Thoughts to Ponder

Written by Ann Edall-Robson

Author, photographer and lover of life. Capturing and sharing moments others may never get to experience.

November 9, 2021

I live with one foot in tradition—and keep it there—while the other foot steps out to allow me to grow with modern technology. 

As I have watched the explosive growth of technology in modern society, my heart still acknowledges that the old ways are not so bad. Certainly, they’re different, but there are some things about the lifestyle we need to hang onto and share with the generations coming up. 

The ‘traditional’ era is when I started to embark on my life experiences. I didn’t know it then, but I was learning about consequences without being told that’s what they were, and I was testing the waters of life from a child’s perspective. Life was pretty dang good.

We played outside, even when the winter weather was below zero, and that’s Ferenheight. We made snow angels and dug caves in the snowbanks the grader had left when clearing the roads. We built fires to toast cheese sandwiches and melt snow in a can to make a hot drink. 

We walked to the two room elementary school until we were old enough to take the bus to a neighbouring town to attend high school. Contrary to stories that circulated about the hardships of walking to school, it was about a half a mile and it was not up hill both ways. We did not have professional days or teachers gong to conventions to deal with. We were expected to attend every day, regardless of the weather unless you came down with measles, mumps, chicken pox, or your meals weren’t staying in your stomach. That was about the only way to get out of going to school. 

We climbed trees and built forts in them. We played in the creek with bits of wood and leaves that were our boats. We played kick-the-can, hide-and-go-seek, hopscotch, and whatever else was inspired by our imagination. 

Hours were spent sprawled out on our backs in the grass, conjuring up shapes in the clouds our imagination let us see. At night, that same position let us gaze at the stars, finding constellations and watching for the satellites moving in and out of our view. 

Our patience was tested to the limits while we sat in the middle of a clover patch, without talking, waiting for the bees to come along so we could catch them in a jar. The challenge was to see who could catch the most bees in one jar before we let them all go and moved on to some other activity like running along the top rail of the snake fence that was part of the nearby fence line. 

We were young entrepreneurs, too. We dug worms at daybreak to sell to early morning fishermen on their way to the lake. Twenty-five cents a dozen for the worms was big money to us. When it wasn’t fishing season, we supplemented our income by collecting pop and beer bottles from along the side of the road. Those dabbles into self-employment provided the funds to buy jawbreakers and Bazooka bubble gum at the general store in town. 

When you hear someone telling a tale about knowing it was time to go home when it got dark, it really was like that. It was a good life. We improvised, we tested our parents, and mostly we had fun. 

I had chores to do, but my memory tells me that wasn’t until I was older, maybe after I was ten and my first horse arrived on the scene. That would also be about the time I learned to drive. There was no better place than a hayfield to put newly learned driving skills to the test. After my first year helping to bring the hay in, I was relegated to staying home to help with the cooking because my driving skills—or lack thereof—kept shifting the load of hay. Let’s just say It didn’t take Dad long to realize that a person who is about 40 inches tall should probably not be the one responsible for driving a truck with a clutch and four-on-the-floor gear shift while looking through the steering wheel, especially when hay fields with hills are involved. 

We had friends and relatives who depended on oil or gas lanterns for their lighting. Their wood stove not only provided heat to cook on, but it also heated their home and the stove’s reservoir heated water. Regardless of how hot the weather got, the wood stove was kept going to cook meals. Before bedtime, it was stoked to make sure there were hot coals in the morning to start the fire so breakfast could be made. That stove was also used for baking bread and canning preserves.

Indoor bathrooms were not all that common unless you lived in town, and even then, it wasn’t a necessity. The bathroom, a.k.a. known as outhouses, was either a one or two-seater. It was located out behind the house, usually not too far away. Nighttime visits to the bathroom were a chamber pot under the bed. 

My aunt and uncle’s ranch had no water in the house but had a water pump outside the back door. When I stayed with them, I loved pumping the water, but, like driving the truck, I was not big enough when it came to carring the filled pail into the house. 

