What was life like before? It occurred to me that at my age, I’m rapidly becoming one of the fewer and fewer people left who experienced life before
Before what, you say? Well, lots of things weren’t around when I was growing up.
I’m also becoming one of the few who grew up on a small family farm, one where the wife didn’t have a job in town. One where the husband didn’t, either. But that’s another before.
Take for example: Before tv. I remember sitting on a linoleum-covered floor–and right there I have to stop and tell you what “linoleum” was, because all most of you know about flooring may be called linoleum by some of you, but it now is actually vinyl. Plastic. Definitely not real linoleum.
Linoleum was a product made from a variety of oils, mixed with ground cork, gums, and pigments. It didn’t wear well, and from what I remember when I burned some scraps of it, it was fiercely combustible.
I remember that the floor was warm, mostly because the oil furnace was built into the floor, and helped warm the floor by warming the cellar.
Cellars were before, much like linoleum was before vinyl.
So, before tv, there was flowery-patterned linoleum.
Also before tv, there was radio. I remember several radio shows. I remember Amos and Andy, Edgar Bergen, Jack Benny, Gene Autry, and several mystery shows–Inspector Thorne, Mister Keen, The Shadow (Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.), Inner Sanctum (Started with a scary creaking door, and a deep voice saying: “Oh, hello there. So glad you came.” A voice that made you wonder if maybe you shouldn’t have.), The Whistler, Perry Mason, and many others.
I vaguely remember The 64,000.00 Dollar Question, which made the change from radio to television, and some musical things, like What’s behind the green door, which also made it to tv from a different origin on radio.
Mainly before TV, I remember reading, my brother and I, and it didn’t much matter whether it was the radio, or books, or the television, dad spent almost more energy than he got out of us when he was hollering at us to come do chores.
But we were kids. What did the adults do? When I think of them, I think of lots of visits from neighbors, a lot of card parties, and a lot of cigarette smoking–which the radio and then the tv said was good for you. Healthy.
From these meager beginnings, I pieced together the one philosophy I have developed: Believe nothing that you hear, very little that you read, and only some of what you see. That philosophy is a direct result of having lived long enough to talk about “befores.”
When it comes to medicines from back then, we lived and died by liniment, which we now know was a combination of solvents, such as acetone–which you use when painting cars, incidentally—alcohol, and some capsaicin, which is a really hot pepper.
Any injury we got below the knee got you a soaking in hot, hot water and liniment, which would kill any germ, and you, theoretically, should you use it enough.
Iodine and mercurochrome were popular. Iodine has the questionable honor of having its very own atomic number–53. I guess that must mean something, exactly what, I don’t know. Mercurochrome of course has mercury for its lineage, and that means again its own atomic identity.
Since they’re not around any more, and I am, I guess it didn’t do too much harm.
We listened to the radio. We played cards. We read books. We used medicines that eventually antibiotics replaced.
That was then. Before. There is always a then and a before that grow more numerous as you age. Some of my Before memories memories happened before: Antibiotics; Television; Diesel farm tractors; Transistor radios; A Catholic president; Medicare; Health Insurance; Pump your own gas; Computers; Credit cards; Cell phones; A Black president; Fuel injected gasoline engines; Condensing gas furnaces; DC motors hooked to AC; Edible THC; CBD oil. And what are becoming quite common: Trips to outer space. I was born and nearly grown before all of these.
And those are just the ones that come to mind.