Older Members, Do You Remember?


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  1. #1
    Member hvysmker's Avatar
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    Older Members, Do You Remember?

    I remember getting up in the middle of a cold night to run outside to crap into a hole in the ground, the only warmth coming from glowing embers the spiders lit to keep warm. I remember snatching those same spiders and carrying them into my house to catch flies and mosquitoes. It also gave me peace of mind, since they couldn't burn down the crapper.

    I remember the iceman coming, carrying blocks of ice with his large tongs. He would put it right in our old icebox. We couldn’t afford one of the new electric refrigerators. In hot weather, we kids would use an icepick to chop off small pieces to suck on. A few years ago, I couldn’t find an icepick anywhere.

    Back when I went to grade school, all us boys routinely carried a few items in our pockets. They were a pocket knife for status, short switchblades were the best; a cigarette lighter, preferably a Zippo; a windup pocket watch – most trousers still had built in watch pockets to carry them in: and a few loose marbles to play with at recess. At home, girls played with dolls but no boy would be caught dead owning one. Later, GI Joe dolls ruined that image.

    We boys usually owned a Red Ryder BB gun at around twelve years old, and graduated to an air rifle pellet gun or even a .22cal rifle a few years later. One hell of a lot of windows were shattered, though few kids were injured. In a small town, most parents had also grown up with guns around the house and trained us in firearm safety. Bow and Arrow setups were also popular with bails of hay and targets found in many a back yard.

    Speaking of watches, my first was the aforementioned round windup pocket watch, called a “Dollar Watch.” At the time, all watches were spring wound. Later, watches were produced that worked by wrist action winding the spring. Later still, battery-operated watches became popular, also bringing on the digital age.

    During my first years in grade school, our desks included built-in holes that held ink bottles. Real goose feathers were issued to write with, later replaced by sharpened plastic, which lasted longer. Older classes used fountain pens containing ink reservoirs. Those were harder to handle without leaking ink through shirt pockets. When ballpoint pens were first invented, my school banned them from use by students because the first ones leaked more than the fountain pens. Later, that problem was solved. At that time, it was common to find mechanical pencils and both fountain and ballpoint pens sold as matched sets.

    I remember before paper towels or even disposable diapers. You wiped up spills with rags, until the new "rewashable" paper towels came out. They resembled later paper ones, but could be washed several times before tearing apart. My mother never had the convenience of throwing cloth diapers away but there was a service that came to the house to collect the dirty diapers and leave clean ones. Sometimes she could afford the service, when she was working two jobs.

    I remember margarine that you had to mix yourself. It came in a plastic bag with a little capsule of dye in it. You broke the capsule with your thumb and index finger, then had to knead and knead it with both hands to mix the yellow dye throughout the bag. I also remember when lunchmeat came in pounds, not ten ounces in pound-sized packets. Ah, the wonders of plastic packaging.

    I remember when we had party lines on our telephones. All had separate rings, ours was three. Nosy neighbors would listen in. You could hear a click when they picked up and dropped their receivers.

    I remember the beginning of the “Cold War” when we were frightened of the Russians dropping an atomic bomb on us. It wasn’t until later that they became the USSR. My uncle had his swimming pool behind the house converted into a homemade bomb shelter, complete with guns and sandbagged roof. He would be ready to breathe radioactive air and die a little later than the rest of us. It took all his money to build. He had guns in it to keep his neighbors out, but was afraid of firearms. The shelter itself put him way in debt, meaning no food if he were attacked. I don't know. Maybe he figured on shooting and eating the neighbors?

    I remember Joseph McCarthy and his tirades against Communists. I also remember sitting down to meals with and talking to communists in Europe and the Far East. Funny, but they didn’t seem so imposing while passing the chicken. What I don’t remember are too many Germans, well actually only one, who admitted to being a Nazi during WWII. I remember my father coming back from the war. He and some buddies stepped off the train to the high school band and thrown confetti. Also myself returning from my own war, alone and labelled a baby killer.

