2019: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 41 (Oct. 7 – Oct. 13): Context
I “first” joined Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks on its “first” year in 2014… and what a whirlwind year that was… writing, editing and researching daily for 365 days! As much as I wanted to continue the following year, I found that I didn’t have the time to continue another year with that type of research… although I did continue blogging and writing stories at my own pace, which allowed me to write on other topics as well as family stories when ideas came my way… but I’ve often missed it. The first year were no specific weekly prompts like today… but I’m taking a different spin on them. There will be some posts on a specific ancestor, but most will be memories that spring from those prompts. Head over to 2014 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks to read about my ancestors in the first years challenge.
If you’re new to genealogy, make your “first” stop to Amy’s website for genealogy ideas or even join in on this 52 Week challenge… you learn by doing… not procrastinating! There is no right or wrong… anything you do is a start!
Wikipedia tells me… social context refers to the immediate physical and social setting in which people live or in which something happens or develops. It includes the culture that the individual was educated or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom they interact.
In the 1900’s, the United States became engulfed in a severe economic depression, which began from the “panic of 1893″… mainly affecting the industrial workforce with several strikes. While it didn’t drastically affect my family lines, as they were born and lived on farms… things like that often affected families without them even realizing it.
What came about during my grandparents lifetime…
Automobiles, radio, electricity, and television – a few of the biggest changes to affect them in their lifetime… changing their lifestyle!
Family tales is what we’ve all heard in growing up… the social life of our parents and grandparents was told in the context of how they lived their lives. How they walked to school, or walked miles to catch the bus… no matter the weather. How children were to be seen and not heard. How they were expected to share in chores. How they only had one pair of shoes a year, no matter what… Social life was much different than today, and many still say how it was much better.
While I’m not a shoe hoarder, I’d hate to have to wear shoes too small… because my family could only afford one pair a year. My mother remembers how her mother never forgot the time her brother was sent to town to buy her a new pair of shoes… only to return with a pair too small… which she had to wear regardless of how much they hurt her.
Life was dramatically different for both men and women socially… men were always the provider… first going to war and later providing for a family… while women were the nurturers… not working outside the home. Their social context was in providing the homelife… raising the children, and providing all that was needed socially in the home.
World War II changed the social lives of everyone… they began living differently as many items were rationed, and often families lost the breadwinner as the husband or sons went to war.
My grandmother never took to social changes through the years. From all I’m told, she was a hard worker from sunrise to sunset. In the evenings, there was always needle and thread in her hands as she sewed or mended… and that never changed for her. Mama’s father bought my mother a pedal sewing machine in the early 40’s, but she said that her mother never wanted any part of it… she continued to make all their clothes and quilts by hand; I guess grandmama didn’t like change. I would say the only thing she changed to eventually was an electric stove and a pressure cooker for canning… it did make life somewhat easier for her. I can’t imagine having to rise early to fire up the stove with wood to begin warming the house!
Social Context pertains to my grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley, as he interacted with friends versus how he interacted with family. With family, he was the provider… whereas the context would be on a different level as the father and the husband. When granddaddy was with friends… hanging out at the local filling station in town… the context was quite different. He interacted with them on a man to man level… arguing politics and the social activity they all shared… fox hunting. It was quite a different context of atmosphere in that filling station… on a late Saturday afternoon… while sitting around on a Coca-Cola crate! This social time was only men talking about their activities… their politics… and maybe sometimes farm work. I’ve been told that often the context of those political talks came to blows… as well as the talk of who’s dog was in the lead on their Friday night fox hunts!
Social Context for my grandparents hardly changed through the years. Farming was his occupation and during his lifetime there wasn’t much change. He began farming with a horse, and ended with a horse… although tractors did evolve through his lifetime, but he wanted nothing to do with them! A general-purpose tractor called the Farmall was introduced in 1925, but it had a slow going as farmers were hesitant to replace their trusted horses and mules with a machine… and neither of my grandfathers wanted no part of it. Later in the mid-1930’s, after much redesign by several companies, the replacement process slowly began for the farmers. Both of my grandfather’s, Edgar T. McKinley and Paul P. Bryan still wanted nothing to do with that new “fangled” equipment. They valued their work animals and treated them like family.
