashes into containers to go into the trash, such hard work would have been desired significantly more than being in the cold. On several occasions, while pondering my predicament, I thought about the pot-bellied stove in my basement, a gift of many years ago from my father-in-law that I have for nostalgic reasons. Why could it not have been wood or oil inside the stove instead of a red lamp to simulate the appearance of fire? I know it would have burned dirty, but at least I would have been warm.
I am thankful I did not replace all my landline phones with cordless telephones. Cordless telephones with no electricity meant no ability to communicate. As for your mobile telephone, which is a “must” for many of us today, it is as useless as your cordless telephone unless it is charged. Unlike some of my neighbors, I did not have to go out to a store to use its electricity to charge my mobile telephone. I did, however, keep it fully charged by using my automobile charger. Clearly, cordless or mobile telephones were not issues in the past. Hopefully, the one thing you recognized before disposing of the old telephones in your home is the need to have at least one handy that plugged directly into the wall telephone jack. If nothing else, this is one thing that you should have borrowed from back in the day.
I failed to borrow some things from the past that would have been useful in preparing to leave home for the office for the past several days. I always make certain my trousers have a crisp crease; thus, they are placed into a home pressing machine each night. With no electricity; no use of the presser! I thought about some of our practices of the past, but I did not believe that the use of a flat iron that was heated on top of a stove would be very effective. I could have placed it on top of one of the burners on my stove. I was afraid, however, that I would not have had a crease in my trousers but rather a hole.
Another back-in-the-day practice I considered, given the lack of power in my home, was quickly abandoned. I made reference to this in my column last week. I did have hot water, as my hot-water heater operates by gas.You imagine my reaction after coming out of a warm shower into a cold bedroom to dry off and get dressed. I must admit that I looked at my bed on several occasions and debated climbing under the covers to get dressed. I knew I would have been warm, but this would have resulted in going to the office wearing a wrinkled outfit. At least I would have been warm, just as was the case with many of us getting dressed in a cold environment back in the day.
Over the years that I have written this column, some readers have told me they had some doubt with regard to many of the things I write about. They say some are things that someone probably told me they did in the past. Without debating this issue, one thing is certain: What I have shared with you in this column today are without a doubt things I have experienced; things I personally experienced during the past several days, and not things that I have only heard about from back in the day.