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Childhood Chores That Have Gone Extinct

Updated on January 4, 2014
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I had spring, summer and fall chores that I hated as a kid. 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 had older siblings, but once I got old enough to help, Mom and I would do it, usually during April school vacation.

I suffered the injustice of having to give up one of my 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.

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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 would go out to the back yard and stretch the freshly laundered curtains along the frame.

I 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, I’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.

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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 I 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 Bismal…and in a few minutes it would dry to a powdery residue. You’d wipe it off and the windows would sparkle.

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We also used the Glass Wax during the Christmas season to decorate the windows with snowmen, snowflakes, Christmas trees, wreaths, etc. There would be special cans…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.

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    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Yes, the modern kids would not know what to do with those types of great chores! LOL Very interesting and enjoyed the read. My mom had gone to Rockport, MA, which is about an hour from Boston (as I am sure you know), after my dad died to visit her sister. When the "Perfect Storm" hit, my mom was the one who put up the storm windows for my aunt, all by herself.

      Up and more and sharing

      Hugs, Faith Reaper

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Great story, I love it. I was my mom's helper too. We should be proud they knew who they could depend on. Up and sharing everywhere I can!

      Would you like your picture on your "hug"? I like to find out before I do and get permission.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      I can identify with the nostalgia in this article. How come we miss the hard work? It must have been good for us. Thanks for the good memories.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 3 years ago from Planet Earth

      Wow - I'd forgotten about the storm windows! We had those, too. You brought back some memories here. I grew up in a two very old farm houses - one was more than 100 years' old when I was a kid, and my grandmother grew up in it; and other was the home my grandfather built for her when they married. Both had started out with fireplaces for heat & been converted to coal furnaces, so shoveling coal was a regular part of winter life (as the only girl, I escaped it somehow).

      We didn't carry trash to the curb, we burned it in a huge, 50-gallon metal drum. From the time I could stand at the sink, my job was washing the dishes by hand every night. We hung laundry on clotheslines, and the sheets smelled fresh and clean in warm weather. But I winter, they froze stiff & had to thaw out before we could fold them.

      These things were outdated even when I was a kid, and they really sound ancient now! But I wouldn't trade those memories for anything.

      Voted up and shared.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Rockport's on the North Shore, a couple of hours from me, Faith Reaper. It's a beautiful town...peninsula actually. That region has a quaintness about it, like Cape Cod does. Probably not among the best places to be during The Perfect Storm :) Nice to have you stop by, and thanks for the votes and shares.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      At the time we probably weren't thrilled about being Mommy's helper, Jackie, but looking back, those were special times, weren't they? Thanks for the votes and shares...and thanks, again, for the Hug of the Day! You can certainly add my picture to the Hug...it will prove that I'm old enough to write about those memories :) Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, MsDora, thanks for stopping by. Back then we didn't realize it was hard work...until someone invented vinyl replacement windows! I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      And I had forgotten about the coal, Marcy Goodfleisch! Our house already had oil heat when my folks bought it in 1946, but the people next door burned coal. I still remember the dust and noise when it was delivered. They'd send it down a chute, through a cellar window and into a coal bin.

      We also burned trash in a 50 gallon drum, and wouldn't replace it until the sides started to rust out. Burning the trash was another of my chores, and it got me out of doing dishes. My sisters had that duty.

      When Mom eventually got an electric clothes dryer, we gladly swapped the fresh smell for the softer underwear :) It was a wonderful smell, though, wasn't it. Now we get that aroma from a Yankee Candle. Thanks for commenting, voting and sharing.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 3 years ago

      Having grow up in those times...I can remember...Wonderful Hub Bob, very Enjoyable to be taken back to another time...Sadly, today is so different. Time and progress are good...But still...fun to look back. Thanks for sharing and jogging those memories.

      I now look forward to Following your Hubs.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Hi, reading this really brought back memories. We didn't have to do the windows or curtains like you did but other chores that came to mind were things such as helping to clean out the pantry, sorting out the washing because she had an old fashioned washing machine so it made quite a lot of water mess and so on! lol! great memories!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks for your kind words, b.malin. It does feel good to be taken back to those times, but writing it also brought on a little melancholy. I was brought back to specific events from my childhood that would have been different had I the poise and confidence that maturity brings.

      I also wrote "Echos and Vapors of A Baby Boomer's Childhood" which focused on the sounds and smells of the 50's that we no longer experience. That was particularly enjoyable to write.