Granddaddy Bryan was bought a gas tiller in the late 1960’s and my father said that after one pass, it was pretty much parked under the car shed… and he went back to his beloved mule. He loved nothing more than walking behind his mule in fresh tilled soil… yelling “gee”-“haw” as he held the reins. But his favorite part of spending time in the field was when the mule took a break… as that meant a smoke break for him… and out of a pocket came a waiting cigar! Mules are known to be hard workers, but they know when they’re tired… and they stop… no matter where they are, or what they’re doing!
Mama tells me how her father, (Edgar McKinley) plowed mostly with horses… they don’t stop like mules… they just keep going even when tired, but granddaddy always knew when they were tired… when he was tired! They were then well watered and later fed with the very same hay they’d pulled out in the field with the rake.
How did social context change the lives of my grandparents through the years… Even though neither gave up their mules for the newest addition in farm work… the tractor… they did make a few social changes through the years… making life a little easier for them. They both easily transformed from the horse and wagon of travel into a motorized car. I’m not sure of the earliest which granddaddy Bryan owned, but I know that granddaddy McKinley owned both a Model T and a Model A… which gave him an easier and faster mode of travel. Car travel seemed to be more acceptable to both of them than their plowing counterpart. I often think today of how they would view the even more car changes and traffic congestion we have… I’m sure they would both agree that it isn’t for them!
My mother has told me many tales about riding in the family wagon on Sunday visits to family, even trips to Atlanta, which was about 45 miles away… and going and coming all in the same day; now that’s a trip! On the back dirt road to White Plains, granddaddy took detours off that dusty dirt road to drive through the small creeks along the way to wet the wheels… cutting down on the dust. Mama often jumped off the back of the wagon to hop and skip along the way, but then she’d have to run to hop back on as granddaddy teased her in making the horse gallop a little faster when she jumped off. Today, at age 89, my mother often says how she wished she could ride in that wagon once again… although she might not enjoy it so much today, as I’m sure those rides were pretty bumpy! Once granddaddy bought his first A-model car, I’m sure the wagon didn’t see as much use anymore, and they soon began looking at it as old-fashioned… a slower mode of travel. Grandmama never took to the automobile so much after granddaddy took a corner too fast and they ended up in the ditch… she broke her arm.
Time marches on…
Before radio and television was introduced to the homes, their social context was family entertainment on Saturday evenings. The first music in the homes was yourself… it seems many people back then were very musical. Mama’s family played the harmonica, fiddle, banjo, guitars, piano and sometimes an accordian. She remembers how the family gathered home on Saturday nights at her grandfather’s house… pushing back all the furniture in the parlor, and play, sing and dance till late into the night. A few of her father’s siblings even had a band… and they often supplied the weekly dance music on those Saturday nights. While the adults played and danced, the children sat in the background watching…. as long as they were quiet.
Besides making music with instruments, the more wealthy people had victrolas in their homes, playing the latest records. Most families living on farms weren’t lucky enough to own victrolas… my grandparents never owned one.
The first radio news program was broadcast August 31, 1920 by station 8MK in Detroit, Michigan… but I’m sure it was several years later before my grandparents had their first radio. Mama remembers her grandfather having a small radio and they would go over to his house on Saturday nights to listen… especially if the President was speaking… everyone listened when the President gave speeches.
Way before Granddaddy McKinley had a radio, it seems my father’s parents, Paul and Evelyn Bryan, did own one… a 1936 Philco upright. As a teenager, I remember it still at my mother’s farmhouse… as after my parents married, my father had taken it; today it’s been restored and sits in my home. Daddy had always been interested in repairing all type of electronics, from radios to televisions.
