Saturday, March 19, 2016

Things have changed drastically in my lifetime....

It’s mind-boggling to realize exactly how much the world has changed in my lifetime! I was raised in a small, three-room shack a few years after WWII ended when Germany was still busy rebuilding. My foster parents didn't have anything - including running water or electricity. Once a week or so, they would carry a couple of buckets 1/3 mile to the town "square" (such as it was) to draw our water from the community pump.  The water buckets sat uncovered on a rack Papa had built, right next to the wood stove we used for heating and cooking.  A ladle hung on the wall for us to use whenever we were thirsty.  Nobody worried about germs at our house!

There was no sink in the house, and so the few dishes we owned weren’t washed; they were stacked into a white ceramic bowl filled with water, and removed as needed.  (The water was rarely changed.)  Usually, we only ate bread and butter for all our meals, but sometimes on Sundays Mama would make potato soup  (meat was a rarity!), dunk the dishes into the murky water inside the ceramic bowl, and dry them off with a dirty dish towel. 

She only did laundry every three or four months, max – and it was done in cold water because it was too much trouble to heat the water on our wood stove.  Laundry day was usually an all-day event because by the time she got around to doing laundry, we had used up every stitch of clothing in the house.


We were probably the poorest people in town, but we “made do” and I somehow survived the filthy conditions in which I was raised.  By the time I turned 9 (right around the same time my natural mother came and yanked me out of my foster home to take me to America with her new, American soldier husband) I had only had maybe two baths in my whole life (both in the summer time, of course).  Bath time is difficult when you have to fetch the water in buckets from the community pump, and chop the wood to heat the stove so you can boil the water to pour into the tin bath tub that had to be dragged into the kitchen from a shed behind the house.  And, of course, we all used the same water!  Mama would always bathe me first, then she would dry me off and step in, and then Papa’s turn came last.  I remember the water was always a dark gray and sudsy by the time we finished our bathing ritual.)

Times were truly tough after the war.  By the mid-Fifties, only the rich had a telephone and TV. Washing machines in my tiny hometown were unheard of at the time, but many houses (especially apartment buildings) had a "wash kitchen" with a huge cement sink and wash boards where the women did the laundry by hand.  The only way to dry your clothes was to hang it on clotheslines.  I remember once when Mama had done a laundry during the winter time, all the bed sheets ended up frozen and came off the line, stiff as boards.

Things in my neighborhood started changing when I was approximately 7 or 8, when somebody built two new apartment houses near our shack at the edge of town - and manufactured right into the side of these two complexes were several “outhouses!”  SUPER modern, slick and smooth and stained a reddish-brown … AND there was always toilet paper in them!  (It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t have to take old newspapers with me whenever I sneaked across the way to use one of those “modern” outhouses…)  My family had this chipped old “chamber pot” (that was emptied only when it was totally filled to the brim), so these two apartment buildings and their amenities were an absolute treat! 

Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I survived the dirt, but I was HAPPY!  I had a happy childhood because I had two foster parents who truly loved and cared for me, doing the best they could.  We were on welfare and Papa was an alcoholic, so any money we received was normally spent at a local bar before he had a chance to bring it home from the court house.  On those days, Mama would wait well into the afternoon before putting me on the back of her bicycle and then pedal her way to Papa’s favorite “watering hole” where she would have me sneak in and confiscate his wallet so we could use whatever money was left to buy some groceries at the tiny hole-in-the-wall grocery store next door, and hope it would sustains us until the next welfare check.

Anyway, it’s a good thing we can’t see our future, because my life changed in ways I could never have imagined, the day my natural mother and her new American husband came to jerk me out of my “happy life.”  (She had to take me back because I was the only one of the three children she had given away who wasn’t adopted, and she couldn’t leave Germany until that was resolved.)  I’m going to fast-forward and skip over the details of that awful day because I want to stick to the story of how much the world has changed just over the course of my lifetime….

Bottom line, I was thrust into the life of two these strangers who were total opposites of my foster parents - and suddenly having a “new” little brother (who was 5 at the time) meant I was no longer the center of attention.  We remained in Southern Germany with my mother’s new husband for about a year before moving to the US. Suddenly, I went from “dirt poor” to rich, because my “new” family had a big, American car (a two-tone green ’56 Pontiac), a telephone,  a black-and-white TV, and a small refrigerator.  Their tiny one-bedroom apartment also had indoor plumbing and a bath tub and toilet in the stairwell area that we had to share with other families, and I quickly learned that baths were to be taken regularly (in those days, once or twice a week).  We were definitely “uptown!”  (Having experienced only two baths until now in my short life, I really couldn’t understand the constant bathing!)

But I was in for another surprise, a year later, when my adoptive father was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, because there we had to move into on-post “quarters” where every apartment had its own bathroom – and so (per my mother) we had to take baths every day now!  My brother and I each had our own bedrooms, which was nice.  The place also had a basement with a wash machine and an indoor clothes line. And yes, of course, we still had our black-and-white TV, and the place came with a  phone (they were all black in those days) AND a dishwasher – which I hated because you had to pre-wash the dishes, or else they wouldn’t come out clean.  So, we had EVERYTHING!  What else could a family possibly need? 

