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Life now and then: 277 years of living

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By Ken Begley

History can be read from a book, but there is nothing like learning real history, or lessons from life, from people who have lived it.

The following article taps into 277 years of living from Washington County residents Mr. Hugh L. Grundy (age 92), Mrs. Sadie Kate Leachman (age 94), and Mrs. Mary Ann Hardin (91).

The rest of this column comes from questions raised by Mrs. Heather Purdom’s North Washington Elementary School first graders and Mrs. Inez Grider’s eighth graders at St. Dominic Elementary School.

Question from 1st grader Skyla Traffas

What has changed most from the past?

Mrs. Leachman

Everybody is so busy today. Everyone just grabs some food at night and has to run all the time to different activities. There isn’t time to sit down and enjoy a meal together like we use to. There’s not as much home life like we had.

Mrs. Hardin

People didn’t have everything like they do today. Children obeyed more and were taught a lot about the difference between right and wrong.

Question from 8th grader Christopher Begley

How has school changed from when you went to school to now?

Mrs. Hardin

It’s changed a lot. I taught for two years in a one-room schoolhouse with 35 to 40 kids. We taught just the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic, and history. A teacher might instruct four grades or more at once. Some kids went on to high school after grade school. Some went straight to work on a farm.

Question from 1st grader Morgan Boblitt

When you were young did you have a stove?

Mr. Grundy

Yes Sir. We cooked on a cast iron wood fired multiburner stove. It was supplemented by a coal oil (kerosene) stove.

Question from 8th grader Maggie Isaacs

What are things that people did for fun long ago and how has it changed since then?

Mr. Grundy

I would fish during the day and seine for minnows at night. We would ride bikes and trikes, chase fireflies at night, and walked plowed fields looking for arrowheads. We played with horses and dogs. Kids today stay inside and watch too much television.

Mrs. Leachman

I grew up in Bardstown and everyone knew everyone. We played “coo sheep” at night up and down the streets. It was like hide and go seek. Kids could play out late at night and no one was worried about them. Parents weren’t so afraid back then.

Question from 1st grader Maria Perez

What was World War II like?

Mrs. Leachman

We had shortages and ration cards. We had to make do. My husband said that I could make a dish of baloney look like a steak dinner.

Mrs. Hardin

My husband didn’t have to fight in the war. He was kept out to be a farmer. We kept all the loved ones that went in our prayers. Many gave all they had by dying to defend us. Many others came home from the war all crippled up from their injuries.

Mr. Grundy

I served in the Army Air Corp in Africa and the Middle East. I didn’t see combat like the soldier on the ground did. It was much different flying over combat while the soldiers battled away on the ground. It was a terrible time and a lot of brave men died.

Question from 1st grader Savannah Koko

Was it fun without electronics?

Mr. Grundy

My life has been spent working with and improving technology and electronics. Yet life was simpler back then. You weren’t kept nearly as busy without electronics (cell phones, e-mail, fax machines, Internet, etc). They have their place but we did OK without them.

Question from 1st grader Aleeara Lawson

Did you have air conditioning?

Mr. Grundy

Yes. We opened a window (with a laugh). We did have some fans.

Mrs. Hardin

No. It would get really hot in the summer in our house. We would go outside at night, spread a quilt under the trees, and lay there until very late looking at the stars and talking.

Question from 8th grader Will Begley

What was it like during the Great Depression compared to today’s life?

Mr. Grundy

Pretty restrictive. Nobody had any money. Farmers could get credit from the local merchants and then pay them when the crop came in. We lived frugally and depended on our own production on the farm. We raised edible crops, hunted, fished, and so on.

Mrs. Hardin

My daddy taught me to be satisfied with what I have. He told us to avoid debt. It was better to wait and save your money to pay for things you needed rather than borrowing money. This probably helped out my parents going into the Depression, as they didn’t talk much about it.

Question from 1st grader Spencer Carrico

How was it without a car?