Granddaddy McKinley was always strongly opposed to electricity… lamplight by kerosene at night was ok with him, but eventually, he gave in through the pressure of my mother and the wires were soon strung to the farm in the 1940’s. We have light! It’s hard to break old habits, and every evening for the longest, my grandmother still continued to try and blow out the light. He held out the longest in having an indoor bathroom… he saw nothing wrong with the family jar in the house for nighttime or visiting the outhouse nearby… but my mother put her foot down when she moved home in the late 1960’s.
In living through times of not having lights from hurricanes or bad storms knocking us off the grid… we discovered it’s a tough life having no electricity in today’s world! Thankfully we also had gas in our home during those times, so we were able to cook and make coffee… making coffee is a very important thing in my life! We keep the old-fashioned metal percolators in the cellar just for those times… and the last time we dragged them out, we commented as what a great cup of coffee they made!
The longest we’ve been without electricity was in 1985, during Hurricane Gloria…. luckily at that time, we still had analog television, and I just happened to have a small television that picked up television signals. After putting our small kids to bed, hubby and I would lay in bed listening to tv programs… just like my grandparents listened to the radio. The night the lights came back on… it actually felt strange! It was a long two weeks, but it gave us back a simply way of life… and we often reflected on how life had been for our grandparents.
The social context of family life later changed further after the first radio came into the homes. My great grandfather, Edgar Lawson McKinley, had one of the first radio’s and they’d gather around it on a Saturday night listening to Kate Smith sing “When the Moon Comes over the Mountain“… as my mother tells me. Her first thoughts were… “if only I could look in the back and see what she looks like.” That soon happened when television came along… if she’d only known what was to be… that thing called television!
Electricity and radio were soon followed by television… now they could actually see what they had only heard on the radio. My parents were married in 1948… and by 1949 televisions were beginning to be offered for sale, but only if you lived near stations broadcasting the few programs available would you actually be able to see any programming; living near New York gave much more opportunity to enjoy the early model televisions.
Granddaddy resisted in having a television in their home until mama took him to his first live wrestling match… and he then learned he could watch it on a television set in his own home… if he had one!
After my father left the Navy in the early 1950’s he began tinkering on anything electronic he could find to repair… radios first, later televisions. He had worked in electronics in the Navy… giving him knowledge of how things worked. After repairing many things out of his father’s home workshop, he went to work for a local television repair business in town, and soon we had a small color TV in our home. Mama remembers how many neighbors on the street wanted to come and watch on Saturday evenings, especially when Kate Smith sang… When the Moon comes over the Mountain… they now could see her in person, instead of once only listening to her.
Granddaddy soon owned his first TV set… and Saturday evenings were then spent watching wrestling… banging his cane on the floor when his favorite was losing!
Through the years, as times changed… so did their social lives and all around them. It’s the same as it is today. I can look back at my life as a child, and see many changes that has taken place over the years. While I grew up not knowing what it was like to Not have a television or a radio, or the social context of the Internet… Facebook… or Cell Phone as I have to today… which connects me now socially to everyone, near and far. I did have a social context far different from my parents, as I had my own car at the age of 16, which gave a freedom they never knew; every generation grows up with a different social context of life. I wasn’t tied to a cell phone as a teenager… not even a beeper… I had to be tracked down if needed! I often wonder how my life would have been any different if I’d had a cellphone and internet! If definitely would have given me a different social life… and maybe not for the best!
My social context of life as a child was spent outside socializing with the neighborhood kids… who, like me, were outside… playing! If our parents wanted us… they yelled our names… no ringtones going off. We didn’t sit in front of a computer… we ran, we rode bikes, we skated, we played basketball, we climbed trees, we played games like kick the can, mother may I, or hide and seek. I think I had a well-rounded social context of life!
What will be the social context of life for my grandchildren in growing up, besides already having television and radio, cellphones, internet and Facebook… what new thing will they add to their life… self-driving cars… of which I never want to own! Are we headed to the age of the cartoon… will The Jetsons be in their future? The first day my granddaughter Ella came home from kindergarten (2015), she asked her father for her own Facebook page and could she have an IPhone. That told me how the social context for her generation was going to change as she entered the world of interaction with others.
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