    I remember sitting in the hallway of my grade school while holding my head between my legs. It was practice for if we received a nuclear attack in Ohio. Practice for what? Why, practice for kissing our asses goodbye. I remember, in that same school, how they were fixing the ceilings. Stacks of old and boxes of new sheet asbestos were sitting in the hallways under exposed ceilings. It was sometimes hard to breath when us kids threw it at each other in play.

    I remember when I trusted the Government. Everyone did after WWII. I remember John Wayne in all his war movies, and also when I found out he had avoided serving in real life. He was still my hero until halfway through my second year in Vietnam. That was when I had a night off and got drunk alone in my little hut in the 100F degree night. That was the night I had what I later learned to term a “Significant Emotional Event” where I sat drinking and realigning all my values. It was amazing how, with careful thought, ideals and truisms I had learned so far in my young life fell by the wayside. That included blind patriotism and trust in our government. Including:

    I remember the time a B-52 crashed on Okinawa, now part of Japan. It happened after takeoff right off the end of the runway and there were people running around in radiation suits and Geiger counters. The area was evacuated and blocked from the public but, being an MP sergeant driving a police car, I was allowed inside. We weren’t supposed to have nuclear weapons there at the time. Nor were we supposed to have the nerve gas my army unit drove to the local seaport at Naha to send to Johnsons Island in Micronesia. At the time, we were assuring the US public we didn't even own any of the stuff. Later, after the news media found out, it became common knowledge.

    I remember CIA employees, like the one in Vietnam that tried to sell me a ball of raw opium. He needed drinking money and took me to a C-123, getting the ball out of only one wooden crate of a plane load of them. They were flying it to the Philippines. It was an Air America plane. I often wondered how much of it came back to be sold to other GIs n-country. Nobody believed me for years until Mel Gibson starred in a movie on that exact subject.

    I recall one soldier I worked with in Vietnam that had been there for five or six years, non-stop. He was addicted to heroin and kept reenlisting for his own vacancy because he couldn't afford the drug in the US. He was later killed by a VC rocket.

    As a child, I remember walking down the back streets in my home town in the middle of the night with no fears of being robbed or mugged. Most small cities were that way at the time. We tend to forget. I recall reading that Turkey was at the top of the list for incarcerating its citizens -- now the US holds that distinction.

    I remember bad things as well, such as the discrimination down south. Like when I was a small child and saw such things as separate drinking fountains and a whole long line of restrooms, some black, some white. I don’t remember riding a bus or anything like that. We were on vacation from Ohio and had a car.

    I remember being much poorer than now, not that I’ve ever been wealthy. I remember, while a drinking alcoholic, waking up in the damnedest places such as alleys and doorways, or the time I woke up in a rice paddy fertilized with human shit. I was fully dressed except for my shoes sitting by my head with my wallet and watch in them, my head out of water of course. Well, it was a hot night. I remember preferring the atmosphere in the dingiest dirtiest bars I could find, as well as enjoying an occasional bar fight. Of course, back then guns or knives weren’t as prevalent during such altercations.

    I recall the years when I thought I must be crazy since my outlook on life was vastly different than what I read in the newspapers or what I heard at work. Then came personal computers and the Internet, and I learned millions thought as I did -- not necessary the same as official propaganda. Back then, there was both a sense of “Social” correctness AND one of “Political” correctness. The two were not always the same. These days, politics and the news media determine social mores, ostracizing we few who dare to carry deviant points of view.

    I remember saving one buddy’s life while in Japan. He went to sleep with a cigarette. I happened to walk by and saw a wisp of smoke coming from under the door. Paranoid, he had stuffed rags against the inside of the door. I broke the door in, smoke from a burning mattress so thick I couldn’t see the bunk and, pulling him outside, I gave him mouth to mouth and saved his life. I also remember not even being thanked. But the guy did borrow money off me later and left without repaying it. Ain’t life sweet? To get back at him maybe, I also remember shooting into treelines in Vietnam, trying to take lives. I'll never know if I succeeded, but not for want of trying. I only have one confirmed kill over there … a teenage girl.

    I remember when computers were huge devices which few people had ever seen in person. As a lowly “operator” I was considered a genius for having the privilege of babysitting the godlike structures. Now, home PCs are thousands of times more powerful than those early beasties.

