September 15, 2013

Scenes that are fading away


---- — As I grow older, nostalgia takes up more and more of my thinking time.

Don’t misunderstand; I don’t yearn for the “good old days.” I try not to wallow in the past, but I love history and enjoy studying it.

I have always worked on remembering details of my lifetime from early childhood. I embrace each new day and look forward to the future. It’s a package deal.

Some people say they never look back. I take great pleasure in it, and intend that this column reflects that philosophy.

Case in point: My brother Jim called me recently. He had spent time waiting at a red light or sitting at a lunch counter in Pennsylvania listing his recollections of things with which to finish the sentence, “We’re the last generation to remember…..”

It piqued my curiosity. I don’t consider myself a curmudgeon, but I do have mirrors, and each time I shave, I see a face that looks more and more like my late father.

Jim and I became rather animated as we compared words and phrases that would complete his sentence: calls using a crank telephone on the wall; drawing water by pumping the curved handle on the well pump out front; listening to Walter Winchell reading news on our tube-type Phiilco radio; brushing our teeth with baking soda and water; fishing a dead cat out of the cistern in the cellar; standing on the big dining-room floor grate over the coal furnace and dropping crayons through to see how soon they’d melt.

I urged him to send me his list and promised to add to it from my own memories. He did, and I did. It’s been a fun exercise.

I won’t pretend to include an exhaustive list, but will list a few in hopes that it will engender a stimulating conversation over your morning coffee.

Among Jim’s 50-plus contributions: “picking up a phone and hearing a woman’s voice saying, ‘Operator. Number please;’ wearing knickers and knee socks; having real chalk boards and ink wells in our school desks; using fold-able hand fans in church; hand-cranking car windows, cars and tractors; wearing a pocket watch on a “fob;” going swimming in a full-piece, wool bathing suit; composing letters and term papers on a typewriter; reading Burma Shave signs along the road.”

Jim is 80. I’m 76. We could both sit and stretch the list for a mile-and-a-half, and I’m sure you could help in that regard.

Each region on the globe has its own such memories. For Plattsburgh and the North Country, we could mention Plattsburgh Air Force Base, Merkel’s Department Store, the Atlas Missile Sites, Canata Lodge, Pal Blade, the Lyon Mountain mines and much more.

My personal additions would include milking cows by hand on a three-legged stool and putting it in metal milk cans for delivery to the dairy; shaving daily with a straight razor; playing checkers in the country store next to a pot-bellied stove, penny candy case and a pickle barrel; my father’s mimeograph machine; a hand-cranked 78 rpm record player; 25-cent-a-gallon gasoline or 5 gallons for a buck; reconstituted motor oil sold in glass bottles; wooden-spoked car wheels; using hand signals while driving; push-cart peddlers and street organ grinders with pet monkeys; an ice box with an ice man who delivered to our door; nickel ice-cream cones; and using a two-holer out back.

Kaye mentioned cutting paper dolls out of a catalog, penny loafers and bobby sox.

If this doesn’t stimulate your own memories of things not in the daily 2013 lexicon, I don’t know what will. If some of the examples Jim and I have mentioned are not familiar to you, we urge you to visit a museum and enhance your education.

There are, of course, some things I’d rather not revisit. However, I’ll drop a few on you without personal embellishment: regular discussion of family bowel movement followed by weekly enemas; castor oil and cod liver oil from the brown bottles on top of the kitchen cabinet and more.

Fond memories for me include games such as kick the can, red rover, spin the bottle, post office and one-o-cat.

Have a great day exploring your own past, and please, drive carefully.

Gordie Little was for many years a well-known radio personality in the North Country and now hosts the “Our Little Corner” television program for Home Town Cable. Anyone with comments for him may send them to the newspaper or email him at