Antique Wood Stove, Picture courtesy of GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
I always marveled at the many changes that my husband’s grandmother witnessed in her lifetime. For example, she told me about the first time she cooked with a gas oven. She was used to cooking with a wood stove — so she turned on the gas and went back a couple of minutes later to light the match — lost her eyebrows and singed the hair around her face, and her face was sore for awhile, but at least she didn’t lose her life — and she DID learn that gas was more dangerous to work with than wood! She grew up dealing with horse-drawn carriages, and ended up having a daughter-in-law who was the first woman to fly around the world — by herself in a single-engine plane. And she witnessed the hoopla of the first man walking on the moon. And she knew they existed, but couldn’t quite fathom the fascination with computers. She’s been gone quite a few years now, but I still occasionally remember some of her stories with great fondness!
That brings me to my own life. Every once in awhile, people share things on Facebook or other social media reminding everyone of how OLD we all are. Well, I freely admit it, I’m OLD in a lot of people’s eyes. I’m 66. However, I’m still kicking, and may yet do so for another 30 years — only the Lord knows! But based on the longevity of my mother and her father, it is a good guess that I’ve got around 30 years left, barring accidents, war, or health issues.
Image courtesy of Stoonn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
So the question is, what are some of the things I’ve seen in my lifetime, so far? Well, I grew up in a one-income family, like most of my friends. It was also a time when few parents got divorced. We said the Pledge of Allegiance and also a prayer every morning in the public schools. Our family had just one car, and I’m talking a family of 8 (6 children in the family — I’m the youngest). When we went on vacations, we went camping — hotels were NOT in the budget with the size of our family. At that time, there were NOT a lot of people camping — and very few special camping vehicles. We had a station wagon, and a luggage rack on top, and we camped all over the country. I was only six months old the first time I went camping, and that was in Yellowstone National Park. My father had been camping in Yellowstone with his family when he was a teenager — in a conestoga wagon!
I was born AFTER WWII, so didn’t experience the War or the Great Depression, though it certainly affected my parents’ generation, which means that I learned to be frugal. My husband served in the military during the Viet Nam War — and lost many friends. And of course, there have been various wars since that time, as well, whether they have been called wars, skirmishes, invasions, peace-keeping missions — whatever they have been called, there have been people dying all my life in various battles.
Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Gadgets now seem to be a good gauge of a person’s “era” — we didn’t have cell phones, or even portable phones when I was growing up. The first phone I remember was a wall-hanging wooden box with a mouthpiece that you spoke into, with a crank to ring the operator, and an earpiece you held up to your ear. It was a party-line, so nothing you ever said on the phone was private, because your neighbors COULD and often DID listen in. If we wanted something to be private, we spoke to them in person, or wrote them a letter (put a stamp and address on an envelope, and entrusted it to the Post Office for delivery). It also meant a person was a lot more likely to be thoughtful about what they wrote — there’s something good to be said for that!
My first computer was purchased in 1979, and was NOT a powerful computer, but I did learn a bit about programming with it. However, a couple of years later, we purchased one of the first “portable” computers (about 20 pounds), a Kaypro-10. That means, it had a whopping 10 Megabyte hard drive — and we couldn’t imagine running out of space on that! It was a CPM-based system instead of DOS. At that time, it was still a toss-up whether DOS or CPM would win out as the operating system that everyone would adopt. Note the 8-1/2 inch floppy disk, and the monochromatic monitor. In order to use it efficiently for all that I needed to do with it, I had to learn more programming, which I did successfully by studying the thick, complicated manuals that came with the computer. At the time that we got that computer, my husband was a student in seminary, and the professors were not familiar with computers. To demonstrate that I didn’t just turn the computer on and tell it to find a paper on whatever subject was needed (as if by magic), I set up the computer in the lounge at the seminary, with my back to the traffic through the building, so people could watch over my shoulder as I typed papers for various students (my husband usually dictated his papers). That way, I was demonstrating to everyone who had an interest, that the papers actually had to be TYPED. This, by the way, was before we had internet access (though I understand they may have had it that early at a university in Florida, and in the military).
For awhile (two years, maybe?), we were ahead of other people on the technology block. Our kids got to play with computers long before most of their friends had much idea what they were or could do. And we got a free email account very early — but had no one we could communicate with yet, since our friends, families and business associates didn’t have computers! No one would have thought that one could actually take classes online, let alone get a degree from anywhere in the world!
Yes, I’ve seen a few changes. But by comparison to the experiences of my husband’s grandmother, progress is MUCH SLOWER! She came over by boat from the old country — and it used to cost a fortune for her to communicate with her family back home. Now, we fly around the world for pleasure, and while doing so, communicate with people all around the world at the same time via social networks and email — even by telephone! You can use your computer, tablet, or even your phone, to actually see the person you are talking to on the other side of the world — LIVE! In her day, if a missionary left for China, he packed his belongings into a coffin, because that was how and when he expected to return!
It will be fun someday to tell your own stories of the changes you have seen in your lifetime!