    I remember life during the short time when we didn't live in fear. The time between the fall of the Soviets and the rise of Georgie Bush Jr. The time before one horrible day in New York City would eventually change the life of most people on this Earth. When we still believed in an anachronism called "diplomacy." Back then, we didn't kill people thousands of miles away while sitting at a video game station in Nevada, later stopping at a McDs on the way home and having a good night's sleep.

    I remember being taught that the American constitution (small "c"?) was more than an antiquated piece of paper that constantly needed to be reinterpreted and updated. Technology and world events are subject to change, but NOT SO the opinions of the founding fathers.

    I remember such things. Do you?
    Hvysmker – Charlie

  2. #2
    Meh. People haven't changed. I grew up in a small town in the '60s and '70s, and there were plenty of assholes around back then as there have always been.

    There were American Nazis who held huge rallies in support of Hitler during WWII. There was the John Birch Society, KKK, the McCarthy era, Watergate, sending people off to die in war so the president wouldn't be the first American to lose a war, even though most people agreed the war was unwinnable. There was the Kent State massacre, the overthrowing of democratically elected left-wing foreign governments around the world and installing right-wing dictators who were sympathetic to the wants and needs of American corporations. We cause refugee crises and then complain about immigrants.

    We're living in dark times right now, and it's only going to get darker. But I'm not sure it's that much worse than other bleak times in American history. Time will tell.

  3. #3
    Member hvysmker's Avatar
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    Amen, Irwin. I was in the US Army, stationed in Chinon, France in 1964. France and the US were at odds about them deciding to develop their own military aircraft, rather than buying from us. French news media and politicians wanted our troops out of their country. Some stores and bars didn't want to serve us. taxis wouldn't pick us up. We were prejudiced against. Not tourists, of course. Oh, and a black friend married a white French girl and was afraid to take her home with him to Mississippi. Afraid that his relatives would kill her. That was in the mid sixties.

  4. #4
    I just read your first post to my husband and we both enjoyed it so thanks, Charlie.

    What does embers lit by spiders mean?

  5. #5
    Member hvysmker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ma'am View Post
    I just read your first post to my husband and we both enjoyed it so thanks, Charlie.

    What does embers lit by spiders mean?
    Just a joke about using the shack in cold weather.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by hvysmker View Post
    Just a joke about using the shack in cold weather.
    Ah, okay. Sorry, I'm dumb. :p

  7. #7
    I remember Gunter Steinkopf, the first German student assistant at my father's school after the war. Edmonton had been bombed quite heavily during the war and the school could find no one willing to put him up so he came and lived with us for a year. He had been recruited into the Luftwaffe age fourteen and captured on an antiaircraft gun during the battle of the bulge. He learned his English first in an American 'baby camp' in Belgium, and suffered poor health from the starvation diet. There was not much spare for German POW's.

    I remember holidays camping, our tents were army surplus from the war, my brother and I had a little two man tent that buttoned together down the ridge so two men could carry half each.

    I remember trolleybuses, and bus tickets that came on a wooden clip board, the bus conductor used to clip a hole in them when they were sold. Smoking was allowed upstairs on the busses, they would repaint the upstairs about three times as often as the rest of the bus. The smell of a crowded London bus on a wet night was memorable. My brother and I would have a bath together on a Saturday night, nobody had a shower, they were something we heard about from visiting Australians.

    I remember getting a food parcel from cousins in America, it had peanut butter like we had never tasted before, and an Angle food cake that my mother couldn't make properly because we didn't have electric mixers like the Americans. I remember being taken for a meal in the American embassy and getting sweet corn for the first time.

    I remember getting a pennyworth of chips or a halfpenny worth of 'scraps' at the fish and chip shop. Scraps were all the odd bits of batter and small chips, sometimes you got a small bit of fish in them.

    I remember looking for 'Bun' pennies from the 'Old Queen'. On the early Victorian pennies the Queen had her hair in a bun. Early silver coins were made from real silver, I remember grown ups complaining the new cupro-nickle ones were worthless.

    I remember when we first got bikes seeing how far we could cycle up the A10 and finding a stone halfway up a very steep hill that said it was where William Wilberforce rested and decided to devote the rest of his life to the abolition of slavery, that was where we turned around.

