Childhood Chores That Have Gone Extinct
I had spring, summer and fall chores that I hated as a kid growing up in the 50's and early 60's. Now I look back at them as long lost traditions. I don’t think modern kids have to worry about them. Oh, we had the normal chores of lawn mowing, leaf raking and snow shoveling, but I’m talking about different chores.
We had wooden storm doors and windows that we’d have to change seasonally. Not like today’s vinyl windows that you just slide up and down. I mean, one person would stand inside and unhook them, another would stand outside to hold them so they wouldn’t fall. Then we had to lug them into the cellar for storage. The house I grew up in had 27 windows!
As was common back in the 50’s and 60’s, Mom was a stay-at-home Mom. Dad worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Boston, though we just referred to it as the post office. But, no matter what you called it, that got him out of “changing the storms.”
I was the eighth of nine children but once I got old enough to help, my slightly oldest sister and my younger sister were the only siblings left at home. The others had all married and moved out, which is also when I started my babysitting career.
My sisters Cathy and Alice, and I,I suffered the injustice of having to give up one of our vacation days to devote to “changing the storms.” But now, I’d love the chance to do it just one more time.
You may never have heard of a curtain stretcher. We had one. It was a wooden frame on legs and was about five feet long and about 3 feet high.
Spaced about every inch around the frame were protruding nails, about the length of thumbtacks. You had to be pretty careful when setting the thing up or taking it down.
On a warm summer day, Mom would wash all the curtains…from all 27 windows. Then, she and I, along with one or two of my sisters, would go out to the back yard and stretch the freshly laundered curtains along the frame.
We had to be careful not to prick a finger on the nails. I wasn’t worried about the injury; there’d be Hell to pay for getting blood on the freshly laundered curtain.
After they dried, we’d help Mom take the curtains off the stretcher. My mind’s ear can still hear the little “ping” the curtains would make as we un-impaled them.
Then in the fall, it would be time to “change the storms” again; taking down the screens and putting the storm windows in place for the ensuing winter. We’d have to lug them up from the cellar first, and that in itself was tiring.
Because there wasn’t an appropriately timed school vacation, this chore would occur over a two or three day period when we got home from school, since we’d only have a few hours ‘til darkness fell.
We’d have to wash the windows before mounting them. We used Glass Wax. I don’t know if they even make it anymore. It went on as a slightly pinkish liquid…almost like Pepto Bismol…and in a few minutes it would dry to a powdery residue. You’d wipe it off and the windows would sparkle.
We also used the Glass Wax during the Christmas season to decorate the windows with snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas trees, wreaths, etc. You'd hold the stencil of one of the shapes up against the glass and dab the Glass Wax on with a sponge. There would be special ca - yes, it came in a can, with a package of appropriate stencils attached to the can. Nowadays folks decorate with LED lights…not that that’s a bad thing.
Progress has certainly made our lives easier. Back then we didn't have cell phones, microwave ovens, crock pots, dishwashers, self-cleaning ovens or just about any of the modern conveniences most people enjoy today, but just one more time I’d love to stretch curtains or “change the storms” with Mom.