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Don’t believe in the good old days

This article is going to relate some information that I learned as a youngster 80 years ago, but even more than that, I learned from a variety of sources.

They were not the good old days at all when compared with modern conveniences and technology that we enjoy today

There is an old saying, “It takes one to know one.” So I should know a few things and decided to make this article on that topic.

Many of the things I’m going to share come from my readings or tales my elders recited to me when I was a small fry.

There were some good old days, but many of what I share won’t be in the nostology and “Auld Lang Syne” mode. Most of them will make this generation of readers very happy that they don’t face the same challenges and unpleasant circumstances. Lots more good in today’s days, when we have all the modern conveniences and comforts.

I’m going to state some of the quotations that we hear today — and explain how they mistakenly came to be considered “good old days.”

“They didn’t even have a pot ... ” This comes from way back, in the mid-18th century, when the tanneries used urine to tan animal skins. In the very poor families, all members urinated in a pot — way before indoor toilets. When the pot was full, they sold it to tanneries that used it to tan leather. So, it was common to hear it said about the very, very poor, “that they didn’t even have a pot.”

How did June get to be the wedding month? It was common in May to take the annual bath; people still smelled pretty good in June. Brides carried a bouquet of flowers so they smelled even better, and thus the custom began and continues today.

In those “good old days,” the bathtub was filled with warm water. The man of the house was first to use it, then sons and the women and children. Finally, the babies but the water was so dirty, by then, that you could lose something in it. The saying followed and still exists today in many different adaptations, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Bread was a very important part of the diet and was passed out according to station. Workers got the burned crust on the bottom, the family got the middle and the guests got the top or the upper crust. Now you know how the term “upper crust” came about.

I’ll share a few things, in closing, that I personally experienced some 80 years ago on a hard-scrabble dairy farm nine miles west of Menonomie, Wis.:

We had neither electricity nor telephone before the days when the Rural Electricity Administration brought it out along the highways; we lived up a valley. There was no power equipment of any kind. Cows milked by hand twice a day, 365 days a year. Water pumped by hand and carried to the barn, pigpen, chicken coop and our home. Toilet was about a half block from the house, a little two “holer” that sat over a shovel dug hole.

Lots of good has happened since, over the many years, such as freedom of slaves and women’s right to vote, and more is on the way. I’m hoping beyond hope, in my remaining days, that we can rejuvenate the deterioration of good wages and job security in our good old U.S. of A.

Bernie Hughes, Ed.D, is a retired educator who resides in Superior. He can be reached at bernie3024@