Monday, November 28, 2011

Great Expectations in 1946

My parents brought home a baby girl in 1946, so naturally that year is mighty special to me.  It was right after World War II, and people expected a better life than before the war when the Great Depression brought poverty and hardship to the whole world. 

In 1946, the average cost of a new house was $5,600, average wages were $2,500, a gallon of gasoline 15 cents, and a new car $1,120.

One can't help wonder how my Daddy would react to seeing a vehicle costing over $75,000, $4 for gas at the gas pumps, and homes reaching for the million-dollar mark and more.  He'd shake his head in disbelief.  Daddy was a man of common sense, high integrity, and worked terribly hard to take care of us.  He was a young man of 32 when.....

The first step to realizing cancer could be treated with pharmacological agents was discovered in 1946.  Today we know it as chemotherapy.

The first step toward our modern Tupperware was taken in 1946, by an American chemist who came up with a way of purifying slag, a waste product of oil refinement, and making it into a molded flexible substance.

If you're a fisherman and use spoon plugs, it was in 1946 that they were invented by a math teacher in North Carolina.

An American logger out in Oregon invented the chipper teeth style chain saw.  The chipper teeth chain is still used today and remains one of the most important influences in the history of harvesting timber.

The strapping tape we use for reinforcing packages was invented in 1946.

DEET, the most common ingredient in repelling insects was invented by the U.S. Army in 1946, to help problems of jungle warfare during World War II.

The waterproof diaper came into being in 1946, when a lady used her shower curtain from her bathroom to make the first leak-proof, reusable diaper that contained plastic-lined cloth.  This same lady came up with the idea of replacing safety pins with plastic snaps on the sides of diapers.

We didn't have a U.S. Vice-President in 1946.  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President, died in 1945 of a cerebral hemorrhage, and his Vice-President, Harry S. Truman, took over as President.  For the remainder of Roosevelt's term, Truman did not have a Vice-President.

That same year, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Boston Red Sox, 4 games to 3, in the 43rd World Series.  Tide detergent was introduced, the first bikini bathing suit shown at a Paris fashion show, the first electric blanket manufactured, and the famous Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas opened.

No one snippet of history should be sugar-coated as being the best.  Our minds are cleverly wired in a way that enables us to remember the past better than it actually was.  My family was poor.  Daddy worked as a farm hand for his neighbor for $1 a day when he and mom first were married.  Never once do I remember my parents fitting and fuming about money or their lack of it.  Not once.  In fact, it wasn't until I got married that I realized just how poor we had been.

What I do remember, though, is that the four of us ate our daily three meals at the kitchen table, we had homemade bread and dessert every day, mom washed our clothes in an old wringer washing machine and hung them outside on the line to dry.  Our clothes were ironed on the ironing board, even the hankies.  She patched daddy's overalls when they were torn or worn through.  Eating out was almost unheard of, and trips to town were only made out of necessity.  Childhood, in 1946 was spent with family, and there were no team sports for kids.  We were expected to do our assigned chores, and I don't remember getting an allowance.  We were taught to recognize work that needed to be done, and to go ahead and do it without being asked.  We were taught manners and respect.  We knew when to say 'please' and when to say 'thank you' and were reminded if we didn't.  We were taught to look up to our grandparents and watch and listen to what they had to share with us.

We milked the cows by hand, separated the milk and the cream with a separator out in the milk house, drank unpasteurized whole milk, and didn't die from it.  We fell and got back up, nobody pampered us nor dressed us in protective armor.  We got cut and bruised, banged up and turned black and blue.  Time healed our wounds, and nobody ooohed and aaahed over us.

I'm finding the old saying to be true.....the older we get, the more attached to our childhoods we become.  It's a fun place to go, because only we can go there.  I think it's only fair, though, that we don't mistake our wishful thinking for the way things really were.