August 17th, 2019

Reiss’s Pieces


I always thought that my Grandma Bragdon probably saw more changes in her world than anyone I could imagine. She was born a few years after the civil war, can you imagine? And she died in 1967.

So what changes did she see and learn to live with? Well, for one thing, she wore long skirts, heavily corseted underwear and heaven only knows what kind of shoes for most of her youth. When she married my grandfather in 1896, they went on their “wedding tour” to Europe and her mother went along! And again, both women wore long, heavy and very fancy clothes. And, of course, she also saw women get the right to vote, the flapper era, the automobile taking the place of the horse and buggy, she no longer had servants to do the cooking or the house work and for me, what must have been almost unbelievable for her, the airplane that not only flew but carried passengers. I don’t think she ever did fly herself but she saw her loved ones fly. And can you imagine what she thought about a man going to the moon? It must have been science fiction brought to life. Also, she had a radio and then, of course, a television. She was also a fervent believer in equal rights and opportunities for everyone, regardless of their color, race or religion. Now, think about it, don’t you think that all these changes in one lifetime was pretty extraordinary?

Well, the more I thought about it, I started to think about what changes I have seen in my lifetime. Of course, none are quite as dramatic or obvious as what my grandma experienced, but I am not sure if they aren’t even more interesting. In fact, I don’t really know where to start, so I will just start anywhere!

When I was a little girl, children were considered an integral part of the family, but by no means were they the focus. No one that I ever knew was given a choice about what they wanted to eat. Nope, your mother put it on the table, you had to sit down and eat what was put in front of you. The parents ruled the roost and children obeyed the rules, end of the story. And we all went outside to play, by ourselves and with our friends. No mothers and definitely no “play dates.” Mothers didn’t play with their children back then, that was what you had friends for.

And schools? Teachers were obeyed and no one I ever knew really sassed the teacher, or heaven forbid, raised a hand to her. If by some bizarre incident you got into trouble at school or had to go to the principal’s office, the punishment that you got in school wouldn’t even hold a candle to what you got at home! And a parent going to the school was just unheard of. From kindergarten, I walked to school, came home for lunch, and then walked back. And although my own children like to kid me about it and ask if I had to walk barefoot in the snow uphill, I will tell you that it was well over a mile each way. Nope, no buses for anyone back then.

Oh, and when talking about different, mothers cooked and baked. Of course, not too many mothers worked out of the home back then, but like my mother who worked at a real job at home, every single one worked and worked hard. When we finally got a television, watching it was a family affair. Of course, the programming was aimed at the family, and no violence or sexual programs were even offered. Oh, I almost forgot, we began each and every school day with “opening exercises” which was a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. And we could all sing every Christmas carol ever made and of course, a Christmas pageant was a must. I couldn’t even conceive of not saluting the flag and patriotism was rampant. We all were proud to be Americans and were proud to offer those who came from other countries an opportunity to become and live like Americans. And work? Well, everyone I knew worked, and that included those who were being offered the American dream.

Well, I guess I have rambled enough and I know that those of you of a certain age already know what I am reminiscing about. For the young people and those who have come here to live but want to keep their own beliefs and traditions and sneer at those who consider work a privilege, I really feel sorry for you. Life can be and should be a wonderful shared experience with all your friends, neighbors and loved ones. And those who hate our way of life but still want to live here, get a life!

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