A weekly newspaper told us what was going on in the world. The local diner where people gathered when they went to town kept us informed of what was happening in our more immediate world.

Our home had some modern amenity luxuries such as electricity and running water. I don’t remember us being without indoor plumbing, but I do remember an outhouse behind the house, and at the school. I’m guessing it was what we refer to nowadays as: it’s good always to have a backup plan. We had a crank telephone, our number was Fawn 3B, and our ring was a long and three shorts. The B & W television with one channel (and definitely no remote) arrived on the scene when I was about four or five. It was never turned on during the day unless you were sick because you had too many other things to entertain you that were mostly outside. The house was heated with wood-burning stoves: one in the living area, one in the furnace or mudroom, and a small air-tight heater in the bedroom area.  It was my twelfth summer when the oil furnace was installed, and the woodshed became redundant.  

Back then, it was acceptable to drop in for a visit if you happen to be driving by. No pre-arranged phone call or appointment was needed. Either people were home, or they weren’t. There was always fresh baked goods to be offered along with refreshments. The men might make their way outdoors to discuss mechanics, ranching, logging, and sometimes sample a glass or two of what was fermenting in a barrel in the shop. The women would get caught up on the area’s news while the woman of the house finished up whatever chore she might have started before company had arrived. The visitor would make themselves useful in any way they could. 

People helped each other without being asked. It wasn’t expected; it was just done. Births, deaths, emergencies, weddings, haying and harvest, building a new barn, garage or house, neighbours and family came from miles around to help in any way possible. You could be rest-assured that there was no lack of food when it came to these events, and it wasn’t the woman of the house doing all of the cooking. Anyone who came brought food. If the woman couldn’t make it, the man brought what she had prepared. It was called neighbouring. Unfortunately, neighbouring has become a lost art unless you live in a small or rural community. 

It is my understanding some of the things I talk about are now included in the new age era of roughing it. Something referred to as Glamping. I suppose if there is a want to learn about the old ways, that is one way of introducing them. I find it humorous to listen to those who return from days of Glamping. They talk like the experience is something new to the world. I suppose I shouldn’t judge, because for many, it is. 

I should probably touch on the modern technology a bit since it has become a major part of my life, especially when it comes to my writing and marketing. I have several social media platforms and enjoy using all of them. But I do not need to be plugged in, tapped in, conversing, and checking what’s going on with them all of my waking hours. I like to be unplugged. It throws my children in a tailspin because they can’t reach me when they think they should, but I am doing what suits me, taking a page out of my other time in life and reconnecting to my old ways. Of course, I embrace modern technology and will be the first to say I’m glad I don’t have to get the fire going before breaking the ice off the water bucket to make coffee first thing in the morning. 

The changes to those old-time traditions can be mind-boggling at times. Some think about that era as being simpler or less stressful, but were they? Back then, everyone was expected to show up and work at whatever they were doing in life. A saying often repeated about the mindset of people in that era is, “They worked hard, they played hard, and they showed up for work the next day.” 

Further education was not a given path for most teenagers. Those who drove in the family shared one vehicle. You planned when you wanted to go to the lake for a day. You planned if you were going to drive three hours to a big centre to shop. 

There was only one telephone, if you had one. It was on the wall, usually in the kitchen where anyone in the house could listen to your conversation. 

Communication came by way of newspapers, radios, and letters in the mail. Mail delivery might be once a week in the country. In town, it was Monday to Friday pick up at the post office. 

Stores were not open 24/7/365, but the catalogue that came in the mail could be browsed until the pages were ragged. Ordering online was not an option. One would mail their order along with the payment and wait patiently until the parcel was delivered, sometimes up to a month or more. 

Some doctors made house calls, but not every town had a doctor. The dentist might come to town every six months or once a year. The optometrist might come once a year. 

Again, I say: some think about that time as a simpler life, less stressful, but were they?

