Good Old Days Newsletter
|In the Good Old Days||Antiques Corner||This Week in History|
From the time it was discovered to its declassification as a planet, how many complete rotations around the sun did Pluto make?
I was at a friend's house watching the Super Bowl recently. There were folks milling about, chit-chatting and enjoying the snacks and the company. A few of us were already settled on the living room furniture, intently watching the pregame show (the guys) and/or the commercials (the women). Thinking I would take a quick break and snag a few snacks for myself before the game commenced, I rose from my chair, took a step and absentmindedly called out, "Chair back!" People turned and stared at me, perhaps wondering what strange new football position I was already hassling (quarterback, fullback ... chairback?). I quickly and sheepishly made my way to the kitchen. Obviously these people did not grow up in a large family, I thought to myself as I filled my plate with cheese dip and crackers before slinking back to the room.
"Chair back!" was a familiar term in my house, where five siblings, two parents, lots of neighbor kids and one spoiled dog constantly vied for space in the compact room that held the one, small black-and-white TV we owned. My 6-foot 4-inch dad claimed the couch -- the entire couch -- which left two upholstered chairs for the rest of us to fight over. There was another chair; it was a hard, wooden one that went with the metal desk my mom won at a raffle one year and gave to my dad as a Christmas present, but that one was no prize and got uncomfortable after 30 minutes of TV watching. Thus, it was an all-out competition over the two good chairs every evening when dinner was over and my parents were done watching Walter Cronkite. Whoever won the privilege of sitting in one of the comfy thrones was loathe to give it up when nature called, or when a belly rumbled with hunger. The solution? The sitter could leave the room and return to his or her chair if, and only if, they had called out, "Chair back!" before they left the room.
Of course, being the kind of family we were, there were rules that went with this system. You had to be touching the actual chair when you made the claim. You could only use this method once every two hours and could be gone no longer than five minutes. And everyone in the room had to both hear and acknowledge that you said it. Pioneer settlers claimed land easier than someone could lay claim to a chair in our TV room! Those of us propped on pillows on the floor watched the sitters like hawks to make sure all rules were strictly adhered to.
The system worked fairly well, however, and was clearly ingrained in us. My oldest brother, a college professor, once attended an important board meeting with professors from across the country. When he rose from his black leather chair to retrieve some papers, he was heard automatically uttering, "Chair back!" much to his chagrin.
In the days before great rooms, sectional sofas and multiple big-screen color TVs in almost every room, "Chair back!" taught us cooperation and compromise. It also taught us another lesson many years later: Old habits die hard.
Mary Beth Weisenburger,
Good Old Days® magazine
PS. What was it like when your family gathered to watch shows on your first TV? Send a brief response to me at Editor@GoodOldDaysMagazine.com and it could appear in a future newsletter or in Good Old Days magazine!
Here are several more email responses from the Jan. 8, 2014 newsletter question: How did you learn to iron? Do you still iron as much as you did in the past?
Patricia G. wrote: "I started ironing when I was 10 years old, and it became one of my chores to do. Those days, we ironed practically everything -- sheets, pillowcases, dresses, trousers, and yes, hankies. We didn't have a steam iron, just an old flat iron with a cloth cord. Clothes were sprinkled with water from a cleaned soda bottle that had a metal spray cap with a cork bottom so it could be put into the neck of the bottle. Then we rolled up the clothes and put them in the refrigerator so they would not become mildewed. Today I hardly ever iron; I have a nice steam iron with a retractable cord. How times have changed!"
Lynette W. told us: "I first learned to iron -- or at least my first ironing recollection -- was at my grandma's house. I was maybe 5 then. I remember her bringing out the big basket of clothes to be ironed; however, all the clothes were rolled into logs. Grandma would lay a shirt out on the table (a lacelike tablecloth underneath) and then take an old glass pop bottle with an aluminum and cork sprinkler stopper in it. She would then proceed to sprinkle each item of clothing and then neatly roll it up. When she was done with that, she would proceed to the ironing and iron and press each item. I didn't understand it until later when I was older.
"Grandma didn't have a steam iron; hers was just a normal big, old heavy iron with a cord as big around as garden hose ... almost! I laughed and thought Grandma's method was kind of funny. Twenty years later when I got married, we received a very nice iron as a gift, and it passed Grandma's inspection with flying colors. She had since received a 'high-end' kind of iron with steam and a mister on it! Our gift was nice: steam, dry and mister all in one. But the funny part is ... I found myself 'sprinkling' the clothes, just like Grandma did. Today, I hardly touch the iron, and it even shuts off by itself and the cord zips right up inside of it when I am done! Irons have come a long way, baby!"
Mary Beth Weisenburger has been with Annie's since April 2011. She has 25 years of experience in the marketing, advertising and publishing fields. In addition to her job as editor of Good Old Days, she has been writing a family humor column for over a decade. She and her husband, two college-age kids, two dogs and various other critters, live on five acres in the country, where she enjoys reading on the back porch, refinishing furniture, feeding the birds and digging in the dirt of her perennial gardens.
Fill out the easy feedback form and let me know your thoughts, questions and ideas.
Zero. Pluto's average distance from the sun is nearly four billion miles. It takes approximately 248 years for it to orbit the sun.
Find out more about the fashion, events and popular culture of America in the Live It Again book series at LiveItAgain.com, featuring the best of The Saturday Evening Post!