I recently signed up at the web site of “Good Old Days” magazine so I could enter requests on their “Want Ad” pages. I’ve asked folks to tell me the things they remember from their childhoods. So far I’ve heard from Natasha, Nora Lee, and Sue. I find it very interesting that they all had something to say about water.
I’m immediately reminded of an article I read some years ago concerning three generations of women who were asked which modern convenience they liked best. The youngest mentioned the microwave oven. Her mother cited the refrigerator. Grandma’s answer? Running water.
Indoor plumbing has become one of those things that we take for granted. Unless a child has been taken to a primitve camp ground, the words ‘outhouse’ or ‘privy’ would hold no meaning.
Natasha (please note that I’m using only the first names because I haven’t asked permission to use their full names) told me her family had a cistern on their back porch with a metal dipper hanging nearby. That dipper was the community drinking vessel. No one ever thought about the germs that might get passed from one thirsty family member to another. Come to think of it, that same dipper was probably used by many visitors as well, and nobody gave it a second thought.
Nora Lee told me that her Grandparents had a pump with a handle – that you actually had to “pump” up and down – to get the water. Her Grandma also had a metal dipper that was the universal ‘glass’ used by one and all. Then Nora Lee added that on the way to fishing at the lake her grandfather would stop by an old spring house. There was a glass there with yellow flowers… and they’d all drink from it. Only now does Nora Lee think about who else might have used that glass!
Finally, Sue shared her memories. When her family visited her grandfather in Kentucky, they would always be guaranteed of two things. First, they would load up in the truck and head to town, and papa would buy two things, a watermelon, and some grape Nehi soda. When they got back to his house they would take both items down the hill and put them in the ice cold spring.
He had a wire cage type thing built and tied to a tree and that is where he kept his items that needed to stay cold in the summer time.
Then Sue added that if they needed water, her mother would send them down the hill again with a pail and a dipper – with the strict orders to get the water BEFORE they played in the creek. So many times she and her siblings got a hickory switch taken to them for bringing a pail of muddy water back up the hill. Obviously they played first!
Buckets of water and metal dippers reminded me of an experience I’d long ago forgetten. When I was thirteen or fourteen years old, my older brothers were coaches for a sandlot football team – the Southwest Dukes. I’d go to the practices to watch, but somehow my watching evolved into becoming the team’s waterboy.
Prior to the start of each game, I had to locate a source of water and fill two two-and-a-half-gallon buckets. Then, armed with a metal dipper for each bucket, I was ready. Whenever there was a time-out or injury on the field, I’d run out and let the players take turns using the dippers. I’ll never forget the smell of the huddle – a combination of wet leather and sweating bodies. Yuck!
Being a young teenager who weighed no more than a hundred and twenty pounds, running with full buckets of water somehow always got the bottoms of my pants legs wet. There was one particular game in late November in Pittsburgh where my pants legs actually froze solid.
Such things didn’t bother me because our team kept on winning and finished the season as champions of our league! Then we had a banquet. I was thrilled simply to be invited to a fancy dinner. I watched proudly as each player and coach was awarded a beautiful red jacket with a big white “D” on the left breast. Then I was absolutely flabbergasted when they called my name and I was given a much smaller version of the same jacket.
I wore that jacket proudly until it no longer fit. I don’t think Gunga Din ever had a prouder moment than when I donned that jacket for the very first time.