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Pathways Through Our Past

Spring and Summer

Well Easter has come and gone and green is beginning to show on the lawns and in the woods. That seems to mean that spring is here and so summer can't be far behind.

Our ancestors used this time to open the doors and windows and air out the houses. With open fireplaces which were used for cooking and heating, the houses were smoky and smelled of food cooking.

Bedding had to be aired as it hadn't been laundered since last year. That would have to be done later in the summer. Many early settlers believed a little dirt kept the germs away. A lot of toilet water and maybe a little vanilla behind the ears hid some of the smells.

As the years went by, people learned that being clean was the best way to avoid getting sick. True, some sicknesses hit families no matter how clean the house and the people were. People still opened all the windows, beat all the rugs and repainted walls and scrubbed the furniture and floors. Another coat of shellac was painted on some of the furniture. All these things made the house smell and look clean.

Kids shed their winter underwear and heavy boots. As the snow melted and the water ran cool and clear, shoes were carried. Since roads were not paved and in the spring and early summer they were mostly muddy, it was smarter to wash the mud off the bare feet than ruin the only pair of shoes a person had.

Recess at schools involved races, jump rope, hide and seek and marbles. A game of mibs included drawing a circle in the dirt, using a shooter to try and knock the other fellows marbles out of the ring.

There were peewees, cat eyes, agates, shooters and I believe the large ones were called boulders. Sometimes a kid's marbles would fall out of his pocket and go rolling across the room causing everyone to try to catch them including the teacher. She usually kept them until the last day of school before returning them to the owner.

Chicken and duck eggs would be put in an incubator or under an old hen to hatch out a whole bunch of new fowls. Soon the sounds of new arrivals could be heard all over the place. Some of the new arrivals would be butchered come fall and others sold to purchase various items needed by the family.

Special times for the families were picnics. Not like today's but where everyone in the family dressed in their very best. Women and men would both be wearing hats. Sometimes they would carry an umbrella which was used mostly to keep the sun off.

Babies would be put down for a nap while the women shared sewing tips recipes and the men would play a game of horseshoes or baseball or maybe some fishing. Young kids would run around looking for their older brothers and sisters as this was one of the few times the youngsters got to see each other once they were to old to go to school.

Later, food would be put out on the blankets and everyone would share. Sometimes there were political speakers or tent revivals which brought all the people out after the chores were done. Young and old alike shared memories, war stories and funny stories.

Once the weather got warmer, the family jobs kept them on the home place putting up crops and canned goods for the winter that lay ahead. But until that time, the chance to get together was something that might hold a big family together until next spring.

Some of the young people found jobs in town to help their families out. Girls taught school, kept house or cooked in restaurants to earn wages while young men learned a trade such as blacksmithing, storekeeper, elevator helper, doctor's helper or teacher.

As spring turns to summer maybe you will want to have an old fashion picnic. Lay back, relax and take time to enjoy your family. Don't let the stress of today's world infringe on the time spent with people you love.