I am perhaps a bit late on this post because I have been down in Southern California helping my brother dig through three generations of stuff in several buildings. When we were kids we lived and worked in this series of buildings along with our parents, our grand parents, an uncle, and various dogs and cats (and before that horses and chickens). We were located on 20 acres of oranges, in the times when that and a few outside jobs were capable of supporting such a crew. After the death of our parents, grandparents, and uncle, the sale of ten acres, and my leaving for various vocations and locations, my brother John has been operating the remaining ten as a fruit and vegetable farm (Adams Acres). But unfortunately, the area has gone through hard times, and the customers for fruit and vegetables do not always match my brother’s desires in growing plants. He has an M.S. in botany, and a Ph.D. in soil science, and is a fan of fruit of a comparatively exotic nature compared to that bought by many who live in the area, who are motivated heavily by price and what they are used to. So he is selling most of the land to a developer and the need arose to "lighten up".
Although hard work, this sorting process has been both interesting and nostalgia producing. It graphically illustrates the difference in life in Southern California in 1907, when the grove was planted, and the present. I actively worked in the grove between the late 1930’s and the early 1950’s, when I went to college, never to return except for visits, and even in the 60 years since then there has been massive change. As far as agriculture, little remains in the area. As far as life style, the change is similarly complete. Work in the area at one time consisted mostly of manual labor. Now, work is scarce. Life was bucolic, with clean skies, little if any crime, and the sweet smell of orange blossoms, although the work was occasionally hard and money sometimes scarce. But compared to my present existence, and that of my friends, there seemed to be a lot more spare time.
The photo at the left shows a small hooked wool rug made by my grandmother, who died in 1965, but spent a lot of time making rugs, quilts, lace tablecloths, blankets, and such things. My mother, meanwhile. In her early days was making furniture, also clothes, and helping build buildings. Both were doing the cooking, the cleaning, and other such chores. My father, my grandfather, and I were working on the grove and the buildings, and my uncle was working full time as a machinist. But we seemed to have a lot of time beyond these duties. This rug was not intended to be walked on!
The hooked rug is beautiful, partly because of the texture that could only have resulted from hand work. It takes a long time to make hooked rugs, but somehow the time was available. The photo on
the right shows me in a shirt my mother made me from sulfur sacks in high school. It still fits me! She didn’t have to make me fancy shirts, but she loved to and had time to do it, and I loved the result. She also made everything in my room when I was a kid (see below). She later became a very successful water colorist —time again.
During our sorting, we continually found evidence of this startling fact. Although the family did essentially everything having to do with life —building the buildings, doing the maintenance, working the grove, growing and, hunting and fishing for food, and making furniture, machines, and even toys (the two photos at the end of the post show a horse made for me by my mother and a toy tractor made by me for my brother).
We had a lot of free time to do such things as learn about music (I was the town pianist), read a lot of books, magazines, and news papers, listen to the radio, and do well in school, And we did not only constrain ourselves to large and challenging tasks. The photograph at the right shows a small welder I carved, and a delicate goblet my beefy grandfather turned from Manzanita wood, complete with imprisoned ring. I admit he did this because of my grandmother’s frequent challenge to him to make something pretty since he was usually doing blacksmith work, building buildings, spreading fertilizer, or driving the tractor., etc. etc. etc.
Now it seems to be more difficult to provide for free time in ones life. Why? For one reason, in the old days in rural areas there were no diversions such as television, the internet, social networking and computers, and highways and advertisements beckoning us off to adventures in other locations. There were few movie theaters, little if any night-life, and friends were widely spread. Looking back, it seems that life should have been quite boring. But at the time it did not seem so. One could always make covered wagon models, toys for kids (my brother and I) or goblets from Manzanita wood, paint pots, or just goof around with one’s dog. And we didn’t know that life could be made hectic by endlessly “improving” ourselves.
Would I like to go back there? No. Am I glad I grew up there? Yes. I learned an incredible amount from the do-it-yourself stages of my life and my very talented family members, and gained great confidence and positive feedback from what I did. I also learned to make time in my life for hobbies that I love, and for just goofing around. Working with my uncle and grandfather obviously set me on the path to becoming an engineer, and being expected by those around me to do well in school and in my work led me toward becoming a professor, a career I have loved. And since I did have free time (nothing to do and no one to talk to) I did learn to entertain myself by thinking—an excellent way to spend time. And finally, I learned the importance of making time in my life for learning, for my hobbies (mostly requiring use of my hands), and for just goofing around.