It’s March 12, Sunday, and Routh is covered in white, fluffy snow. Yes, we did have our later winter, early spring snowfall over night and, as usual the countryside and fields around the area have taken on that special beauty that comes with snow. The trees are works of art and the crocus is still peeking out of the snow, ready to be spring. We already have some daffodils and they, too, are basking in the light covering of snow. It even “sounds” like snow outside, you know, that ‘quietness’ that comes with snow.
Last night Donna Ruth and I didn’t ‘smell the snow’ and began to wonder if it had missed us, but sure enough, getting up this morning, it’s here. The temperature dropped just enough over night for the mist and light rain to freeze and turn to flakes. It’s just beautiful. My Mom would love this morning. She always loved to watch the snow fall and have her cup of coffee near the dining room window where she had the best view of the snow.
As I was finishing my second cup of coffee in the ‘sun room’, watching the snow, and thinking back to being a kid, I was reminded of many of the ‘times’ we had growing up with snow, making snow angels, and snowmen and having snowball ‘fights’. Growing up in a small town with family and friends was a really good thing. I remembered my Dad’s 1932 Plymouth with it’s narrow tires backing out of the driveway, covered in snow, and pulling on to the road going to work (if it was a workday) and heading down the snow covered road.
We didn’t have ‘snow plows’ much in those days, but the roads seemed to be pretty much useable for the folks who had to go somewhere. The rest just stayed home and enjoyed the beauty. And made snow cream with snow and milk and vanilla. None of us died from that I don’t think. As near as I remember, we also ate some dirt occasionally if we dropped our peanut butter and jelly sandwich when we ate outside, dusted it off and kept eating. We also used mercurochrome if we skinned our knee, painted it all up red and covered it with a bandage and kept on playing, probably got dirt in the skinned knee too, but lived.
I remember, there were ‘rules’ that we didn’t dare challenge. There were “RIGHT” and “WRONG” things, “GOOD and “BAD” things and somethings we called “should do” and “should NOT do”. It seemed, at least back then, we all had a pretty good idea of what those lists were about and the things that were ‘written’ on those lists. For us, there were not many ‘shades of gray’ like there are today. We had what was called “black and white” and no in-between’s . Just typing that today makes me worry someone will take offense, but none is intended at all. As kids growing up in the 1950’s we just had RULES and everyone had pretty much the same set. We had what you might also call VALUES and there were some things everyone was just plain EXPECTED TO DO or BE! There were no questions, it was either black or white and we knew that we didn’t cross the line and do ‘bad’ things or ‘wrong’ things or we would pay the consequences. No gray areas.
It was like there was a TWO-COLUMN list and on one side was the “SHOULD DO” things and the other side was the “SHOULD NOT DO” things. There was a clear line down the middle and we didn’t dare cross that without considerable fear and knowledge that we were tempting fate; a fate that some of us avoided because we saw some of our friends step over the line!
I remember going to school and knowing we had a PRINCIPAL and knowing where his OFFICE was located as well. To be honest, he was a really good man, Mr. Perry. But if you were a student in his school who stepped over the ‘line’, you paid a visit to Mr. Perry and he would make sure you were clear on what the rules were and that NEXT TIME you would know what would happen if you chose to disobey the rules. I did my best to avoid the ‘office’ and steered clear of any behavior that might cause me to wind up there.
But, honestly, that was not such a terrible thing for kids to learn – RULES. SHOULDS and SHOULD NOTS. RIGHT and WRONG. I remember that we never intruded on other people’s property or tried to take things that belonged to others. That was WRONG. We learned WRONG pretty quickly and many people never even locked the door to their home and left the keys in their car, if it actually had a key! We had what was called RESPECT for other people and their property. It was something we were EXPECTED to do and if we chose NOT to be respectful, we found out quickly what would happen! We didn’t interrupt adults who were talking, we stopped talking when the teacher or other adult said to stop talking, and we raised our hand if you wanted to say something AND waited to be recognized by the adult who was most in charge at that time.
We had clear lines between what was permitted and what was NOT permitted. And while not everyone chose the RIGHT thing, we all knew that we SHOULD choose right things and if we did not, that most likely, we would suffer the consequences. This was especially true since, in those days, the community was involved in raising the kids in that community. To this day, I can name dozens of ‘responsible adults’ in our little town who had just as much ‘right’ to correct you if you did choose wrong as your parents. In fact, your PARENTS told them to ‘straighten you out’ if they saw you doing wrong and to let them know what you did and your parents would ‘straighten you out’ again when they got the chance! It was NOT abusive as we often hear shouted around today. It was simply a community with a set of RIGHT and WRONG values or rules and when anyone chose the wrong thing, the community would set it straight. It was pretty good, and it kept the community safe for the most part and helped us to live happy and productive lives.
