Church, Cookouts, Cleaning ladies and Cousins- 4 more C words. Here’s how they relate to my growing up years in the 50s and 60s.
Church – I was raised Presbyterian. Back then, we wore our Sunday-best to church. Little boys in suits with bow ties, little girls with petticoats under their dresses wearing socks and patent leather shoes. My church sanctuary was a solemn and imposing place, the soaring ceiling with rectangular glass-paned chandeliers hanging on long chains from the peaked roof. Stained glass windows, dark wooden pews and pastors in long black robes with flowing sleeves. “Our heavenly Father, infinite and eternal in Thy wisdom, being, power, grace and love …” intoned the preacher every week. As a teenager, Billy Graham taught me I could have a personal relationship with Christ. I read the entire Bible in the following years, and was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ in college. That combined base of both structured and more free-spirited religion shaped my experiences into my early twenties.
Cookouts – were common at my house on Saturday nights in the first twelve years of my life. It was an American tradition, and my Dad wanted it to be a tradition at our house, too. Usually, Dad fired up the charcoal grill and Mom defrosted the t-bones and popped the potatoes in the oven. My dad only knew one way to grill steaks – well-done and chewy. That was how he liked them, and he didn’t ever inquire whether the rest of the family wanted them slightly less cooked. I was much older before I discovered a nice, tender, juicy medium-cooked rib-eye. Other weekends, if we went fishing or something, we’d roast hot dogs over a fire. I loved hotdogs. That was before I knew what they were made out of.
Cleaning Lady – I loved Mrs. Bentz. Our cleaning lady came weekly on Thursdays, long after I was no longer living at home. She always called my mother Mrs. McIntyre. When Mom fixed lunch for my family and me (I came home from school for lunch until 7th grade), she also fixed a plate for Mrs. Bentz. She ate in the den next to the laundry room. This sweet lady had a wonderful accent. I’m sure she was from Poland, or Hungary, or maybe Czechoslovakia. Each Thursday, mother picked her up at 8 a.m. at her house on the other side of town; , and then took her home in the late afternoon. In retrospect, I wish I had talked with her about her own family, and where she came from, and what it was like to be a cleaning lady. I missed out.
Cousins – I had seven cousins; four were the children of my father’s brother; and three were the children of my mother’s two brothers. My uncles all fought in World War II, in different branches of the service. The first of my cousins was born in 1946, and the rest of us followed in regular time intervals. All nine of us were born by 1956, four girls and five boys. Some of my fondest memories were of playing, or fighting, with my cousins. We had Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July picnics, Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas together. In both groups, there was a pecking order. One of my girl cousins and I spent weeks together at my grandparents rural home south of Stillwater. We have secrets. It’s great to have cousins.
More Boomer Bites are on the way next Thursday. I hope you’ll check back. Let me know if we have common experiences of the 50s and 60s!