A year later “Dad” retired and moved us to Missouri where he became a postman. We moved around several times before my parents finally settled down, but every place had a bathroom and a telephone.  No more outhouse experiences for me!  Although I missed Germany (and secretly planned on running away some day to return to my foster parents), I thought America was GREAT!  Things were certainly a lot more modern over here than in Germany!

Eventually, my parents made enough money to buy a brand new house on 10 acres.  (I remember, the total price was $30,000.) It was great!  We kids helped Dad build a little barn and got a horse and some cows and sheep and chickens.  It was fun, but a lot of hard work. Backing up a little, when I was in the Fifth Grade, something special happened one day.  The teacher rolled in a TV on a stand and we were told we were about to see history in the making as NASA launched John Glenn into space to orbit the earth.  This was the EPITOME of thrilling! Of course, America’s excitement was squelched a year later when President Kennedy was assassinated… And just when you thought the craziness would stop, suddenly the USA (in the mid-Sixties) began to erupt in “race riots” that ultimately saw the death of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King in1968
Yes, man had always been at war (I learned that from my history books in school), but one would have thought we would have LEARNED from our mistakes and stopped the stupidity!  Instead, it seemed, we kept repeating our mistakes, over and over and over….I couldn’t figure out WHY people hated those of different colors.  (And it certainly didn’t help that my own family was extremely prejudiced!  Once, “Dad” told me that “a good Negro knows his place” – and I, being quite naïve, said, “What place is that?  We’re all human and this is the Sixties; they’re not slaves anymore!”  My only answer was a cold scowl.  The look on his face revealed he clearly felt he hadn’t raised me right.)

It was during my senior year of high school in Speech and Drama Class, when I read the Diary of Anne Frank, when I finally learned WHY my mother had always warned us kids to never “tell anyone you’re Jewish!”  My mother had always refused to talk about her childhood in Germany and so I had no clue that Hitler had taken it upon himself to try to wipe out theentire Jewish race during WWII While reading the Diary of Anne Frank, I was under the impression it was fiction, because I couldn’t fathom something like that happening for real!  I refused to believe it was an autobiography until my teacher assured me it was.  I was absolutely dumbfounded!   Was the world crazy or something?

Something else shifted in the Sixties, with the advent of a new birth control method called, The Pill which brought about a change that even I, as a young teen at the time, understood to be “wrong” somehow!  Suddenly, the whole one-man-one-woman concept changed as a subculture sprung up that was dubbed, the “Hippie Movement” - which believed in community living and loving and the “if you’re not with the one you love, love the one you’re with” ideology.

Yes, I realized world knowledge was increasing and we were becoming ever more modern; but deep down, I sensed this really wasn’t a good thing.  On one hand, we had horrible things happening around the world with thousands dying in the Vietnam War; yet on the other, we were becoming ultra modern and more sophisticated on every front.  We had jets flying the skies with smartly-dressed “stewardesses” (I actually considered a career as a stewardess upon high school graduation, but there was one problem:  I was afraid of flying….), and it seemed EVERYTHING was becoming automated.  Even telephones were evolving to have "push buttons" instead of the old round dial-thingy!  Surely, one day it would all end – because, how much more modern could things possible get?

I had just graduated from high school when mankind reached another pinnacle: We landed on the moon - which I watched on a COLOR television!   And shortly thereafter, I joined the Army to get away from home.  My parents had split when I was in the ninth grade, and my mother was remarried and re-divorced …and I was simply anxious to “get away” and start my own life.  By now I was sick and tired of the Nomad life we had led!  I mean, we truly WERE "nomads" ... by the time I graduated from high school, I had attended 14 different schools! 

Anyway, by that time, many women had started working outside the home, and families needed TWO cars – which, or course, required a “two car garage” and bigger housesAnd eventually, one phone and one bathroom weren’t enough, either, and so people needed even bigger homes….

Backing up again, in my junior year of high school, I decided to take a typing class (just in case I might need to type something one day!), and I learned on an old, manual Underwood, but occasionally got to practice on other, more modern electric models such as the IBM Selectric.

I have to admit, I honestly thought the Selectric was the be-all-end-all (because, what more could there possibly be?) … until in 1973, when (during my second hitch in the Army) I ended up working at Headquarters, United States Army, Europe and Seventh Army in Heidelberg, Germany, in “Classified Copy Preparation.”  There they used a fairly new invention called  the “Magnetic TapeSelectric Typewriter and Composer System wherein you could program codes directly into the documents (left, center, right, and “justify” margins, etc.) as you were typing the document (seeing it all on this long roll of paper as you typed).  All the while, your entire document was recorded on a thick “magnetic tape cartridge” which you would insert into the Composer system which then typed out your document at 150 words per minute, in “camera-ready” format!  (It was great for putting out Army Regulations and Pamphlets, etc.)   This HAD to be the epitome of modern, because WHAT ELSE COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE?

