Recently while sitting at our dining area table, my wife and I were reminiscing about our years of growing up. As you get older, you tend to reflect back a lot to days gone by. I call them: Do you remember moments. We are both in our 70s and have a lot of years we can reflect on.
To set the stage a bit, my parents were married during the early days of WW 2, I appeared shortly there after. By 1946 they had separated. Fortunately for me, they were both from the same town on the Jersey side of Philadelphia. Ferry boats were still in use back then, transporting folks over the Delaware River. I would get to see my father every week as well as my fraternal grandparents. There were not a lot of large gatherings at their dinner table. The table was in the kitchen up against a wall and made of metal. Two meals each week never varied. Friday nights was always Oyster Stew or fish, (Yuk.) Saturday meals were always Hot Dogs and Baked Beans, (Toot-Toot.)
My parents were young when married. When the war started, my father was already in the Army. He spent time in the Philippines, and I’m thinking once he came home, the glowing flame of a youthful romance was no longer there. Neither parent ever spoke of negatives about the other. I was fortunate that I was equally shared and held accountable for my actions by both, neither parent would ever put down the other.
My mother and I would share a second-floor apartment in the home of my maternal Great-grandparents. My father would move back into the same bedroom he was raised in with his parents. We were separated by railroad tracks and less than a mile. I would spend a lot of time at both homes. Also, one block away was my maternal grandparents and an aunt. I was loved, spoiled, and watched over by caring relatives.
My wife grew up less than an hour away in Wilmington, Delaware, 36 miles as the crow flies. She was #4 of 5 children whose parents stayed together forever. She had three older brothers and a younger sister. Most of her family’s relatives were in NE Pennsylvania; the family would spend a lot of time visiting that neck of the woods. In her life also, the Dining Room Table would be the gathering place in Wilmington as well as Freeland, PA. Neighbors would constantly drop in at the Wilmington location. My wife remembers one family in particular that timed their visit at dinner time, quite frequently in fact. Not wanting to be rude, they were always invited to stay, and they did. Yes sir E. Bob, “back in the day,” I like to say.
There were not a whole lot of electronic diversions back in the late 40s, early 50s. TV was just getting going and we didn’t have one. I do remember going next door to see Howdy Doody at 5:00 pm. That show came on the air in 1947 and ran until 1960. The folks who allowed me to watch the show would ultimately be the parents of my step-father when my mother remarried. On occasion, I would carry my dinner over with me and watch the show at the dining room table. Looking back, this was a strange place to have a TV by today’s standards. I might add that this home was a strict Methodist facility. Once my mother married their son, Methodist standards took hold. No card playing or sports or rowdiness on Sundays, ever.
Here’s a look back at Granny W’s old-time dining table . This was the table at my maternal grandmother’s home. This home was a Lutheran home. That dining room table would host holiday meals for many years as well as other celebratory events. I can remember having to sit around and listen to whatever it was old people talked about back then. I vividly recall the Truman – Dewey presidential race being discussed. That was November 3,1948, and I was not yet six years of age. Truman won in an upset, by the way. All the newspapers reported Dewey the winner. Yep folks there was even fake news at the time. Many a card game, money on the table, cigar smoke in the air was the norm during a lot of get gatherings.
That Granny “W” could cook, and the aroma of the evening meal would hit you in the face the minute you walked into the house. She had a big part in raising me. Her dining room table was quite large. It had substantial sculpted legs with Gargoyles or something similer on them. Over the table was a chandelier encircled with gold-threaded fringe. Our children still remember being scolded for flicking that fringe. So I’m thinking, does that mean children were always on the fringe while the adults conversed?
The atmosphere at this table was much more jovial than the Methodist table. Many Aunts and Uncles would be in attendance. My grandmother would always have some Mogen David wine in the cupboard. For the men, it was Schmidt’s of Philadelphia beer. What a contrast between the two tables. I’m thinking about the difference between Lutherans and Methodists. I’m sure that’s politically incorrect in this day and age. I’ll call this the happy table and the other the stuffy table.
I would spend many hours at this table listening, trying to picture places and events that were talked about. When I was sent off to bed, I would listen to more stories at the keyhole in the door. Often talk would center around my great-grandfather, and the time he traveled with a Wild West show in the early 1900s. He was a Gun-Smith and kept the show’s weapons functioning. I could really close my eyes and place myself in those days of old. High-O-Siver, away! My grandmothers brother was often in attendance and would tell stories about his life as an Engineer on the Pennsylvania Railroad. I often would dream of riding the rails in the Caboose.
Yes, back in the day there were many things other than electronics to keep a boys mind imagining. I sure did like playing Cowboys and Indians. Thanks to that dining room table, I could place myself in the moment.