The other day I realized I am now living 100 years beyond my grandparents’ key time in their lives.
In 1920, my grandparents Bill and Kitty Bruce had been married for four years.
My grandfather had spent his youth in the west, returned to Tennessee and found himself a bride half his age, bought land with the money he earned out west and started farming raising corn, tomatoes, running cattle and hogs.
They watched Bill brothers Tom and James, cousins and friends go off to WWI among the 130,915 men and women from Tennessee who did. Tom died, while James returned a shell of his former self and died within a couple of years.
They survived the Spanish flu epidemic that killed other family and friends as it savaged community after community infecting 500 million in 1918 around the world.
In this year my grandmother would become pregnant beckoning my first aunt Minnie Lee, named for her aunt, who would pass as a toddler in 1923.
My grandmother for the first time in her life was allowed to walk in a polling place and cast a ballot as women gained the vote. Grandpa would vote for Democrat James Cox while my grandmother always proudly said she voting just the opposite just to cancel out Grandpa’s vote meaning she voted for Republican Warren G. Harding. Not sure if she ever told grandpa though, she told me long after he was gone.
They rode horses, buckboards, buggies or walked where they went. There were no automobiles. They chopped down trees to build what they needed and cut wood to cook on and to heat from the cold. Harvest time meant canning vegetables to eat throughout the year. Meat was smoked in the smoke house, salted and cured to sustain meats to eat when hunting was slim.
As I look around at what I experience each day. I make much of my living in mediums that were not even existent - radio and television. Buying musical recordings was still in its infancy in those days with 78s and Victrolas being the source. Not one of those were within miles of them and it would be many years before a battery-operated radio would make its way to the valley.
If I get hungry, I go out, get in my SUV, drive to a restaurant, or to the store and buy something a farmer somewhere put into the food supply chain to fill the need. If I cook it at home, much of the time I pop it into a microwave oven and in a few minutes, I am seated in front of my favorite TV show eating away. That experience would have taken my grandmother hours in addition to the months it took my father to cultivate and/or hours to hunt or raise, slaughter and preserve.
I look up in the sky and I see jet planes, they looked up and saw only the birds for a few more years. Thanks to the advantage of science, and communication, we can anticipate the weather while they reacted daily to what occurred.
I communicate on a phone I carry in my pocket, they had to holler up the holler or send someone walkin’ to spread any news for quite a few more years to come. I can look at a computer and catch up on the news, they had to wait for a newspaper to come through the area at the general store.
It is amazing what 100 years has brought us. Is it better? It is more convenient. I do not know if it’s more healthy for us. It is definitely different and I imagine if my 1920s grandparents were dropped into what I see daily, I imagine they would feel we have a strange and foreign life.
Both lived to see the transition to automobiles, the advent of television and grandmother lived well beyond man reaching the moon and folks thinking of flying as a real form of transportation.
Such amazing things they saw... I don’t know if what we have in store ahead of us will compare but I certainly hope it will be and I realize how amazing it really is when I see it!
Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as "Officer Randy Goode" on TV's "In the Heat of the Night" now on WGN America. His latest CD release, "Keep 'Em Smilin'," is by Crimson Records. He is a member of the Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame. His latest book is "A Badge or an Old Guitar: A Music City Murder Mystery." He is a syndicated columnist for http://randallfranks.com/ and can be reached at rfrankscatoosa@gmail.com.)