I remember DR’s grandfather was the “Chief of Police” in our little town. Actually HE was the “police” in the town. I don’t think he had any other officers, and really didn’t need them to do his job. I am pretty sure he didn’t even carry a gun, but if he did have one somewhere, it probably was not loaded. I doubt he ever fired a shot as “Police Chief”. I know he did direct traffic if we had a parade or maybe worked the school crossing if the crossing guard was out sick. But people just obeyed the rules and made his job pretty easy. Thinking back, it was a pretty good feeling. Kids like me could ride our bikes all over town and over to our friends house without worrying about being kidnapped, assaulted or hit by a car or having our bike stolen. It was a safe place to grow up and live.
There were probably some shortcomings of the ‘two-column list’. I know at one time we included jobs on the list and some jobs were only for men or for women. Jobs like mechanic, plumber, brick mason and carpenter were ‘reserved for men’ and other jobs like nurse, waitress, telephone operator and school teacher were reserved for women. We learned later men and women can be successful at most any job they like or want to do and we stopped drawing that line so much. It wasn’t anyone tried to deny someone a chance, I think it was more about women were considered better cooks than men and men might have been consider better at getting dirty and greasy as a mechanic. We certainly know today that most anyone can do most anything and that is good. But the idea of RIGHT and WRONG behavior is different and needs to be in place just like it was then.
It is still WRONG to damage, steal or destroy someone else’s property. It is still WRONG to be disrespectful of adults and parents if you are a kid (or an anyone!). It is still WRONG to hurt, threaten or kill someone else regardless of gender, age, opinion or whatever. It is still WRONG to cheat, lie, and make promises you never intend to keep. Some things are STILL WRONG. At least I believe it is still wrong. Seems we have lost sight of that dividing line. Sometimes, people today believe it is their constitutional ‘right’ to express their opinion (freedom of speech we call it) no matter who or what gets hurt, damaged or destroyed in the process. Somehow THAT still seems to be WRONG to me. It is wonderful to live in a FREE country where we have the right to say what we believe, attend the church of our choice, and work at any occupation for which we are trained and capable.
It seems like, to me, it is STILL WRONG for one person’s ‘right’ to do something they want to do overshadow the next person’s right to be free from having something done that infringes on their right to be free from that thing. Well that was complicated but basically, if I believe it is MY right to do something STOPS at the next person’s right NOT to have that done. It should be clear. We dealt some with that in regard to tobacco smoke in public places. Smokers did not like to be told they could not exercise their right to smoke a cigarette, etc. in restaurants. However, it became clear that non-smokers had the right to clean air, especially in public places. All this meant was the BOTH sides had the right to have or do what they wanted. But since the two things were incompatible (smoking vs clean air) a rule had to be established so that both parties could have what they wanted. So non-smokers got clean air in most public places and smokers continued to be able to smoke in some places.
Well, enough about smoking but you know how it goes and that is still a difficult subject. It is about having to ‘draw a line’ sometimes and may limit someone’s ability to do something they want to do in some places. SPEED LIMITS are an example. A driver may think they should be able to drive their car at any speed they would like but laws have established in certain situations, a ‘limit’ will be placed on speed of traffic for the safety of others in the area who have a right to be safe. We do have race tracks where SPEED is expected so those who want speed can go there and other areas will be regulated at a ‘safe’ level of speed. Everyone gets to have what they want, just in the RIGHT places.
It seems we have lost the line of distinction between RIGHT and WRONG. For some individuals today appear to believe ‘freedom’ means they have the ‘right’ to destroy the property of others, to threaten or verbally abuse others, and to behave in ways they want no matter who is inconvenienced, all in the name of ‘my right’. Well, to me, it seems RIGHT and WRONG are still out there somewhere. It seems we need to re-look at the line Mr. Perry, our Principal, drew for us pretty clearly. And it seems we need to DO and TEACH what is “right” and what is “wrong” to our children and grandchildren.
That’s what used to happen in small towns where the community raised the children. We had a set of rules, values and ethics to guide our behavior and we respected the rights and privacy of others. We knew that OUR right to do something we wanted to do STOPPED when it began to infringe on someone else’s right to have peace, quiet and safety. Maybe we need to have a new look at how our parent’s expected us to behave under what I remember as the “Golden Rule”: To treat others as you would like to be treated or ‘to do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. It is a pretty good concept but has faded somewhat in recent years.
Maybe I SHOULD include a ‘disclaimer’ with this writing and say: “THIS IS JUST MY OPINION AND NOT NECESSARILY THE OPINION OF OTHERS”. By the way, I did mention I grew up in the 1950’s right? Well it is still snowing, I know THAT for sure and I think I am going to get another cup of coffee, sit back in my rocker and watch the snow fall. Happy SPRING to you. It’s just around the corner. I think?