Sunday, March 30, 2008

Nostalgia Isn't What it Used To Be

Chickens - We eat them before they are born and after they’re dead.

Son of a Depression era Baby: I’ve reached that point in life when I’ve become a person “of a certain age.” I grew up in an ethnic home in which English was the primary but not the only language spoken. Three of my grandparents spoke little or no English and only one taught herself to speak “broken English.” My parents constantly reminded us that they were Depression Babies and therefore could make a week’s worth of meals from a single chicken.

Jokes were clean but the air was dirty: Growing up in Pittsburgh during the 1950s we did not realize how polluted the air was. When a new house was build or an older one re-roofed, the color of the shingles only lasted for a few months. After that all shingles were black. If we drove past the steel mills at a time when a particular process was underway, residue called “quencher” filled the air so thickly that headlights were turned on and windshield wipers were necessary to see. The accompanying acrid odor burned our lungs so we tried to hold our breath as long as possible.

Immigrants were considered less than the rest: Perhaps issues of immigration were not as pronounced as today because there was no email to send hate (only snail mail and the occasional chain letter), no cable news to fill the airways, (“Goodnight David, Goodnight Chet”), and most of the immigrants had come through Ellis Island and were therefore documented. But still discrimination existed. Banks would not loan to immigrants so groups of ethnics frequently got together, pooled their money, and loaned within the community.

No OSHA, FDA or other warnings: By today’s standards we lived unhealthy and risky lives. Nearly half the population smoked and all the chemicals in the air could not have been healthy. We had no warning labels per se, only our mother’s warning that “If you don’t stop that you’ll break your neck.” Nobody seemed to break their neck, although during the spring of my senior year in high school Mickey Hrvacic went swimming in the river and drowned.

So how did they live so long? My father died a couple of years ago at age 87. My mother, who could still bend at the waist and touch her toes well into her eighties passed away in her 91st year. My parents’ doctor, who was about 5 years their senior, continued his practice even after my mother died. A neighbor, Delphina, finally moved out of her home and into a limited care facility at age 98. Our next door neighbor, Mamie, is fit and spry and pushing 90. So go figure. Without the government looking out for our best interests, and by all of today’s standards, that generation, who almost never took pills, lived long, active, and healthy lives.

A little blogging music Maestro… How about the Jewish folk song, “La Chiam; To Life!”

BTW: We will be away from the computer this week. Please stop by and read some of the old blogs. Leave comments of what you’d like to read more of or see eliminated. See you around the corner.

Dr. Forgot

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After all these years, I have just been introduced to this site. You mention Mickey Hrvacic in this blog..I lived across the "alley" from the Hrvacic's and took many a walk with Mickey's mom to Clairton cemetary where she would cry over his grave. In another blog you mentioned my uncle, Pete Colonna the long ago the bittersweet but thank you for it all.
Valerie (Colonna) Secrease