The world has really changed, but maybe not for the better
I guess in many ways, people accept the changes in the world as we age. That is at least until we find ourselves no longer staring up at the top of life’s mountain but instead down the steep slope on the other side.
I guess that is what happened to me recently when my mind drifted back to my childhood and what at that time we accepted as normal. I smile when I realize just how far we have come, but I am not sure it was all in the right direction.
Ask anyone today where they might find a boardwalk, and I’ll bet they will mention Atlantic City. There the boardwalk refers to a large expanse of wooden platform that divides an entertainment strip from the ocean.
Growing up in the small village of Ganister, the term boardwalk meant the boards my father laid down between our house and the outhouse. It was literally the boards we walked on to stay out of the spring mud and to keep from wearing a path through the grass in the summer. Outhouse is another term many seniors are familiar with as they grew up.
The rich kids who lived in town normally had inside plumbing, but for us kids in the country, one of our chores was carrying water from a nearby stream or spring in a bucket. The lucky kids had a hand pump.
We took a bath in a washtub and used an outhouse when nature called. Just so you get a clear picture, there was no light or heat in the outhouse, so you seldom spent any more time there than necessary. For those of you who didn’t have the outhouse experience in your youth, let me explain about the Sears and Roebuck catalog that was normally found there. It was not for reading.
Not only did I walk over a mile to catch the school bus, but I did it rain, shine, wind or snow and never gave it a second thought. To top it off, I walked most of that mile down the center of a railroad track. I never minded the walk, and in the winter, I threw snowballs in the creek that flowed alongside the tracks and in the summer and fall picked apples off the wild apple trees that were left over from orchards long gone.
There was no sign telling me to watch out for a train. You had to be pretty dumb not to figure that one out.
When I was a teenager, I often took my shotgun to school and put it my teacher’s office until after school when I would hunt rabbits on the way home over the farm fields or squirrels in the small surrounding woodlots. Often my teacher hunted by my side part of the way home.
My father had a large Altoona Mirror calendar hanging in the cellar way, and when I got home, I had to mark on each day I hunted, what game I got and the number of shells I shot. If my numbers didn’t balance, my father and I had a financial discussion about the cost of ammunition. We didn’t hunt for a sport; we hunted to add to our food supply.
In the summer, all the kids gathered at the local quarry and swam nearly every day. We dove off the rocks, climbed the ledges and swam in deep water without a lifeguard. No one had a car; most of us walked to the quarry except for the few kids who had bikes.
If you got lucky, you might catch a ride home by sitting on the crossbar. By the way, those were one-speed bikes, and you didn’t have to worry about shifting gears. You were lucky if you had a chain guard. We always made it home for supper, and I never remember anyone causing trouble or getting hurt.
Today that boardwalk would have to be built to government specifications and checked every six months for splinters by a federal inspector. The Department of Environmental Resources would nail the door on the outhouse shut and bring charges against us for using a Sears catalog for toilet paper, considering it cruel and unusual punishment. We would be forbidden to drink water from the spring, although today it is perfectly acceptable for a company to sell us bottled water from that same spring.
I don’t think there is any sense even discussing taking a gun to school and hunting on my way home. Today, people would be screaming and shutting down the school.
The teacher would be shot by a swat team, and I would be sent to jail
and subjected to a mental exam.
I am sure today the quarry would be posted “No Trespassing” and a large fence erected to keep people out.
Instead, we would build a community pool where the drug dealers could do business.
The world has changed, but sometime I wonder if it has been for the better.
John Kasun writes from his home in Duncansville.