Those good old days
I was reading with interest and amusement a blog by Houston Chronicle columnist Leon Hale this weekend. Boy, did it take me back. Hale was talking about the good old days when gas was 14 cents a gallon. I don’t remember gas that cheap, but I do remember, thanks to the dozens
of responding bloggers, the gas wars at the intersection of Wirt Road and Long Point in the Spring Branch area of Houston. Gas sold for 19 cents a gallon and in addition if you bought $2.00 worth, you got a free glass, green stamps and sometimes a free pack of cigarettes. Now, this was heaven
for a 16-year-old. I received $2.50 a week for—get this—school lunches, gas, and assorted other incidentals. Now if I wanted to drive my ’54 Chevy (baby blue) 8 cylinder auto around Price’s Hamburger a lot of times with friends in tow, I did not hesitate forgoing those drab school lunches and
opting for gasoline. Besides, hamburgers were 19 cents—a bargain from the 25 cent school fare.
But, back to the goodies that came with the gas. The green stamps saved throughout the year were used to get a Christmas present for my grandmother and the glasses, which were quite pretty, were saved until I got a set of 8—those went to mother for Christmas. And, the
cigarettes—well they were used to barter for more gas. I would trade a pack of cigarettes to friends who smoked and get a whopping .25 cents in gas.
Those were the days! The whole reflections thing got me to thinking about how simple life was during those years and how complex it is now. Today a $2.50 allowance wouldn’t buy one gallon of gas or a hamburger, French fries and a soft drink. It wouldn’t buy a pack of cigarettes
either. While salaries are higher and we enjoy all the technological advances that have come since 1963, we’ve lost so much in the process. We can no longer drive with our windows open and car doors unlocked; we don’t enjoy simple little pleasures like saving green stamps so we can see the
delight of a loved one when they get that special gift; we can’t go to a “service station” and get the oil and tires checked, water put in the car and the windshield washed and, at least in my case, we are always in such a hurry that talking to gas attendants, if there were any, would be out
of the question!
So, I decided last weekend to regress. I usually work on weekends to meet the Monday deadline. But I decided instead to go to a local farmer’s market that I had wanted to check out for a year. So, off I went on my search for a simpler time and I really found it.
This “market”is simple; the local gardeners bring surplus fruits, vegetables, jams and relishes, and eggs, along with some baked goods and drop the tailgate of their pickups where interested buyers can pick through the bounty in abandon. I found fresh round flat squash that is
almost impossible to find in the store; fresh Brazos berries (like dewberries but larger) and homemade berry jelly; there was a jar of homemade pickle relish that captured my attention; red ripe tomatoes; cucumbers, and assorted other vegetables. And, one gentleman offered to start bringing my
“yard eggs” to my home, while the lady who made the jelly reassured me when I went back to get a second jar “just in case” that she would be making jelly as long as the berries held out. People laughed, traded stories about bugs and rain and recipes for using those great fresh vegetables. No
politics, no complaining, no pressure. I passed up homemade bread and a few other goodies, but after a half dozen trips to my truck (no shopping baskets either), I was ready to go home. I purposely drove slower than usual and looked at the sky, enjoyed the sunshine and thought about the fresh,
cheap produce and wonderful camaraderie. I was actually relaxed and I was excitedly planning how to fix everything instead of dreading that daily cooking routine.
When I got home, after another half dozen trips into the house, I enjoyed my bounty. I washed the berries and put a homemade berry cobbler into the oven, while making a cucumber salad and preparing the squash to fry. The following morning I was still savoring the moment and
prepared a country breakfast with those yard eggs (they are better); biscuits, gravy, and the newly acquired homemade jelly. The jelly tasted just like the kind my grandmother used to make so many years ago. Heaven!
I have decided that I can’t do anything about the high cost of gas and all of the other things we deal with as we rush around in our quest to achieve or sometimes just survive. But I can stop and smell the roses, as corny as that sounds. I can take a few hours or maybe a whole day
and savor the simple things. And, that is exactly what I plan to do. Strangely enough, with all the time I spent shopping, talking, staring at the clouds and cooking like my grandmother did—I managed to produce the same number of stories as always and I did it with a smile!
Not one of the political turmoil; economic downturn or natural disaster stories that I read prior to Leon Hale’s column, made me smile or feel good. So, this week I’m not writing about the county woes or who did what and looked silly doing it.
I’m taking time to say thanks Leon Hale for the memories—those seemingly forgotten old ones and the new ones I just made.
I hope you do the same.