Butch’s Friend Recalls “Life Back Then”…..

People are complaining now about inflation, the cost of things, and the quality of life today. But what about the past? Marian Hiatt Johnson graduated in 1943, and before she passed away, Marian wrote about her life as a youngster growing up in Darlington….

“I was born in the middle of the 1920s, so I was less than ten years old when the worst of the Depression hit. We thought everyone lived the way we did, and that was just the way of life since we younger ones didn’t know any better. We always did have plenty to eat, and if we needed a doctor we got one, but we knew better than to ask for anything else because we knew we wouldn’t get it. The boys seemed to get new pants and shirts once in a while, but the girls usually wore hand-me-downs from aunts, cousins, etc. Most were too old for us, but we wore these anyway.

Back then Darlington was a small, close-knit community and was pretty well self-sufficient. We had several grocery stores, dry goods stores, doctors, dentists, drug store, a newspaper, a restaurant, furniture store, a photography studio, a theater, and so many other things that there was no need to go to a bigger town…at least we kids didn’t get to go, so we didn’t know there were other things out there to want.

My brother Glenn graduated from high school right in the middle of the Depression in 1933. No one could get a job. He tried everything and finally got hold of an old truck to do livestock hauling. The payment on the truck was $4.00 a month, and he couldn’t get enough work to make the payments without help. Back then we also didn’t buy much canned goods. Mom home-canned everything, so a tin can was something to hold on to. I remember Glenn saying that if you would paint the inside of a tin can, it would last forever! Things were just hard to come by, and it is no wonder some of us turned out to be packrats. I can’t bear to throw anything away, as we never know what we might need.

Transportation wasn’t so good back then. For the most part boys did not have their own cars. They made arrangements with their dads to borrow his car for a Saturday night date. Most women did not drive back then, so I never heard it called the ‘family car.’ The understanding was you got a girl close to home, took her to the show at Crawfordsville (tickets ten cents), stopped at the Triple-X drive-in for a hamburger (ten cents) and a Coke (five cents). This was a date, and if you didn’t have a date, you went to the Sunshine Theater in Darlington. As the boys started on their dates, Dad would hand them 50 cents. Back then that was a lot! Only one boy in a family could have a date on the same night (always on a Saturday night), as there was only one car. For us girls, the folks didn’t have a hard job keeping track of our boyfriends. The folks already knew them, who their folks, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. were…It is no wonder then that most marriages were between hometown people with all the familiar names and their geneaology lines criss-crossing back and forth. If a new family moved to town, it was quite a big event, and everyone could hardly wait to see the newcomers.

Marian also recalled the following…Kell’s grocery selling peanut butter in the bulk, placed on a cardboard tray…Mom wringing the chickens’ heads off and having fried chicken every Sunday…the mustard and onion poultices for a chest cold…making our own boiled syrup for pancakes…churning butter in the wooden plunger churn…poking a hole in the cellophane wrapper of a twin loaf of bread to get the balloon or piece of candy out…wearing long white underwear to school…turning the crank of the wall telephone and saying ‘Hello, Central?’…Mom baking fourteen pies on Saturday ‘while the oven was hot’…tracking down the skunk oil for whoever had an earache…drinking out of the tin cups at the two town hand water pumps…when most side streets in town were gravel and sometimes oiled down to keep the dust down…Dad stopping the Model A to and from Crawfordsville to let us kids throw up from motion sickness…and old Daisy, our milk cow.

Marian was amazed when someone told her that by 1950 every home would have their own picture show (a TV). She also said that the kids all ran outdoors to look when an airplane went over…”Not jets then…and you could hear them coming, and they flew so low compared to today.”

Yes, Marian, times have changed…thanks for the memories….

John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.