This week on PBS television, they’re having a program called “Colonial House”. If you get a chance to see it, do so. This is a semi reality program along the lines of two previous ones put out a couple of years ago. The first was “The 1900’s House” and the second was “The Wyoming House”. In the 1900’s house, a townhouse in London is taken apart and then put back together as it existed in the early 1900’s. No electricity, only outdoor plumbing’ coal burning stoves. As I recall over three hundred people signed up for this three-month experience. The family that was selected thought it would be great fun to go back in time and live ‘a simpler life’. By the time the three months were over they were about to get a divorce and she was about to have a nervous breakdown. So much for clothing that weighs three times as much as ours of today along with washing and cleaning six or seven days a week without modern soaps and chemicals. The women were especially hard hit due to the fact they could not wear any cosmetics or use any modern day beauty aids. It was not a pretty picture.
In the Wyoming House, it was pretty much the same; only in this case some of the ‘settlers’had to build their living quarters from scratch. Plenty of pain and anguish during their three months as well. You almost expect to see armed warfare break out among the participants before the experiment ends. 1870 Wyoming was not a pleasant place to live. As I recall one of the families actually did get a divorce.
Colonial House takes us back to the Northern part of the United States in about 1648. The settlers arrive in a boat and have to carry everything they are to use to the village. This is where the first signs of a mutiny take place. “Where’s the bus? ” Cabins have been built, but they are assigned to the members by rank and status. One family is chosen to be the governor and several members are assigned to be indentured servants. Early democracy in action. “What do you mean’ I can’t be the governor? ” Needless to say, the work is hard and plentiful and soon trouble begins to brew in paradise. This should not have been a big surprise to any one who signed up for this insanity trip.Church attendance in that era was mandatory and several of the modern day members are totally against any form of organized worship or prohibition against profanity. I suspect the stocks are looming in the next episode.
My question to you, is why would anyone want to volunteer for one of these’ It’s tough enough to live in today, much less in a society of 400 years ago or even 100 years in the past. I mean what did they expect to happen to them’ You had to chop wood for everything that required heat’ there wasn’t any wood delivery service. Toilets and bathrooms were primitive to say the least. Sanitary conditions were virtually non-existent. What could you buy’ Certainly, not much in the 1900’s, less in the 1870’s of Wyoming and nothing in the earliest settlements of this country. You wanted milk’ You went to the barn and found a cow. Not exactly conducive to a midnight snack. No department stores or any kind, so most of your clothing had to be made at home. I’ll bet that stuff was fun to wear.
Most of the complaints from women had to do with shampoo’ apparently our modern shampoos didn’t arrive on the shelves of the stores until sometimes in the 30’s, so early hair washing was limited to lye soaps or other harsh products made from animal fat. These seemed to have a very limited ability in their efforts to keep women looking their best. Lots of whining about beauty care and lack of products for these time periods.
The food in those ‘good old days’certainly wasn’t anything to write home about either. In the Colonial House series, the beef and fish had to be salted down for preservation and then boiled to make it useful for cooking. The vegetables had to be planted and cared for or you had none. Research certainly wasn’t available to tell you what kind of soil conditions you had at your place. You couldn’t call your county agent to find out when and where to plant what kind of crops. You had to take care of your animals and livestock or you might be in danger of losing your life. Your daily life in all of these periods seemed to be more about just staying alive and eking out a living than anything else. The entertainment seemed to revolve around dancing and playing cards. No television, radio, stereo, Internet or game boys’ just dancing and cards or other soon to be boring games. Oh, yes, there did seem to be quite a bit of drinking. Alcohol was a popular pastime. In some cases it was the only past time. Pleasure and fun were not terms used on an every day basis.
Not for me, even with the traffic, bills to be paid, politicians to listen to, bad programming on television and inflation’this is still the best of all times in my opinion.
The good old days are just that to me. old.