Friday, September 28, 2012

The Unexamined Belief System- Politics Part III

Growing Up in the 50's 

While I was growing up I remember my dad working two sometimes three jobs to make ends meet. Today, that would be unheard of, a man working two or three jobs while the wife stayed home and took care of the house and children but not back then. My dad believed very strongly a man to be a man must provide for his family. Though mom did occasionally work to get us over the rough spots she was mostly a mom to my sister and I. I remember coming home from school getting off the bus and running into the house to be greeted by mom. She would usually have some kind of snack ready for me, ask me if I had homework and then send me out to play until supper time. On cold or rainy days I could watch television, Mickey Mouse Club was my favorite.

There was a stability then. Each of us had our jobs Dad worked and "put food on the table, clothing on your back and a roof over your head." Mom took care of my sister and I this included being both doctor and nurse when we were sick. We didn't go to the doctor unless we were really, really sick. Mom also took care of canning our vegetables and berries and such for winter, did the laundry, cleaned the house, took my sister and I where ever we needed to go. We each had jobs and her's was to run the household, dad's was to work and ours was to do what we were told, period end of conversation. We were the children not little adults. They told us we didn't tell them. Mom and Dad taught us how to talk with respect to other people especially adults, who were called sir or  ma'am or Mr. or Mrs. there were no first names used toward adults.

I am often amazed at how parents are told by their children what to do. I would never have gotten away with that when I was a child nor as a teenager. My parents had a simple rule, "my house, my rules." very simple and to the point. As a result of those rules I never got in trouble as a child. My dad never had to bail me out of jail. Why? Because I both feared him and respected him and my mom. He was the authority figure in our house. I remember so often mom saying, "Wait until your father gets home." and living in fear of 3:30 P. M. when he would usually walk in the door. One time, I was sixteen as I recall, mom said, something and I said, "What are you going to tell me, 'wait until your father gets home?', out from the bedroom came my father. He said, "She won't have too!" He grabbed my shirt just under my chin then proceeded to lift me up off my feet. He said, "I don't care how you talk to your mother, BUT NEVER TALK TO MY WIFE THAT WAY!" each word was punctuated with a short jab to my chin with the hand with which he had grasped my shirt he made his point that way word by word. For as long as my parents were alive I never again disrespected my mother. Later he told me I turned white as a sheet when he walked out the door. I have no reason to doubt it. He scared the hell out of me literally.

We had a strong family where respect was demanded and earned. Children were children and had no say in what adults wanted or did. Unless we were asked we were not allowed an opinion, well we had opinions but we learned to hold our tongue early in life. There was a comfort in knowing mom and dad were in charge. I and my sister had a feeling that as long as they were there everything would be all right.  This feeling lasted up to and included the day my father passed away. There was something about him that demanded my respect and that made me feel as long as he was there everything would be all right. With all his faults and he had many he was still a man I loved and respected his passing left a vacuum that would never be filled. He has been gone well over fifteen years and I still miss him every day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Unexamined Belief System- Politics Part II

How my Political Beliefs Were Formed:

My mom and dad were traditionalists as was my whole extended family. There was a pride in working, in learning a trade. There was also a strong sense of self-reliance. My dad especially could fix or repair anything. There was not a car in our family that dad had not worked on at one time or another. Dad took pride in his work both at the factory and at home. He had a confidence that he could fix anything. He helped my uncle put a floor in his basement. He did pluming and electrical work, he worked on gas lines in the house. There was nothing he could not fix or make work. He taught me to be self-reliant to depend upon no one.

When I was in third grade we moved to Lake Eliza Indiana it was our first house. It set on an acre and a half. The house sat on a quarter acre the rest was to become our garden, a place to play ball and a place to raise chickens and even pigs. I remember spring, summer and fall being gardening time. My school ended in mid May and started in September after Labor day. My summer vacation consisted of planting, weeding and watering the garden every day. I also had to cut the grass on the house lot and the lot we had next to it. I had to feed the chickens, (Which as I recall we had quite a while) and the pigs which we had for the couple of months until they escaped, (More on that another time.).

