Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Simpler Times

What do you think this place was in its day? A gas station? Or, as we used to say back when people actually helped you out, a service station? A grocery store? I vote for a combination service station/supply store myself, but perhaps one of my local readers can tell me for sure what this place really used to be. For all I know, this was once a railroad station.

We all know I won't have the facts straight.

For the record, when I was alternating between standing in the middle of the road and trespassing, a car loaded with people pulled up. I was preparing my "I'm just taking pictures not trespassing and I am really not some lunatic, well, arguably," speech when I realized I knew the driver.

I was safe. This time.

This delightful building is located down Shadow, which is on the way to New Point. Notice how small it is. Assuming this was once a commercial building (and let's just go with that for the sake of argument because I'm trying to make a point, stay tuned, it's coming), you can bet there were no ATM's, no racks loaded with mindless magazines, and no day-old hot dogs swirling in their own grease under a heat lamp. Not that I have anything against all that. In fact I resemble that remark about the hot dog. Or rather, sometimes I feel like I am swirling in my own filth under a heat lamp. Or sometimes I feel like a day-old hot dog. Swirling. In grease.

Let's continue, shall we?

Regardless of what this was, I'm merely trying to say things were different not that long ago....much simpler, much more basic and without all the Stuff. By Stuff I mean too much stuff, too many choices, too much of everything.

Speaking of simpler times (and we were, weren't we?), I often think about the differences between my childhood and how my children live now.

When I was growing up, there were three or four TV channels at most, and none of them were geared towards children. Cartoons aired on Saturday morning, and Walt Disney movies were Sunday night. Other than that, any television we watched was pretty much this: the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, roller derby and Match Game 76.

My kids can't go anywhere without their hand-held electronic games. They watch any number of the multiple channels that air children's shows 24-hours a day. For goodness sakes these days most vehicles come equipped with individual DVD players for each child presumably to provide entertainment. The Chesapeake Bay Family drove cross country and back squashed in a Volkswagen van. All I had was a book and endless hours of daydreaming, staring out the window, and poking Middle Sister. We were gone for a month and didn't see TV the entire time.

Below is something I wrote in my diary when I was 10:

July 14, 1975

Dear Diary,

Today I had fun. This morning we played the Game of the States. It was fun. Then I went to Neighbor Girl's house. We picked blackberries and grapes. Then we went to the pool, but it was raining. So we played in the rain a little.

-Chesapeake Bay Child

So let's dissect this a moment:

1. I played a board game, which consisted of a cardboard playing surface and pieces shaped like states.
2. The game was (gasp!) educational.
2. I thought that was fun.
3. I then walked to my neighbor's house and we picked ourselves some fresh fruit, right off the vine. (No Yo-Gos, fruit (?) roll-ups or goldfish for us.)
4. We then intended to exercise more, by swimming.
5. Except it was raining, so we just amused ourselves by lollygagging and splashing around in the mud puddles.
6. Things were so much simpler then.

I am starting to sound like my grandmother, but I do wish we could go back to simpler times.

In the meantime, I'm off to Zooms to use the ATM machine, buy a People magazine and eat a hot dog that's been swirling under the heat lamp. Swirling in its own grease.

I don't understand why I like saying that so much.

Time to stop this swirling nonsense of a post right now. You may now wake up.

The End.


Mental P Mama said...

I remember those days. My children still can't believe that I grew up without "anything to do." If they only knew...Now I sound like the granny.

MommyTime said...

Yes, we spent hours upon hours playing kick the can in the street when I was growing up. The required supplies for this game were children (shoes optional) and a can. I wish my kids could have this too when they get a bit older.

I think that building was a tiny general store, and the giant portico was for sitting and rocking under when you were old or it was raining.

Grandma J said...

Boy can I relate! We amused ourselves doing bizarre things like go treasure hunting, which consisted of wandering in the middle of nowhere, search for junk. Or we built forts out of Mother Natures castaways.

The building reminds me of an old gas station that might have had a mini store inside. The merchandise might consist of a chest style soda machine for nickle cokes. The kind that has all the bottle upright, secured in channels and sitting in ice cold water. I hope I'm not the only one who remembers this type of vending machine.
The mini store might have a spin rack of post cards and maybe some road maps.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to fry up a hotdog for breakfast, and while it's swirling in grease, I'll freshen up my coffee.

bellalately said...

I totally hear and understand what you're saying. But, I have to say I'm very glad to have technological advancements like the swiffer sweeper and mop! ;)

But, I do see how when we were kids we were forced to develop social skills (read: beat the crap out of each other to show who was 'boss'). Now, our kids are isolationists, even with all of their 'connectivity.'

Big Hair Envy said...

It definitely looks like an old General Store. It may have even housed a Post Office. I'm sure there was a woodstove inside!

You forgot to mention that "Wild Kingdom" came on right before Disney on Sunday night!! We loved both of those shows :)

Anonymous said...

This post scares me a bit, because I had a conversation with my "mumma" on almost this exact topic the other day. Except the focus was slightly different: I am constantly surprised that everyone else is surprised that there is an obesity problem in this country today.

My grandmother visited a very similar little store to the one in your picture to purchase: flour, sugar, molasses and corn meal. Every other single ingredient in all of the meals her family consumed was produced on their farm, or caught in the river.

