Remember When times were gentler

Published 12:43 am Saturday, April 11, 2020

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     When you ask them, everyone over the age of 90, 80, or 70 will all agree that times have changed drastically from when they grew up. The stories they tell about the South Alabama Flood of 1929, the Great Depression, World War II, or the era of “Rock and Roll” in the 1950s and 1960s, the days when girls wore dresses to school, or when children walked to and from school braving the elements and distance traveled are certainly tales of the past worthy of sharing.

     Most of us have mementoes in our homes that came from our parents or grandparents or that remind us of gentler times, a term often used to describe the past.

     While we are being urged to stay at home during the Coronavirus Pandemic, now is a perfect time to talk to your children and grandchildren to tell them about some of your special collectibles that you possess because they were handed down to you or you saved them as part of the story of your own life. Not everyone has these items labeled for identification after you are gone, but we may have good intentions of doing so. I have a delightful and sentimental friend that has done that. She (Shirley House) is way ahead of me.

     The list of heirloom collectibles might go something like this: a quilt, a christening gown, an Easter bonnet, a set of china or dishes, a gun, a sword, a trunk, a sewing machine with foot pedal, a locket, a hat pin, a crocheted dress collar, a grandfather or 7-day shelf clock, a gentleman’s pocket watch with chain, a family Bible, grandmother’s fancy handkerchiefs, cross-stitch doilies, a church (in the wildwood) hymnal, a senior scrapbook, report cards of the past, a dinner bell, an iron wash pot, Bible School certificates, Golden books, or military memorabilia.

     All of these keepsakes just might have significance to a family event or time in life of long ago. Some family member at one time shared the story with you so it is time to introduce the stories to your younger family members who will keep them going into the next generation thus preserving the family history.

     Let me give you one example. My grandson Steadman Glenn, a member of the LBWCC Ensemble, opened up my guitar case last night.  We talked about nylon strings vs. metal strings. In that case was a large clipping of a picture of Peter, Paul, and Mary.

     “Who are they?” he asked. That gave me the opportunity to tell him about my AHS folk singing group of the 1960s, “The Singing Sisters,” and how my friends and I listened to the records of their performing those freedom songs of the day. Back then we listened over and over and figured out the chords, memorized the words, then felt the emotions of songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “This Land is Your Land,” and “Cruel War.”  We performed at our school and at hootenannies all over South Alabama in 1964 and 1965.

     Peter, Paul, and Mary had performed at the Freedom March on Washington in August 1963 where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his “I Have a Dream Speech.”  When Steadman saw that picture on the back of the album cover of the group singing to a crowd of 250,000 standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial facing the Washington Memorial, he exclaimed, “I have been there!” Sometimes family stories turn into history lessons.

     I told Steadman about getting to attend a live Peter, Paul,  and Mary performance in Atlanta’s Chastain Park several years ago and being invited to go back stage to meet the trio. I guess my poster was the flashiest one held up during “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” – It read, I AM YOUR BIGGEST FAN!

     We further talked about the Beatles and listened to some of their songs on my “record player” such as “Yesterday,” “With a Little Help from My Friends,” “Let It Be,” “Hey, Jude,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The Lettermen and The Four Seasons  Yes, we played songs from those albums, “When I Fall in Love,” “Let’s Hold On,” “Sherry,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Steadman, almost 20 years old, is a music enthusiast and enjoyed hearing how the trends of the past have led to the music genre of today. Now I am not worried about where all of my treasured “albums” will end up one day – from Broadway to Country to Classic to Folk. Vinyl records have made a comeback, and now a grandson has taken a keen interest. 

     One of the records we were listening to had several skips and scratches. I told him as honest as I could, “We must have played that record at a party or two.” Yes, I was young at one time, too, he realized!

     Wait ‘til I let him look over my stack of 45 rpm records and hear Elvis, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Cash, Everly Brothers, and Kingston Trio. He will really like, I predict, hearing my mother’s 33 rpm records of the 1940s like “Embraceable You,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby,” “I’ll Never Smile Again,” “Elmer’s Tune,” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” If we had not had a pandemic in this year of our Lord 2020, Steadman would be out with his friends gathering in some parking lot or at a back yard pool party. Now I may just have his undivided attention.

     Being at home indefinitely is not such a bad time for sharing stories and memories with your children and grandchildren. It is your golden opportunity to pull out your collections from the closets and from under the bed – the baseball collection, the sports hat collection, the button collection, the spoon and butter knife collection.  Just start off by saying, “Remember When………………” Just try it this week. You can do it, too. It’s your turn, readers!

     Sue Bass Wilson, AHS Class of 1965, is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at