Saturday, October 08, 2005

Saturday morning nostalgia

Since last night, I've been waxing a bit nostalgic. Maybe it's the cooler weather.

I looked across the table at my daughter over dinner, and realized that she's 16. I thought about all the simple things in my life that she will never experience. I pondered how the convenience and high technology of the 21st century has sort of robbed our children of the ability to appreciate and be thankful. I figured I would share a few things that crossed my mind.

I miss how my grandpa could provide entertainment for our family simply by taking us for a drive on "Seven Hills Road." No high tech amusement park or virtual reality ride could take the place of THAT kind of fun. It left my stomach in my throat and an ear to ear grin on my face. The old yellow Chrysler with fins on the back was our roller coaster for a few minutes, and there were no hour-long waits to get on.

My mom used to make the most amazing enchiladas. The kind you'll never find in a Chevy's, anywhere... and we didn't have to get a pager and sit in a foyer for an hour to get them.

A console stereo, a big stack of pillows and several vinyl 33 rpm albums were my entertainment on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Somewhere in the middle, during a Frankie Laine or Elvis record, grandma would sneak in with a glass of iced tea and some cookies and I thought the heavens had opened up. Thank you, Mother Nature, for the rainy days.

Did you ever take a little extra time on a roadtrip and drive the outer road? Some people don't realize that the outer roads of most highways WERE the highways at one time. Those smaller, mostly parallel roads remain so people who lived on them could still get home. I think it's those stretches of blacktopped nostalgia, where the old road wanders away from the interstate, that you'll find the neatest drive. You'll find some old dusty towns out there, some really neat farms and, every now and then, an old gas station, where you once could have had your tank filled with something called "Ethyl," the oil checked and the windshield washed by a guy in a uniform... all for the price of the gas, which was probably about 39 cents a gallon.

I remember cutting wood on weekends to heat our house. We didn't have a forced air furnace or baseboard heaters, we had to constantly stoke the fire. Better or worse, there is NO heat like that of a wood stove... it warms the heart as well as the hands.

And, I remember our weekly ritual of Friday night dinner at Howard Johnson's. It was such a treat to go "out to eat." Grandma would order fried chicken, Grandpa and I would have fried clams... and afterward we'd go to a store called Wild Woody's and see what was new. Today, Woody's has been replaced by Sam's Wholesale Club, where you pay a fee and need a card to enter. Howard Johnson's closed their last few restaurants this year.

Before you paint me as an old timer, understand that I appreciate technology, new roads and central heat. I like my life, I enjoy "today" and I know things change and progress. That's all good.

But sometimes I wish I could go back just for a visit. I wish I could hear Frankie Laine, taste that tea and watch the rain.

"There's a blacktop road, a faded yellow center line... it can take you back to the place, but it can't take you back in time."
Chuck Cannon


Russ said...

Great post Dave.

This time of year I get a bit nostalgic too... especially after a Saturday phone conversation with my elderly parents back in Harrisburg.

It's clearly "Fall" in Pennsylvania and I think about those long weekends at my grandparents farm outside of Newport. We'd get up to a big breakfast (after stoking the stoves of course) and then head out for a few hours to hunt. Squirrels, grouse, pheasants, rabbits, and occasionally a wild turkey. (The bird, not the liquor.) I was 12 or so and had a single-shot Stevens 20 gauge that had been handed down time and time again. My Grandpa would "loan" me two shells for the whole afternoon. If I used one I had to clean cattle stalls that evening. Don't know what would have happened if I used two!

Never shot anything but an old, rotten, tree stump... though I enjoyed hanging out with cousins and uncles while we'd make our way through woods, underbrush, and dried corn rows all the while slowly freezing to the point of shivers while often the sleet or light, cold rain fell in a mist.

But those grey afternoons, contrasting the colors of the central Pennsylvania woods in October and November, and the camaraderie are unmatched in my memory.

And the warm bath afterward, then throwing on sweatpants/sweatshirt, and playing board games with everyone cheering us and advising us on were extraordinary.