Well, I soon found out, when my boss returned from some a seminar one day where he had learned about “a new thing called ‘Word Processing’ where you could see on a television screen what you were typing, and make corrections BEFORE running it off on paper!  We listened in disbelief as he told us we would one day be able to simply backspace to correct typos, and even move whole paragraphs around just by clicking the “copying” and “pasting” buttons.  And then you could simply press another button, and PRESTO! – out pops your final copy on a separate printer.  No more “correction tape” or “White-Out!” 

We sat there and snickered and made jokes about living like the Jetsons.  “We gonna have flying cars and robot maids, too?”  Some of us protested because we didn’t think we NEEDED any improvements “in this day and age.”  What was wrong with how we were doing things NOW? Why fix something that ain’t broke?

But sure enough, “that day” did arrive when every office had at least one of something called a  “computer”; with the ultimate goal of one day banishing the need for paper or filing cabinets.  At first, the offices I worked in had one computer, each, with everything stored in the basement somewhere in a “main brain.”  We still had typewriters, of course, but we all anxiously awaited our turn to work on this marvelous new thingamajig. 

Well, it wasn’t long before everybody in the office got their own computers, and also, practically every household eventually got “personal computers” and “pagers” where parents could contact their kids to have them call, or whatever.  And video games.  And, oh yeah, let’s not forget a great little thing called a cellphone.  (Now THAT one took me a long time to get used to!  After all, I had never needed a phone in my purse throughout my whole life; why should I lug one around now?)

Okay, and then along came “Smart Phones” that doubled as cameras and video equipment AND typewriters (unfortunately, you used only your thumb to “text” – YIKES!)   By this time, I was an “old fogey” who was truly tired of learning to use new-fangled things.  Good grief.  How much more can there be?  I mean, even my car is a computer!  If I want to make a phone call while in my car, all I have to do is press a button on the steering wheel and a woman’s sultry voice asks, “How may I help you?”  (I tried telling her she could fix me up with a million dollars, but she ignored me and said, “Sorry. I did not understand that command.  Please try again.”)

Yes, my life has been an amazing journey so far, and before I end this article, I must mention that I’ve noticed a huge change in PEOPLE over the years, as well.  People didn't fare as well as the "inventions."  They seemed to "get worse" as time went on.  Those of you who are "of a certain age" know what I'm talking about, right?  People simply aren’t the same as they used to be. They used to be kind and courteous to each other, willing to help each other out without expecting something in return.  Today, everyone is always in a huge hurry, impatient and cranky.  We’ve got all this “knowledge” and “information” at our fingertips; but yet WE are “different” and more short-tempered now.  We are also more self-centered and me-oriented.  Honestly, we're even dumber, really.  I mean, we have high school graduates who can’t read and young folks coming out of college who can’t tell you how many continents there are, or name the three branches of government….or even tell you how many moons the earth has!  So, what are kids learning in school today? 

I mean, they don’t even have to go to the library anymore because everything is online – yet they don’t know anything.  You don’t even have to touch a real book if you don’t want to, because you can use your Kindle to read your homework on!  They don’t have to learn how to add or subtract because the calculators on their cellphones will do it for them.  Kids today can give you a blow-by-blow about the latest basketball or football game, or sing you the latest tune from their favorite trash-talking "rap" artist, etc., but ask them a question with substance, and you get blank stares. Many today don't even know how to read a map; they rely on their GPS to get them where they want to go ... sometimes driving into rivers or off cliffs, or getting lost in a desert somewhere - because they weren't smart enough to realize their GPS might have been "off"....

The Bible says knowledge will increase in the end times…and it certainly has!  Ever since the advent of electricity, mankind has invented all kinds of machines to help make life easier, and we’ve flown to the outer reaches of Space.  But have we actually gotten any “smarter?”  It really doesn’t seem like it because, here on earth, we’re STILL fighting each other, and figuring out ways to kill each other off with ever-more powerful weapons.  People in some parts of the world are starving to death, or dying of thirst because the rains won’t come anymore.  In other parts, we have dictators rousting up their armies to kill and/or drive out all those who refuse to comply with their sick rules.  We have groups of lunatics such as ISIS, Al Qaida and Boko Haram who go around kidnapping, maiming and killing people, just “make a statement.”   Racial tensions in the US are being revived, with "hate speech" on all sides.  We humans haven’t figured out how to conquer many diseases – and we have new ones cropping up on a regular basis.

So, our technology has changed, but WE are still the same, lost and carnal people trying to do things OUR way, instead of turning to YHWH and submitting to HIM!  With all our knowledge and “worldliness” one would think we would exist in a perfect Utopia by now.  (We ARE, as far as technology is concerned...but WE people have never really advanced!  What a crying shame!)  

3 comments:

  1. Great post, Shali! I couldn't agree with you more or less as I find myself saying the same things that you do. Y'shua's warning, comparing the world to "the days of Noah" (Mattithyahu 24:37) couldn't be more apt than the times we are living in.

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