Magazine article America in WWII

"When I Was a Kid ..."

Magazine article America in WWII

"When I Was a Kid ..."

Article excerpt

"Americans used to be tougher." What generation hasn't heard that from its elders since colonial times or even earlier? We on the younger, receiving end of the remark usually have to admit, if grudgingly, that the old folks are right.

I saw the rural homestead where my dad grew up in the 1920s and '30s--a dirt road, an outhouse instead of an indoor toilet, no heat but the kitchen's coal stove, cold running water inside, and a giant kettle on the stove for warm water. My dad's dad was a blacksmith for a western Pennsylvania coal mine, making tools and mule shoes using a coal-heated forge, a big hammer, and muscles. After all that, he'd come home and work in a garden, and shoe neighbors' horses on the side. My dad's mother did all the cooking and baking from scratch, put up fruits and vegetables for the winter, made quilts, and did laundry with a washtub and washboard. She also found time to serve as one of her community's midwives.

In the town outside of which my dad's family had its homestead, my mom lived in a house her dad had built himself. Her dad walked a few miles in predawn darkness to a coal mine every weekday, worked all day digging out coal, and then came home to work in his garden and tend to his chickens and cows. He made clothes and shoes for the youngest of his 12 children (it would have been 14 if the twin baby boys had survived), and cut their hair. He sold Gomozo, an herbal purgative patent medicine, to fellow townsfolk, and he tended to his chickens and cows. …

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