Hello and welcome to the November 2019 issue of Aphelion!
This editorial is going to be a trip down memory lane, so hang
on--I wax a tad philosophical, too. Be nice, I turned 62 today, LOL!
When I was a child in the 1960s, there was still visible evidence of the Great Depression.
stores still stood, left to rot and fall down, some with signs still in
their windows advertising a loaf of fresh-baked bread for twelve cents,
a dozen eggs for half that, ham and sausage and beef cut to order by
the butcher in the store. The County Poor House sitting up on a hill.
Abandoned houses, their yards growing to weeds. Churches with pews that
had served their congregations since the mid-1800s, still painstakingly
cleaned and polished by generation after generation of church members,
stained glass windows that were older than my grandparents. Houses with
drop-cords stapled to the ceilings for un-shaded electric light bulbs
to replace the oil lamps that still served, occasionally—during severe
weather. Coal piles and chopping blocks for fireplace or stove kindling
wood. Rusted-out hulks of Packards and Fords from a bygone age.
There were abandoned railroad lines, their rails and ties long
gone. Outhouses being more common than indoor plumbing. Chamber pots,
and old coffee tins being used as chamber pots. Overstuffed Victorian
furniture with hand-tatted lace doilies covering the rents and worn
spots on their arms. Whitewashed houses with clapboard sides. Some few
tar paper shacks still serving as family homes. Cast iron kitchen
stoves. Gardens, and canned goods from them, and beans from them strung
out on threads to dry for Winter meals, smoke houses for meats because
there were no refrigerators. Farmers plowing with mules, and harvesting
with scythes. Wringer washing machines unashamedly sitting on front
porches in between varnished rocking chairs and porch swings, to be
close to the outdoor water spigots.
quilts—assembled from swatches of cloth salvaged from generations of
clothing being re-purposed once the clothes became threadbare—saved as
memorials to family, children, and times gone by. Hunting and fishing
and farming to supplement what little store-bought food could be
afforded. Hand-made version of things no longer affordable, yet still
necessary. Rough-cut lumber shelves next to polished "fancy"
furniture. Coal-burning fireplaces--the only heat for the entire house,
except for those cast-iron kitchen stoves I mentioned. Some houses had
a wood and coal-burning furnace, set up as near the center of the house
as possible, with stovepipes thrust out though tin roofs or sometimes
out of a nearby window whose glass had been replaced by a thin sheet of
tin. Ways of life and values passed down from generation to generation.
I remember Sunday family dinners on Edwardian or Victorian-era
tables that would groan at the weight of food piled high for three, or
four, or more families to gather together. Fried chicken I knew was
running around the neighbor’s yard the day before, bass and brim we’d
caught out in the lake the day before, or rabbit & dumplings, with
squirrel and chipmunk pan-fried, pheasant, quail, dove, venison, pork
chops and ham, roast beef with all the trimmings, green beans and
potatoes cooked with a ham hock for seasoning, collards and spinach and
turnip greens, polk salad, corn, and okra picked after church that
morning. Field peas, pickled beets, pinto beans and cornbread, biscuits
fresh out of the oven, white gravy and brown, and red-eye, too.
because people had to learn to make do with what they had on hand. Left
over from a time of no jobs and no money, and no help beyond what your
neighbors and extended families could provide.
Trouble is, I see
those times returning, but families aren’t as close knit these days,
and neighbors seem more of a nuisance than a neighborhood. Pulling
together is a foreign concept, now. Our lives have become
self-centered. I hope it doesn’t take another era of depression and
shared poverty to return us to the kernel of what made those bad times
worth enduring. It’s not wealth or prosperity or faith or shared
adversity that we should remember from those times most. No, we had no
wealth, and prosperity was a thing of the future. Faith is a comfort,
and shared adversity is a common meeting ground, but neither can refine
our characters in the way that we presently need, not by themselves. I
believe that family is a big part of what we need, and community must
play a part. I have no solutions, no quick and easy answers. As a
civilization, we need that interconnectedness, that co-operation, that
unity in order to heal the isolation and mutual loneliness that’s so
I share these memories not because I think the old
days were better. They weren’t. Rather I share them because I am of an
age to where when I am gone, they will be lost. I don’t want a return
to yesterday. I want a better tomorrow. Learn from the past so that you
don’t have to re-live it. The road ahead of us splits. One fork takes
us back into darkness, the other can hold a brighter future—but we’ll
have to work towards that together. If we don’t, the darkness comes
back. I offer up memories of what I saw—a history of a life I lived. It
is up to each of you to decide your own courses. Darkness or
light? It is up to you.
I'll shut up and
let you get to reading the new stories, LOL!
Title: Close-up of the drama of star formation.
Photo Credit: ESO/Sergey Stepanenko