    I remember windscreen wipers that were driven by a little motor at the top of the windscreen on the passenger side and had to be started by twisting a little knob.

    I remember melting down broken lead toys to make a keel for a sail boat we had built, and playing with liquid mercury gathered from a broken thermometer, it's amazing we survived

    I remember getting seven pounds a week at my first job in the library when my friends who were apprenticed only got four.
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  8. #8
    I remember Fudge Town cookies: flower shaped chocolate sandwich cookies filled with fudge flavored creme.

    See? They're so bygone my computer is telling me "Fudge Town" is a mistake.


    I remember when we didn't live in such an alarmist culture. Back when VCR's first came out, I was so enthralled by the fact that I could actually record what was on TV that I taped everything. Decades later, upon reviewing some of those tapes, I came across a network newscast which was aired after a huge blizzard had dumped eighteen inches of snow on New York. The had married a collage of various "digging out from the blizzard" scenarios with a recording of the Beatles' "Good Day Sunshine".

    Now, when we get a huge storm, the screen is filled with flashing red warnings and we are told to "Stock up on food, hunker down, and hope for the best", as if the approaching storm is some kind of Russian weather bomb.

  9. #9
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    I'm an eighties kid from Ireland so I don't remember a lot of the things you speak about. I'm fortunate that I never had to experience the ravages of war. I had an easy life by comparison and to my own detriment I kind of cruise through life as it passes me by ever quicker.

    While I might not have the same opinions or outlook as you I would be interested in hearing / reading your story.

    War is something I have never experience and the more I read about it, the more it scares me. It saddens me to hear real soldiers true accounts and I believe it's important to know what really happens during war and the aftermath for a soldier.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by DanR84 View Post
    I'm an eighties kid from Ireland so I don't remember a lot of the things you speak about. I'm fortunate that I never had to experience the ravages of war. I had an easy life by comparison and to my own detriment I kind of cruise through life as it passes me by ever quicker.

    While I might not have the same opinions or outlook as you I would be interested in hearing / reading your story.

    War is something I have never experience and the more I read about it, the more it scares me. It saddens me to hear real soldiers true accounts and I believe it's important to know what really happens during war and the aftermath for a soldier.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    I remember a distant relative visiting asking my father "What did you do during the war Buck?" and getting the reply, "Managed to stay out of it thank God. Filthy business". In one way he got it bang on, it is a filthy business. The very shocked look on the face of the relative told another story though. For many people, those who kind of cruise along through life, it can be a new experience with different people in new places. Even in wartime not all soldiers fight, an awful lot are cooking meals, typing things up and that sort of stuff, a lot of army bases will be nowhere near the enemy. They are still soldiers, they do things like basic training, drill and activities aimed at keeping them fit and making them part of a unit as well as type letters. Being part of such a unit is a powerful experience for those who kind of cruise through life as it passes them by otherwise.

    A thought for you on warfare, I can't remember who I read this of, some Italian prince I think. Anyway, when outriding with his officers he would from time to time put forward a possibility of attack and ask his officers what they were going to do. For example "Two hundred enemy horse appear over that hill, what do we do?". The response had to be instant, in warfare, the enemy won't wait while you think about it.
    This not only gets the officers thinking seriously about tactics, it gets them watching where they are and what sort of position they are putting themselves in. One may not expect anything on home ground, but the history of warfare is littered with surprise attacks.
    Now, you are lucky, as I was, I never faced conscription of any sort either, but the principle is still worth pursuing, the world has many dangers other than enemy troops. Make yourself aware of your environment, "If a car came round there out of control where would I go." you stand a much better chance if you have thought about it before hand. This is living in the here and now, most people who kind of cruise through life are not in here and now, they are aware of it enough to switch on if something exiting happens, but most of the time they are somewhere else as well. Anticipation and memory are all very well, but actually the here and now, reality, is the most exciting thing there is, look at it right and it should make you go "Wow!" every time, not when people are killing each other maybe, that's a filthy business.

    Enough, get out of the old men's thread, go and live it you lucky young man.
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