The holidays, especially Thanksgiving, were so memorable with what seemed like hundreds (likely 20) relatives gathered around talking, telling stories, and enjoying each other's company. Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie with fresh from the barn whipped cream, hot tea, a woodstove... cows to milk when the feast was over... OUR kids will never know.


Ari said...

I used to sit out in my granddaddy's horse trailer on top of a bunch of hay and spend the day reading a whole stack of his Reader's Digests, because there were only 4 channels in Pottsboro, Texas back then.

Bobby said...

i love taking a different road, even if it's longer.

Randy Raley said...

Dave, my little girl just learned to drive also, just get into her first peck of trouble. I think of the old 57 Hudson that my family had where the back seats floorboards were so big that you could literally fall asleep in them. I talk to the kids about growing up on a farm and what that entailed. They don't care. Maybe, someday, when they get older, they will want to know more about the old man after I'm gone. I know I did.
Great post, so how the heck are ya?

Spinning Girl said...

What a wonderful, heartwarming post.


Sigh again.

lilly05 said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane Dave. I grew up on a farm and we had a potbelly wood stove for heat in the winter. Our weekend usually consisted of the six of us gathering around the record player and listening to Eddy Arnold and Hank Williams Sr. and various and sundry old time gospel groups. We had neither TV nor were there any local radio stations. I love fall and winter, a good book and a warm fire...what more could a body want?

Amandarama said...

I grew up on a back road off of a back road of a "main road" that has a "highway route number". If that road got bulldozed, you'd probably only be able to find my childhood home every hundred years or so, like Brigadoon.

And woodsmoke always makes me nostalagic about my childhood. Although I've blissfully repressed memories of having to stack cords of wood.

BeckEye said...

Good post. The simple pleasures really are the best, and fall always brings up good memories. I remember once when I was younger, my dad drove me out into the country to buy apple cider. Weirdest thing, it's such a random memory but I remember there being this HUGE hill coming down from the place, which made my stomach fly when we drove down. I always remember that!

I took my nieces on a hayride (non-haunted) a couple of years ago at a nearby farm. That was so fun, just hanging out, riding around, looking for pumpkins and then sitting around a big bonfire. I may have to do that again this year.

I love driving aimlessly on back roads. It's just interesting to see where everything goes.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

On our last extensive trip, my wife and I purposely drove on "the road less traveled." We always looked for the best "Mom and Pop" restaurants, which, of course, were much better than Howard Johnson's or IHOP or McDonald's. Nicely remembranced, Dave.

jamwall said...

i'm probably about 10 years younger than you dave (i'm 34), but i've become such a technology man-whore (that's part of what i do for a living--help people with their technological needs).

occasionally i look back and say "wow!! we actually wrote letters?...on paper??...with a pen???" or "i used to play with board games and card games for fun??" or "my dad used to play all his great classical LP's from dinner time onwards into the evening????!!!"

i think my fingers have now re-adapted for better efficiency on the keyboard and my ass has re-adapted itself for sitting in front of the computer. ah well, at least i have some similar memories to take with me! thanks for helping me resurrect those memories dave!

Angie said...

This is an excellent piece, Dave. How about rotary phones, no cable tv just 2 or 3 local affiliates and rabbit ears?

Weary Hag said...

This is a beautifully written post ... I SO enjoyed it!
You're not so far behind me, Dave... just a few grades if you think about it in school terms.
You ought to do more nostalgic writings - you brought back so many fond memories, and in such a nice way. Thanks!

I too love the backroads ... the "used to be" highways. On my cross country trip, we used as many of these roads as we could find. Great fun.

By the way, Russ left me wishing he had a link. (even your comments are high quality)

~The Goofy Ass Chick said...

I'm quite a bit younger younger than you (28) but technology hasn't totally taken over. I still take the scenic backroads on weekends (assuming I can afford gas), drive over hilly roads to get the rush of feeling like I have to pee myself, visit with my grandparents regularly -- and get this, we don't even turn on the tv... we just sit and talk.

I personally love hearing stories about what it used to be like. And it's a little strange that I'm already finding myself telling stories of 'the old days'.

Thanks for writing about something so touching. :-)