Then and Now

By Mrs. Charlotte Neal

(Mrs. Neal originally wrote this reminiscence for the Mother’s Club, Decenbe5, 1951. She is reflecting on her youth in East Conneaut.)

In the early years for amusements in the evening we had taffy pulls, popping corn, and cracking nuts, which we had the pleasure of gathering ourselves. Now we can purchase all these things put up in cellophane bags. Then there were sleigh rides and spelling schools, but the outstanding event in the year was the Sunday School picnic in the summer and a Christmas tree at the church in the winter. For the picnic the hayracks were decorated with hemlock boughs, which the children through were wonderful. I remember when as a child about 10 or 12 years old getting everything ready the day before the picnic to be held in Eagley’s Grove. On awakening in the morning to hear rain and it rained all day. Oh! What a lot of disappointed children. Of course, we had good times then.

Now for evening entertainments there is the radio, television, picture shows, and all the games, baseball, football, and basketball. Would we like to go back to those times? No, a thousand times no!

Years ago, the lights were candles, then oil lamps. I have seen my mother sew and knit by candlelight when no oil was available. There were no streetlights. The first ones we had were lighted by the streetlamp lighter. I read recently of a man from Erie formally from Ashtabula, who recalls his father and mother going to a Methodist prayer meeting and when the roads were muddy, they had to follow the rays of a lantern along a narrow path. He says those were the good old days. When we girls went to choir practice, we were made to carry a lantern, and I had just as soon be seen carrying an iron potato kettle. Now our streets are lighted by electric lights and our homes are beautifully lighted.

Years ago, there was a park called Lake View, where each year the county fair was held. The horse racing was quite an event. The farmers came great distances, some in ox carts, hayracks laden with neighbors and some buggies.

 We poor mortals who had no transportation had to walk. Now we enjoy our Township Park and available transportation and flood lights at night.

We had little reading material, a few magazines, such as Petersons and Godey’s, and Sunday School library books. Coming home one Sunday with a book, the name of which was “Sabrina Hackett,” father seeing it, told us as a boy, he and two other boys went swimming in Lake Champlain, and that a girl by that name took their clothes and hid them. They waited until dark and the boy nearest home had his father go to Hacketts and made her bring them back. Now our library provides material for all subjects, besides reading. It has a circulation of 78,850 books a year,

Remember our doctors? I can’t think of any before Dr. Raymond Fifield, Ward, Sturtevant, and Merriman. Think how they were called out at night, through rain and snow, long distances into the country. It must have been terrible. Now, they have their cars heated and quite comfortable. In those days there were no hospitals. Then the Grace Hospital was organized by Grace Pratt and Anna McLaughlin with Doctors Upton, Leet, Wilson, and Wright on the staff. Dr. Cole had a private hospital. Now, we have our wonderful Brown Memorial Hospital, and a staff of doctors and nurses, with all modern equipment and drugs. How we used to have castor oil and sulphur and molasses and asafetida. Ugh! Castor oil is still given, but now we are given shots for all ailments, sulfa drugs, and penicillin.

Remembering  December 2001