It’s been another quiet week up here on the mountain, my little slice of heaven.
We often think that the off-grid movement, if it can be called that, is something new; yet, that is far from the truth.
It wasn’t so long ago that people lived without the things we take for granted today: running water, lights at the flick of a switch, central heating, flush toilets, etc. My mother’s generation, born in the thirties, was the generation in transition from what we consider off grid to modern life. My mother jokes that she didn’t use a flush toilet until she was in high school.
She was born at home, as were many of her generation, in a small town. Her family, like so many in town, had electricity, though a lot of those in rural areas had yet to be hooked into the grid. By the time she was born, most people in her town had a water closet, what we call a bathroom today, with a tub, possibly a sink, and a flush commode with a pipe leading to a septic tank outside. Her family had no such thing. The sink was in the kitchen and had only a cold-water faucet, no hot. Baths were taken in a washtub, with water heated on an old wood-fired cooking stove in the kitchen. Father went first, then the rest of the household followed by age, with baby being last. By this time, the water was mostly dirt, which is where the saying “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” came from. During the winter months, everyone congregated in the kitchen around the cooking stove, as it was the warmest room in the home; the fire was not allowed to go out there. The family toilet was an outhouse, connected by a breezeway so one wouldn’t have to brave the winter winds. Almost all New England farms had a breezeway connecting the home to the barn, often times with the woodshed and outhouse in-between. This made it easy for the family to get out to tend the animals as well as bring in the day’s firewood. Though my mothers home wasn’t a farm, being in town, there was a carriage shed, at one time used for keeping the family buggy, prior to motor cars. In this case, the carriage shed was turned into the woodshed, though her family used coal for the cooking stove in the winter. The coal was brought by truck in the fall and dumped, by means of a coal chute, into the basement to be hauled up, one bucket at a time, as needed. Life back then was far different than what we are familiar with today – with a flick of a switch you can have heat and/or lights; with the turn of a knob, you have water, already heated and ready for a bath.
I was in town yesterday having some welding done on the exhaust system of the pickup. The shop had a couple of books with pictures of St. Maries, from its founding days up until just before the turn of this century. It was interesting looking back on the town when it was starting, and looking at the history through pictures. The town has changed many times over the years, from simple logging camp to what it is today. Some of the early buildings are still here, down along the main street. Others are long gone.
I wonder what this town will look like in another one hundred years. I doubt anyone from back in the early days would recognize the town today, nor would anyone alive now know it in a hundred years.
That’s progress I guess. This town, which is the county seat, will most likely continue to grow, while small towns nearby slowly die off as people move away, or die as other small towns across the country have done, and are continuing to do, as time marches on.
Well, that’s all the news for the week. Bye for now.