She (with the assistance of the rest of the family) manufactured or produced almost every food item they ate.

There were as many as 15 people living in that household at times during my mother's formative years. (!)

I have trouble coming up with dinner for 4 from a warehouse (Walmart) full of mostly already prepared items.

From that dinky little store back then, to Walmart today (with hotdogs, donuts and a whole aisle devoted to chips and sodas!!!).

Wouldn't you over-eat? Ooops, [burp] I already did! (or, as Britney says, I did it again!)

A few years back, Mathews spent a somewhat rough Christmas season recovering from an ice-storm that knocked out the electrical "current" for weeks. It was a cold, smelly Christmas, as everyone gathered to celebrate, all wearing hats --as much to cover up their unwashed hair, as to keep warm. Remember, in Mathews, no current = no running water. (we flushed our toilets by hauling water from the cow trough. I know you were wondering.)

As my dear old daddy read his book by the light of a kerosene lamp, he opined, "I don't know what everybody's b!@#$&g about, everybody always wants an 'old-fashioned Christmas' -- well, puddin, this is what an 'old-fashioned Christmas' was like."

Great post, CBW. As my sainted mumma always says, "great minds run in circles" (or something like that).

Merry Labor Day,
Have a Hot Dog for me,

(Anonymous Mathews Native Residing in the Suburbs of Richmond)

Bear Naked said...

I spent my childhood reading books and making corsages of roses from our climbing rose bush growing on our trellis for all the neighbourhood mothers.
Didn't everyone used to have a trellis?

Bear((( )))

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Hey, everyone. Thanks for the great comments. I'm glad I'm not the only one who can remember those less complex, less technically--dependent times.

To AMNRITSR: I hear you loud and clear on the whole processed food thing. My mumma and daddy planted a garden this year, and have mercy! We've been eating fresh vegetables like there's no tomorrow. You can eat them all day long and never gain an ounce. Eat the equivalent volume of potato chips? Bad news. Really bad news. Ask me how I know.

Yes, current does go out here quite often and it can be challenging. AFter Hurricane Isabelle, we went for several of the longest weeks I've never had a cup of coffee in the morning, and it was not pretty. But it did make me acutely aware that "current" is really on a relatively recent luxury, and many of our not-so-distant relatives went without it and made out just fine.

Thanks to all of you for contributing, and especially to Anonymous Mathews Native for adding some additional Mathews perspective.

Rebeckah said...

That was a beautiful post! When I was little my parents took us to Virginia to see the house my Grandma grew up in. It looked just like that picture but without a porch. It was 2 rooms and SO tiny! My Grandma had 9 brothers and sisters. Isn't that crazy? Now, no one has 9 children, unless it is an accident : ) and no one lives in a 2 room house. Even trailors in trailor parks have 2 or 3 bedrooms. CRAZY!
PS I love that you still have your diary! How cool!

Grandma J said...

Boo, You've been tagged. I know, I know, you're a busy woman.

Suck it up! Actually it's an easy one. :)

I'll make it up to you and come up with a Rita or Jack post

Anonymous said...

We had 4 TV stations AND an antenna rotor which sometimes would bless us with a couple of distant stations, depending on the weather and its mood. We also had a closet and two toyboxes full of games in that room. We spent a lot of time riding our bikes up and down the driveway, out and around the barn.


You and I are so singing from the same hymnal, lady.

foolery said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto, DITTO. I have that same hymnal as all yous, SOUP. And AMNRITSOR, how on EARTH did you get water into the cow trough? I know because we had 24 hours without electricity in January of last year (a lot of people had a lot longer) and being on a well the troughs would have been a big issue if it weren't for the rain puddles.

We made hay forts; played on the jungle gym; spent endless hours scratch-scratch-scratching in the Lego drawer; we rode horses and bikes to our friends' houses; we rode our bikes five miles in to town to go to the pool or go bowling and get a Lemon Ice at Gardner's Frosty; and we had nature hunts, after which we glued the found leaves into notebooks using -- ready? -- TOOTHPASTE.

So maybe the self-sufficient childhood ain't all it's cracked up to be, because I turned out pretty weird. :)

Great post as always, CBW -- oh, and my guess for the building is BROTHEL. The johns sat under the shade to wait their turns. :)

Anonymous said...

it amazes me to see how much gwynns island has changed over the years yet some of it still hasn't changed. that little shack used to be one of my landmarks as a child that told me that we were almost at the campground. i spent every summer there..from the time i was 7til my early 20's. i love your photos by the way. takes me back.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Anonymous - Things have changed somewhat in my lifetime here...mostly just more houses and less brush around the shorelines because of the new houses. The court house has a new food lion, but otherwise looks pretty much the same. I am hoping we don't change too much, because I feel we are one of the last frontiers...along with Deltaville and the Northern Neck area.

I'm glad I can bring back good memories. Thanks for visiting.

Kate said...

Still reading through the archives! I'll give the story behind "Shadow" since that's where I grew up. Across the main road from the fire station was where the Shadow post office was, and the house to the left of it was where the post mistress lived. I remember my mom going to her estate sale after she'd passed. Anyway, Shadow was named such because the post office, which was smaller than a shed, people said it was so small it didn't even cast a shadow. This story comes off like the Onemo story doesn't it?