I leave you with some pictures and thoughts to ponder from another era.

Start from the beginning (again) when a mistake is made while typing a letter or document on a typewriter. Multiple copies required the use of carbon paper.
Listening to a private telephone conversation on the party line. It took place through a brown box that hung on the wall. Reaching friends, neighbours, and the outside world happened when you turned the crank handle on the side of the box to connect you with the operator at the telephone exchange.
The summer was spent cutting wood. The results would be used in the wood stoves to cook the meals and heat the house in winter.
Last night’s dinner leftovers were heated on the stove or in the oven. 
The grocery store, for the most part, was a large garden. Fresh produce full of flavours during the growing season. Canned and preserved for enjoyment during the winter. 

The sound of a tick, tick, tick with an intermittent gong was prevalent from the wind-up clock. Forgetting to wind it was not an option nor was it an excuse.
Businesses advertised in the newspaper with an occasional one-page flyer that came in the mail, by word of mouth and the radio. Social event announcements garnered a large part of a page of the newspaper. 
Documents and letters were sent through the mail, taking days and sometimes weeks to reach their destination. 
The sweet smell of laundered bedding that had been hung on the line outside to dry. Every shirt needed to be ironed. 

The list could go on and on.  

As you read the life and times of the old ways and looked at the pictures, there may be wonderment and thoughts of “Ya, right” floating through the brain waves. 

If the truth were known, there are a lot of people who not only remember, but also lived the life. 

Do you know someone who can tell you stories from their childhood? Maybe you are that person. We would love to hear the stories. 

Ann Edall-Robson relies on her heritage to keep her grounded. Reminders of her family’s roots mentor her to where she needs to go. Gifting her with excerpts of a lifestyle she sees slipping away. Snippets shyly materialize in Ann’s writing and photography. She is a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Edall-Robson shares moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWestDAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact her. Books written by Ann Edall-Robson are available through her website, at Amazon, and various other online locations

#CRLC #QuiteSpirits #AnotherEra #AnnEdallRobsonBooks #OldFashioned #WesternLifestyle #TheOldWays #CarrotRanch

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Ann, I lived much of what you describe here. I had forgotten about catching bees in canning jars, but yep, been there, done that. We didn’t get as much as you for nightcrawlers, but it was a fun way to spend some after dark time and then selling at the nearby sporting goods store the next morning.
    It is funny, isn’t it, to put the smallest/youngest behind the wheel for haying? Because we couldn’t chuck the bales so well I suppose. I fictionalized some of my memories in a story that The Hopper published some time ago.
    ( )
    I hadn’t thought about the Glamping connection you make. Now that I’m in the Lodge I am glamping full time and loving it. I like the extra attention that wood heat in a cold place requires.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      The piece you had published with Hoppermag, when I read it now, I had the feeling I had read it before, or perhaps you have read parts of it to us here at the ranch. Maybe it simpy resonates with me. Thanks for sharing the link, it is an enjoyable read. The stories we tell even when they are fictionalized memories, are a gift to the generations yet to come.
      Thanks for stopping by Quiet Spirits.

  2. Jules


    I used to go to the country for the summer. But I lived primarily in the city. I can see advantages to both types of communities. But I’m happy now in the suburbs. The city and the country aren’t very far.

    It is unforunate that farm land is being eaten up for housing that most folks can’t afford. But part of that is due to inheritance and death taxes. Especially when it comes to farms. The owner dies, and the children can only pay the taxes if they sell the land. A crime. But until the law changes…

    Cheers, Jules

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      We see a steady stream of young adults going in search of a different life than what they have been accustomed to on the ranch or farm. We also see that stream returning to take over the business. They come back from school with ranch management degrees, or some other degree that will help the survival of the family’s livelihood.

      We also see large tracs of land becoming grazing co-ops and/or a nature conservancy. The Waldron, here in Alberta, is one of the ways the ranching community are making dang sure things don’t change. Here’s a link to their story.

