Ways of the past are alive and well
By Marv Kohlbeck
At a recent farmers market in Pittsville, I noticed an Amish man parking his horse and buggy a short distance away. Although our lifestyles are markedly different, it was obvious that we were both seeking to either buy or sell fresh fruits or vegetables. I did not have a conversation with him, but his appearance reminded me of a thought I had when driving past an Amish settlement recently, “Heck, that’s the way we lived when we were growing up.” I am sure numerous folks over 70 years of age remember a similar lifestyle.
Many of us grew up on farms where there was no running water, indoor plumbing, or electricity. To have one vehicle was a plus, and farm families were generally larger as the children provided a built-in labor supply.
Some examples that might run close to similar experiences in Amish families would include the use of wood or coal for kitchen stoves, kerosene lamps for lighting in homes or barns, or a windmill or hand pump as a source of drawing water for the house or livestock. We milked cows by hand, and milk was kept in cans placed in water tanks for cooling. Handling feed and manure was back-breaking labor, and Amish farmsteads today appear to follow the same pattern of work.
Once Mom got our lunch bucket packed, we headed out the door for a two- or three-mile walk to school. Amish children today still experience similar treks. When school bus routes were established in our area, it was a most welcome sign of advancement.
While we were away to school, Mom would be at home washing clothes with a scrub board or gas-powered washing machine or baking and preparing for the evening family meal. Dad would buy flour in 50-pound bags so mom could bake bread twice a week. Then the white flour sacks were washed and made into diapers or dish towels. Used diapers were rinsed out in a bucket, washed, and used again.
Summer brought on new challenges of using horses for tilling, planting, or harvesting crops. Garden work or lawn mowing filled a lot of idle time.
Agriculture, especially dairy farming, has taken on many new postures since I was considered a child. There are many more experiences that have passed us by and might appear to be farfetched, but the Amish communities still show signs of yesteryear with the use of horses and buggies and other customs that were once commonplace. To them, it is their way of life, and they seem happy and willing to accept the challenges of everyday living just as we did so many years ago.
During those 70 years or more, most of us have been faced with a lot of change, but yet, for some, there has been little change.