Mr. Grundy

We rode horseback or used a horse drawn wagon. Later I used a bike and we got along just fine.

Question from 1st grader Katie Shively

What was it like without a bathtub?

Mr. Grundy

Sometimes in the summer we washed up in creeks. They were quite clean in those days. We also had a large metal tub. You would put it in front of the fireplace and fill it with water. You stood in the tub and used a sponge to put water on you and rinse off the soap. You had to keep turning around to keep warm by the fire in the winter.

Question from 8th grader Autumn Hood

What event in the history of your time impacted you the most and how?

Mrs. Leachman

John Kennedy being murdered and the jets running into the World Trade Center buildings on 911. After World War II we were loved by everyone and now everyone seems to hate the U.S. so much. I also remember how poorly the Vietnam Vets were treated and how much better the veterans of today are.

Question from 1st grader Johnethan Carrico

How would you talk to your friend without a telephone?

Mr. Grundy

I would go visit with him. Now a days we would have to sit real close so we could hear each other.

Question from 1st grader Arryana Yaste

How was it without electricity?

Mrs. Leachman

I did have electricity when I was born in 1914. My father was the superintendent of Bardstown Light and Power. We had indoor plumbing (bathroom and water) and a furnace. Later I married and moved to Springfield where I was surprised that most people didn’t have these things. It wasn’t until 1942 that I got a house that had two bathrooms and a furnace. It looked like Heaven to me.

Question from 8th grader Chaz Hall

What have you done to stay healthy enough to live all these years?

Mr. Grundy

I never smoked. I ate moderately and a wide variety of food. I worked hard and stayed busy. The major element is genetics if we disregard abuses like drugs and smoking. My mother lived to 93.

Mrs. Hardin

I ate healthy and got a lot of exercise as a farmer’s wife. I love to garden and that’s a lot of exercise. Longevity ran in our family as well.

Question from 8th grader Emily Spaulding

What has changed your life the most dramatically and what was the most memorable event that happened in your life?

Mrs. Hardin

Becoming a Christian changed my life. I try hard to get others to see Jesus in my life. We have to watch our lives and try to be a shining light to lead people to God. The most memorable event was teaching for two years in a one-room schoolhouse.

Question from 8th grader Erica Walker

If you could go back in time to any event in your life, and change it, what event would that be and why?

Mr. Grundy

Stay out of the stock market (with a laugh). I had a chance to attend William and Mary College and later Harvard. I was too busy and didn’t go to either. I wish I had.

Mrs. Hardin

I wish I had worked a little less and spent more time with my kids as they were growing up. Kids appreciate time with their parents more than anything else you can give them.

Question from 8th grader Louis O’Nan

How was Christmas different from back then and now and what kinds of gifts did you receive when you were kids?

Mr. Grundy

Christmas took forever to get here when I was young. Now they come so fast I can’t keep up with them. There weren’t a great variety of gifts lavished on children back then. We were lucky to get two simple gifts. We had to wait many Christmases to get that sleigh or bb gun. These days there is such an overload of presents that kids can’t appreciate them as they come too easy.

Mrs. Hardin

We would get a few pieces of fruit, maybe raisins, a little candy and some clothes. We made it last for a long time. It’s nothing like what kids get today.

FINAL QUESTION

Question from 8th grader Michael Mann

If you could pick, would you rather be a 13-years old kid today or when you were 13?

Mrs. Hardin

When I was 13. I treasure those years. I was blessed with great parents that brought me up in a good church.

Mrs. Leachman

When I was 13. I was still a kid in my teens back then and wasn’t pushed to grow up so fast. We push our kids out of the house at an earlier and earlier age. We have too much competition in everything that kids do. This is from school to sports. They don’t have time to be kids because it’s push, push, push.

Mr. Grundy

A kid when I was 13. Life was much simpler. We have too many gadgets, distractions, and demands on our time now. There is value in the simple things. Technology is great, but I really value the old days