      • Jules

        Thanks for that. We do have a farm land preservation systems. Each year they do add land. My state “…”leads the nation in the number of farms and acres permanently preserved for agricultural production.” Though the land isn’t all in one place like the Waldron Ranch.

  3. dolphinwrite

    Thanks for the article. I enjoy times past. I enjoy what we termed the good ol days.
    We moved a lot while growing up, our parents working hard. But we lived in one place for eight years and to me, it was the best. Friends. Tag. Tree tag. Tree forts. Lawn care jobs. Board games at friends’ houses, sometimes through the night. Street football. Every imaginable sport we could think of including Frisbee golf before it was invented. Sports. Taking the bus during summers to the pool. Dumpster diving for bike parts, making our own bikes, getting carpeting for our tree forts, and all the rest.
    I am so glad I got to grow up during those times. However, I’m sad that so many today are growing up and will never know what it could have been like, daily surrounded by 4 walls, computers, and propaganda. Many will never know what running in the streets, without ever thinking about danger, is like. Many will never know what being creative, building forts, getting wood and rusty nails out of different places, including dumpsters, and creating is like. Many will not experience building skate ramps, on their own, and not worrying about lawyers. But perhaps, with more articles like this, many will start opening the doors of fun for their children.
    I do seem to see, on occasion, parents doing more things with their children, and it’s good to see.

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      I agree, it is nice to see parents doing more with their children. Here’s hoping the parents will pass along some of their memories to them.

  4. suespitulnik

    Hi Ann,
    Your memories ring true with me except for the driving at a young age Our summer cottage had no running water or indoor plumbing. I thought it was a treat. We made applesauce on the wood stove in the back room for many years. And then,as a young military wife living in the UK in the mid 1970’s I used carbon paper to type multiples of the same letter to send home to family. The last copy was hard to read. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I wish my grandchildren could experience such a life. Oh, and I used your marketing for Barn Cat Buttons as examples when I talk to my local writing group. Hugs to you my friend.

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Thanks for visiting Quiet Spirits, Sue. There are ways, as writers, we can slip the old traditions and memories into our work. The books I write somehow, someway, include a bit of that life in each.
      Imagine one of your own stories using no running water, or a grandmother reflecting on the days she worked in a steno pool using carbon paper. The list is endless on how we can impart a bit of these important parts of our lives, and history, on generations to come.
      A good majority of people know about the ‘big’ events that happened in history, but there are those who have no idea about the every day happenings that went on.
      Marketing and Barn Cat Buttons in the same sentence made me smile. Sometimes he can be a tough cat to put in the spot light. I take it as a compliment that you find my marketing techniques for this book useful. Thank you.

  5. Charli Mills

    What an enjoyable romp to the past with you, Ann. I’m not sure human existence is simple, but we do catch the rhythm of the eras we live. I think what I miss about chores and firewood and daily baking is that they were activities that allowed me to slow down my mind. Even now, I’ll create chores or cook to escape the barrage of tech-filled days or to busy my hand to give my mind time to process. The neighborly connections remain intact and yet also distorted by social media. I find I can handle it in balance. If I were to return to the past, I’d want some of the future with me; and if I could, I’d take some of the past into the future. But that’s what you do. You keep one foot in tradition and one in modern growth.

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      Someone asked me recently if I would be happy living in a cabin out in the bush. I wanted to yell YES! But, like you, I know I would want some of the future to tag along with me.
      It makes me feel good knowing that I am versed in the lifeskills of the past, and that lets me move along in the present and embrace the future.

  6. explorereikiworld

    Ann, I too am from your era.
    Your article made me go back in time, and relive all those beautiful, simple moments.

    Loved it!

    • Ann Edall-Robson

      It is up to us to bring those beautiful moments forward to share with others so they will not be forgotten. As writers, we are primed to write those moments into the projects we pen.
      Thank you for visiting with us at Quiet Spirits.

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