"TIMES HAVE CHANGED" is heard frequently from old folks. But is it really true?
Take St. Patrick's Day over sixty years ago. You didn't have to be Irish to participate in the activities of that day. Men, women and children, all wore something green to celebrate. It was a green tie, or a green hair ribbon, or a small artificial shamrock pinned on a coat lapel or dress.
April Fool's Day was a day of great sport. Wiedemann's candy store, among others, sold chocolate coated soap in the shape of chocolate caramels and it was great sport to offer a piece to an unsuspecting victim. You called people on the telephone asked them: "Is this 1907?" and when they said you had the wrong number, you would say with glee: "April Fool" and hang up.
Valentine's Day has survived through the years. But the types of valentines have changed. The sentimental old-fashioned kind made with paper lace, and angels or cupids pictured, are missing. The old comic ones are now replaced with the sophisticated contemporary ones. The old comics pictured ugly, distorted faces printed in color on a single sheet of cheap grade paper. Below the face would be some frank, often brutal sentences or verses supposed to apply to the recipient's weaknesses or habits. These sold for a penny. If you got any of these in the mail, you were pretty quiet about it. If they came in the Valentine box in your room at school, usually several youngsters were in on it, so again, it would be hurriedly hidden away from the eyes of your school mates. No one escaped getting at least one funny. Even the teacher got some.
May baskets are getting rare. They were left on the front porch at the door on May Day. The baskets were home made and filled with what garden or wild flowers were in bloom then. You could usually count on violets or dog-tooth violets.
Halloween has improved in the minds of some, for the better. The destruction is not as severe as in years back. Then, outhouses would be turned over, sometimes when occupied. Porch chairs would be found a block or so away on some other porch. Buggies were seen on roof tops, often on a school roof.
When we were real young, we confined out activities to our own block. We were not accompanied by an adult when we made the rounds of each house in the block. There was no trick or treat night. Halloween night was the only night of activity. "Tick Tacks" were our delight. They were made with an empty spool in which notches had been cut, a nail, and some string. The nail was inserted in the hole of the spool The spool was then
placed on the glass of a window and when you pulled the string, it made a startling noise. Screen and storm windows would prohibit that now.
Navy beans were also used on Halloween to throw on porches and against windows. With the price of Navy beans today, one can see mothers discouraging children from using them for play purposes.
Everybody had an autograph album. Our grandmothers had them to. Friends and teachers would write an appropriate verse or sentiment and then sign it. The small book had a hard cover and back, usually with a flower encrusted on the cover in color. "Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you," was one of the popular verses used.
Many social customs have changed. Take for instance, when you walked down the street and spoke to a man or youth, he always tipped his hat. Ladies wouldn't be caught on the street anytime of day without wearing a hat and gloves. If you were in a gathering of men and women, the men always asked permission to smoke. Now the women are likely to out-smoke the men. And men never drank hard liquor in the presence of ladies. Wine was served in a mixed crowd, or beer at a "Dutch lunch" party, but whiskey and gin drinks, never.
When walking along the street with a man escort, he always walked next to the curbing to protect his lady from any potential accident from bolting horses, or splattering of mud and debris on the lady.
Women never applied makeup in public. You retired to the dressing room to freshen up. And you were considered bold and without proper breeding if you crossed your legs when sitting. You wouldn't dare to enter church without a hat and gloves.
Dating a girl years ago meant sitting in the "parlor." After greeting the young man, the family disappeared to some other room in the house.
Does the prospective bridegroom still ask the father for the hand of his daughter?
In the past, a mother-in-law was called, "Mother Jones," and not by her first name. We called the close friends of our parents, "Aunt Mary" and "Uncle Joe," and not by the first name. "Papa"' and "Mama" were universal, as were "Grandma" and "Grandpa." We later graduated to "Father" and "Mother." When we first started using Father and Mother, it was done in a half teasing way to see what the reaction would be. You never heard, Mom, or Pop, or Dad. That would have shown lack of respect for our elders. Many grandparents today want more youthful identification or some nickname.
Beards and long hair worn by young men today reminds one to look at the early-day pictures of the young men that
founded Lawrence. In some of the group ones I have viewed, one would think they were a bunch of thugs instead of honest, upright, and well educated citizens. And some of them didn't look too clean either. The long straight hair on the girls today, would have been braided or held back by ribbons. The high updoes look like the pictures of the early 1900's.
In the matter of changes in housekeeping, one day a week was set up for washing -- usually Monday. Washing hanging out on a line on a Sunday was regarded as scandalous. Clothes were boiled. Homemade lye soap was used. Irons were heated on the coal or wood stove. If you didn't have a "hired girl" living in, you had a "washwoman" come to the house. Clothes were scrubbed on a wash board. Sometimes you had the washing done out by a washwoman and you didn't pay by the pound, but by the size of the washbasket.
We had butter delivered to us once a week, by a lady living in the country, (that location now in the city limits and heavily populated). It was put in brown Bennington jars that held two pounds of butter. We took at least two jars a week, and more at Christmas when there was more baking. Bakery bread was a treat and luxury in our house. Henry Gerhardt's bakery rye bread or Plantz's, was a special treat.
Ice was delivered by wagon. We had an ice-box that held 100 pounds. Every house had an ice card. It was of square cardboard about twelve inches square, and on each side was a number, either 25-50-75-100, in large lettering. When you needed ice, you placed the card in the kitchen window facing the alley. If you thought you needed 25 pounds, the 25 side of the card would face to the top. If you couldn't figure how much you needed, you put the back side out and the ice man would come in and decide for you.
The ice wagon was pulled by horses. On hot summer days, the children in the neighborhood would follow the wagon down the alley and beg for ice chips. You knew when the ice man was coming, because he would start in the alley shouting: "Ice, Ice," to give the housewife time to hang up her card. In later years, many a KU football player worked for the ice company and would carry in those heavy cakes of ice on his back. A large dish pan was placed under the ice box for the water from the melted ice to drip into. On hot days, it had to be emptied several times a day. Many a housewife would forget and come into her kitchen or pantry to find water all over the floor. Some people kept an ice box on the back porch and often boys thought it a great prank to rob the ice boxes for food.
In the days before stainless steel, kitchen knives would get stained. A Saturday morning chore for us was to rub the steel blades with a piece of soft brick to make them nice and shiny.
When telephones came into existence, the operator was always called, "Central." She would be deluged with calls when the fire bell rang to know where the fire was. And she always gave you the information. If you asked for a number and she informed you it was busy, you would ask to have her call you when they were through talking and she would obligingly call you.
Can you imagine a hamburger today at a stand, thick enough for you to order it "rare," or 'well done?" They were just 5 and 10 cents, according to sizes.
Dancing was never like it is today. No dancing by yourself. The closer your partner held you, especially for the dreamy waltzes, the better you liked it -- cheek to cheek even! The music had to be melodious to be popular. The "orchestra" instead of the "band" always ended the last dance of the evening by playing "Good Night Ladies." And everybody walked home.
Printed in Journal-World February 5, 1969