After completing my chores the day was mine.  It usually involved riding my bike to Lake Eliza about 4 miles a way to go swimming, or to the Tommy Fitzgerald's petting farm. We could rent a horse for a couple of hours for two or three dollars. Funny there was no bubble wrapping us to ride our bikes. It was part of growing up to get hurt, bleed and have scabs to pick in front of girls.  We found a pond on one of the farmers fields and often skinny dipped there and cooked our lunch, made up of his corn and whatever be brought from home. When I was in third grade I hunted squirrels and rabbits with a 4/10 shotgun. I shot at a few but don't recall hitting any. Now in target and sporting clays shooting I realize not much has changed. We played army and had the most marvelous wars in the wood behind our house. We played army with BB guns and several times we had to dig a BB out of the butt of one of our friends. Thankfully our mothers never found out what  we were doing, you know its fun until someone looses and eye. The world was ours.

When strawberries, raspberries, blackberries came into season usually by mid June we picked them all summer long. Sometimes we would get up early in the morning and pick a bunch for breakfast. Mom and my aunt canned them or made the most wonderful pies , my favorite were the fried pies.  Over the winter we had no end of berry jam and jelly, berry syrup and just plain old canned berries for pies, I dearly love pie because it brings back the best memories of my youth.

Mom and my aunt canned our garden vegetables and we never knew what it was to buy canned vegetables until we moved into the city. If we needed meat we bought it at Tommy Fitzgerald's meat locker where we could buy a quarter of a steer or pig. We also got farm fresh eggs when we no longer had chickens. We were  mostly self-reliant for food. Looking back I realize that being in the city makes one dependent. Dependent on the grocery store for food, dependent on the government for water and sewer, dependent on the government transportation. The more we came/come to depend upon the government the more freedom we give up.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unexamined Belief System - Political Views

Political Views, (No what do you really think?)


I was raised a Democrat and very pro union. I remember one of our family elders saying that "I'd vote for Al Capone if he was running as a democrat rather than a Republican." He went on as he often did, "Republicans are for the rich, Democrats are for the "little man." On and on it would go about how the Democrats always treated the worker better than the Republicans. These wonderful discussions usually lead by the Pater Familias and joined by all the adult males would argue the plight of the "little man", women were usually in the kitchen back then and rarely got involved in "men's conversation". The talk would range from how Unions protected the worker from the "Big Men", (I've really grown to dislike that term. But it is such a part of my memory of those days that I have to use it.) and how the Democrats had the "little man's" best interest at heart. 

Now, looking back on arguments I'm amazed at how true they were for the time and how false they were. I'm also saddened, that as a result of the "big man" "little man" arguments some of us accepted our fate as "little men" who never had a chance and so we never tried to climb the mountain. There were some however, who not only climbed the mountain but they made it to the top! These refused to accept that they could not achieve. They refused to accept mediocrity and just stay in their place and complain. In a sense there were two paths offered growing up stay a "little man" or achieve great things. I, until I retired, choose to be safe in a nice government job. While some of my more successful relatives choose to achieve and they did and so did their children! These very successful relatives set high standards for themselves and their children and success followed.   

Life is complicated.  Mom and Dad were children during the Great Depression, the singular economic event of the last century. The Great Depression changed forever the way people thought and acted . I remember growing up dad and mom telling me over and over again not to waist food and too clean my plate. I remember how mom could make a Sunday chicken last until Wednesday. Sunday, roasted chicken, Monday leftovers like Chicken Ala King, Tuesday maybe a chicken salad in our lunch and Wednesday chicken soup. This of course depended upon the size of the chicken some were big roasters other just fryers that would last only two days. I don't remember being allowed special dinners because I didn't like something. Dad would say, "This is dinner you will taste everything." Then we'd get the lecture of how mom worked hard to make dinner and we should appreciate what we have, "children in China are starving." And yes I did once suggest they send them my share, it didn't go well with me and my dad was not happy. I remember sitting at the table for quite along time before I finally got it through my head that I could eat my dinner in five minutes and watch TV or I could sit there for the rest of my life. I ate the food. 

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