      In it, I referred to the "town guys," municipal workers who did the work that's mostly outsourced today. This past summer I attended the wake of a childhood friend back in the old hometown, and who was there but one of the "town guys." I almost cried. We talked the whole time about "back in the day." I hadn't seen him since 1963 and figured he was long gone.

      I arrived at the wake just minutes after another town guy had left. Oh, how I wish I could have shaken his hand, given him a hug and told him how much of a factor he was in my childhood. I was told he's 92 and not doing well. It's all at once invigorating and melancholy. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, Nell, we didn't have a pantry and I was always disappointed in that. The next door neighbors had a pantry, and I was always envious of that because it contained such wonderful stuff. We had the same stuff in cupboards and closets, but it just wasn't as wondrous as the stuff in their pantry. And I remember Mom's old wringer-style washing machine...state-of-the-art for that era, but pretty primitive thinking back on it. Thanks for stopping by and, happy bubbling :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      What a great account of yesteryear. No, they certainly do not have those types of chores now. I enjoyed reading (and learning about curtain stretchers) as I had never heard of them!

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Nice to see you, FlourishAnyway! With today's wash 'n hang fabrics, the curtain stretcher has gone the way of the buggy whip. Besides, does anyone wash curtains anymore? I think most people just get new ones. Glad you stopped by.

    • To Start Again profile image

      Selina Kyle 3 years ago

      Fantastic hub and what fond memories! Perhaps I should describe the "changing of the storms" to my sons the next time they complain about unloading the dishwasher or feeding the dog! Loved it, Bob :)

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Thanks, To Start Again, glad you enjoyed it. You'd probably enjoy my "echos and vapors" hub, too. There's a link to it in the sidebar above. If your sons, and most of the kids today, read these two hubs, perhaps they wouldn't feel so neglected and abused because they have to do a few chores. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Childhood Chores That Have Gone Extinct does bring back memories so much has changed these chores are not even thought of.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      You're right, DDE, even I hadn't thought about them in years. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 3 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Great hub. I have never heard of "Storm Windows" or "curtain stretchers"! We mustn't have had them in the UK. My grandmother had a "dolly peg". It looked like a 3-legged stool with a long handle sticking up from the middle and was used for moving clothes around in the "copper". Water, clothes and soap were put in the "copper" tub and the heat turned on (it was a gas ring) and the dolly peg was used to swish clothes around as the water heated. Once clean, they had to be lifted out and rinsed and mangled (put between two rubber rollers on a stand and a handle turned) to remove the excess water. Clothes must have been tough in those days. I do not have an electric dryer - our clothes are still hung on a clothes line in the back yard and I still mainly wash my dishes by hand, although we do have a dish washer.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Wow, never heard of curtain stretchers of class wax. And I'm pretty long in the tooth, lol. Thanks for sharing.

    • Relationshipc profile image

      Kari 3 years ago from Alberta, Canada

      I know this is not the takeaway that you wanted, but why were there so many windows? 27! I have a huge house and I only have 12 windows.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      DreamerMeg: The copper sounds somewhat like the first "automatic" washer we had when I was a kid. Thinking back, it was a semi-automatic! The tub had a conventional agitator that moved back and forth automatically, but no spin cycle. There were rollers attached to the machine, called wringers, that you hand-fed the sopping wet clothes through while turning the hand crank.

      It gave birth to a saying here in the states, when you did something stupid (and I'll have to ask you to pardon my language), that "you got your tit caught in the wringer." That saying is still used today, but I'll bet only we baby boomers can make any sense of it because we know its origin. Putting on a tee-shirt that just came off the line is one of life's simple pleasures, isn't it? Thanks for commenting.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
      Author

      Bob Bamberg 3 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Rebecca...never heard of Glass Wax?!?! I can understand the curtain stretcher, but the Glass Wax? :) Around here it was every kid's nightmare because it took up so much time. After applying it, you had to wait a couple of minutes for it to dry before you could wipe it off. If you had to do windows after school, you could pretty much kiss your afternoon goodbye.

      Relationshipc: I guess that was the style for homes built in that era...the 1920's. The dining room and living room each had bay windows, so there's 6 right there. The dining room had an additional single window and the living room had two...for a total of 9 windows in those two rooms alone. Then there was a reception hall, den and large kitchen rounding out the downstairs, with 4 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The reception hall was a small room leading from the front doors to the living room and the dining room. It only had one window but the double front doors each had 10 or 12 small windows, similar to the door at the top of this hub. Windex sure would have made it a whole lot easier!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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