THEN ideas about the proper way to care for a baby were very different from what they are now. In every generation, how-to
books have been written about the subject. Here I will mention only the material objects associated with baby care. THEN
every prospective mother used soft white flannel to make tiny belly bands. The bands were wrapped tightly around the infant's
abdomen to protect the navel from injury until the stump of the umbilical cord fell off. THEN babies wore cloth diapers.
They were usually large squares of a material called birdseye cotton which the mother folded to fit her child's bottom.
THEN all babies wore dresses with dainty embroidered flowers. You could tell a boy baby because he would be wearing a blue
dress. Girls, of course, wore pink. If the mother went against tradition and dressed her baby in white dresses with white
embroidery (my own mother's preference) you would have to guess the gender or humble yourself and ask. THEN all baby bottles
were made of glass and had to be carefully sterilized before being filled with formula. The formula was prepared at home
according to the doctor's instructions. It was usually made from evaporated milk and corn syrup. In very early childhood,
I once saw a baby being fed from a soda pop bottle with a rubber nipple stretched over its neck. THEN baby toys were simple.
Plastic rattles and stuffed animals were about all the infant was considered to need for entertainment.
NOW parents can subscribe to a parenting magazine which will tell them what the current ideas on baby care are. Or they can
be frugal and pick up the "freebies" that are in every obstetrician's waiting room and retail store's baby department.
NOW the baby's healing belly button is paid little attention. A little antibiotic ointment is usually applied after the bath
and the healing navel is kept clean and dry. NOW diapers are disposable. Hooray for progress! (Later I will describe how
laundry was done. That laundry often included a dozen or more diapers.) NOW babies do not usually wear dresses. Boy babies
and girl babies are dressed in coordinated outfits. Those outfits might very well be decorated with gender-specific print
or embroidery but often they are unisex. NOW most mothers prefer to breast-feed but those who use bottles buy disposable ones.
Plastic bags fit into holders usually shaped more or less like traditional baby bottles. Those holders do not have to be
sterilized. Formula is bought by brand name at the grocery store. NOW most babies have a nursery full of toys before they
are born. A theme, such as Winnie the Pooh, clowns, or teddy bears has usually been chosen. From the moment the child is
brought home from the hospital, he or she is surrounded by bright-colored pictures, mobiles, and all kinds of toys. The baby
will be royally entertained from birth. No need to wait until he or she can grasp a rattle or a teddy bear. The gizmo attached
to the crib moves and makes noise as the baby kicks.
THEN it was as if there were only one city in the whole world. That was the city that had the same name as our state, Oklahoma.
When anyone said, "I'm going to the City," there was no doubt which city was meant.
That's why a little
boy in my math class was confused by a certain word problem. It said something like this:
To get to his job,
Bob's father drives 20 miles to the city and 20 miles back home every day. If he works 5 days a week, how many miles does
he drive in a week?
After the problem was read aloud, one of my classmates said, "But, teacher, it's more
than 20 miles to The City." I don't remember that she laughed out loud, but I'm sure the teacher was amused at her student's
THEN children were allowed a break from studying at school. A period of time called "recess" in which they could
play any games they liked. Some of their games were London Bridge, Drop the Handkerchief, Mother May I, and Tug of War.
Children playing Tug of War in this illustration are from an earlier time, as evidenced by the way they are dressed.
THEN not every family had a telephone. Those that did had a black, bell-shaped phone. There were no dials at first.
You picked up the telephone and heard a pleasant, feminine voice say, "Number, please." You gave the operator
a number and she manually connected your phone with the one that had the number you gave her. I had a toy phone that imitated
the real one. You slid a disk along a wire connected to it and a tinny, mechanical voice said, "Number, please."
THEN most people who did their laundry at home had two choices. They could use the rubboard and washtub method pictured above
or they could use a wringer-type washer pictured below. If clothes were not put through the wringer carefully, they could
get wrapped around it instead of going through to the tub of rinse water. The rinse water was in the same type of tub that
was used when washing on a rubboard. People who used the wringer-type had to be careful to keep their children out of the
way. Many a small wrist or arm was broken because an inquisitive child stuck his hand in the wringer. Commercial laundries
might have more modern facilities but the one I visited with my friend, whose mother worked there, used the machine with a
wringer. That laundry was hot and so filled with steam that it was hard to see.
THEN the sadiron pictured below was still being used. I will add my mother's report of how those irons were used to the "Tidbits"
page. The first electric irons did not have heat controls. You simply plugged the iron in, waited for it to get hot enough,
then tried to judge when it was getting too hot and unplugged it before you scorched your clothes. You would have starched
your cotton clothing and sprinkled it down before ironing. "Sprinkling down" meant to sprinkle water over the clothing
until it was damp but not wet, then roll it up tightly and place it in a basket to wait for ironing.
THEN afterschool snacks were simple. I remember saying, when I got home from school, "Mama, can I have some mayonnaise
and bread." Daddy occasionally made chocolate fudge and Mama baked cakes and cookies. In a family of six hearty appetites,
however, such goodies lasted no time. By the time school was out in the afternoon, I knew mayonnaise and bread was probably
all I could expect before supper. We drank iced tea and Koolaid. Soda pop was only for picnics. Coke, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper
were available in eight-ounce bottles. My favorite "pop" was Chocolate Soldier. Grapette was sold in smaller bottles,
probably six ounces.
THEN my Grandpa Petty and many other people with rural backgrounds, had gardens in their back yards. Grandpa grew vegetables
in his back yard, blackberries in his side yard, and flowers in his front yard. He did most of the work himself but hired
a man with a team of mules to prepare the ground for planting every spring.
NOW every child knows something about large cities all over the world. New York, Paris, London, and other cities are often
seen on television. Yes, Oklahoma City is still called "The City" in the Sooner state but I doubt that any child
of today would fail to understand the word problem that gave my 5th grade classmate so much trouble..
NOW children have a class called "physical education." It is assumed that they must be taught to use their bodies
in ways that came naturally to earlier generations. Only Congressmen have recess and I don't want to imagine what kind of
games they play.
NOW most homes have more than one telephone. They come in all colors. Some phones are still plugged into a wall outlet but
others are cordless and can be carried all over the house and yard. NOW we have cell phones that can be carried everywhere.
"Your purse is ringing" has already become a tired, old joke.
NOW almost everyone does the laundry at home in a completely automatic machine, like the one pictured below. Commercial laundries
are mostly self-service, with similar machines.
NOW I have not touched an iron for years. Most people these days take their clothes out of the dryer and hang them up before
they have time to get wrinkled. Some clothing is still made of materials that have to be ironed but, by careful shopping,
you can simply make sure you buy the ones that don't need ironing. NOW electric irons have steam vents that eliminate the
"sprinkling down" process. Recently, a product has been invented that you can spray on your clothing to dewrinkle
it. A boon for travelers! NOW sadirons, such as the one pictured below left are often brightly painted and used as bookends.
NOW children expect to have storebought cakes, cookies, ice cream and candy available to eat when they get home from school.
Sometimes they are allowed to order pizza or go out and buy tremendous ice cream cones. Soda is almost always available to
them. It is usually brought home from the grocery store in two litre bottles. Grapette and Chocolate Soldier have not been
available for years but a chocolate-flavored drink called YooHoo is very much like Chocolate Soldier.
NOW, if we don't go out to a restaurant or order pizza, all of our food comes from the supermarket. Somebody must grow the
food that we get from the grocery store or the restaurant but farming methods have changed drastically. It has been years
since I drove through the country and saw a farmer plowing with a mule. Most of the drudgery is gone because farming is done
by machine. Recently, I saw an air-conditioned tractor!