The Good Old Days? Are They Gone?

lemonadeI can’t believe I am still here after growing up in the ’50s and ’60s. I can’t believe my children made it through their childhood.

After all, we had lemonade stands, drank from neighborhood lemonade stands, had many meals at church and community potlucks, ate pie from church pie stands at celebrations, stayed out after dark, were left home alone starting at age 10 or 12, played with tin toys, didn’t have car seats or seat belts and I probably could name many more things we did that you can’t do today without getting in trouble. Although, if we did get in trouble the people who saw our actions probably called our parents, and that was more trouble than a policeman being called.

The news the past few weeks has baffled me. First was the lemonade stand in a large city. The kids had to shut down their neighborhood lemonade stand because they didn’t have a permit. The permit cost $150. Really — a kid’s lemonade stand needs a permit like that? I don’t believe my community got on the bandwagon for lemonade stand permits. At least, I hope not.

Then there was the case of the family building a new house and camping out in tents on their land for the summer, who had their kids taken away from them because they did not have running water or bathrooms or electricity. I visited my grandmother when I was small and they didn’t have running water or bathrooms or electricity. I guess they were neglecting me too. They seemed to survive pretty good and so did I, I learned about Outhouses. There are camping grounds that don’t have water or electricity. What about those families who vacation at a campground for a couple of weeks? Are they neglecting their kids?

What about the 11-year-old whose parents also got in trouble because they weren’t home when their son came home?  The son, locked  out of the house for 90 minutes,  decided to wait for his parents and shoot a few hoops in the backyard. The authorities said he was without emergency services, food and water because of being  out of the house. Really?

In the back ages, my growing time, kids were babysitting at the age of 11, and it wasn’t unusual for kids to stay home by themselves. Other parents have left their kids to play alone at the park, and that apparently isn’t done now either.

My church used to have a pie stand at our local community celebration. Ladies from the church baked pies and everyone devoured them. The pies are now prepared in a commercially licensed kitchen or made by a commercial company.  Many communities and churches have also stopped potlucks because of regulations.

My granddaughter, living in a larger city, wanted to have a lemonade and cupcake stand this summer. They too ran up against permit fees.

Homeowners back in the old ages didn’t have to check to see if what they planted or built on their lawns met code or was up to HOA standards. Next-door neighbors talked to each other, and most of the time it was live or let live.

Every day I read of something that boggles my mind.  Today it was the patio of a restaurant in a nearby community, closed down for a time, because it didn’t have enough live plants. The business broke the rules of the city. Of course we want a safe world, but are we carrying things a little too far?

I am  thankful I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s when summer months meant lemonade stands and long bike rides, playing kick the can after dark, and camping out in the yard where we could meander to others yards to meet with those friends that were camping out too.

I am thankful for all the potlucks and good food I was able to eat at community and church dinners and picnics in the park.

I am thankful for the freedom to stay at home by myself in my younger years. I am thankful  I could explore barns and feed the chickens on our place that was on the edge of town. The place is still there but no one would be allowed to raise chickens, let alone have a pony in the barns that close to town.

I am thankful  the church doors were open day and night allowing us to visit when needing comfort. I am thankful for school doors always being open during the day and the fact we didn’t have to fear violence in school.

I am thankful we could write our own plays and talent shows and perform in garages and charge admission and serve cupcakes.

I am thankful I was a child of the ’50s and the ’60s when life was less restricted and we could experience life with less restrictions, life our children and grandchildren will never know today. Life wasn’t always easy but it was simpler. Yes, the good old days — when kids would be kids, parents could parent and city governments weren’t worried about regulating lemonade stands

Accept It! Small Town Newspapers Must Change.

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentinel week of May 19.courier sentinel

Small town newspapers have been around for decades. It is fun to look back through the archives of small town newspapers and read the announcements and the way they were written. This is the announcement of my grandfather’s first wife’s death.

Mrs. Jerome Young who lives about six miles northeast of town in Freeborn County, died on Wednesday morning of last week of lung fever. The funeral services were held Friday. The deceased leaves a husband and four children to mourn her death. Mrs. Young was a fine woman and very active and progressive. Her death is a terrible blow to her family. This was in the Forum-Advocate, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1907.

In the same paper was also this note exactly as it was written; run-on sentence and all: “Last Friday the Basket Ball girls were all at the depot and ready to go to Lake Crystal, the train was late so before it came Mr. Barnes received a telephone message telling the girls not to come on account of the rain. The game was postponed until Monday.”

The Forum Advocate was filled with news about what the residents of the community were doing, who they were visiting, whether they were traveling as is the case of E.O. Oren and Alex Enochson.

This little tidbit was their little news of the week: “E.O. Oren and Alex Enochson left Saturday Evening for New York on business. Mr. Oren had started a car of dressed poultry ahead and expected to reach the metropolis about the same time the freight did.”

Writing has changed since 1907. Newspapers have changed. If you look back in the archives of old newspapers across the decades you would see the change in the way the newspapers reported the news. Those newspapers might also give you a glimpse through their changes of the progression of changes in the way people live their lives. If you look back at the past, you may see the reason newspapers in 2014 must change it up another notch.

No longer do people want it reported in the newspaper when they are leaving town. It is not safe. The Internet has also changed those hometown tidbits. We already know what is happening in the lives of the people we care about because of the convenience of social media. Communities have gotten smaller and people’s worlds have gotten bigger.

We, in the southern Minnesota area are very fortunate to still have small town newspapers such as The Courier Sentinel, the New Richland Star-Eagle and the Wells Mirror to name a few. We are still fortunate enough to have bigger community’s newspapers still going strong, such as the Albert Lea Tribune.

As the small town newspapers struggle to stay successful in this competitive news world, they are making changes that occasionally upset their readers. Change is hard on everyone, but for small community newspapers, the changes must be made to stay in business. These newspapers must reach out to a broader reader base outside of their communities. Newspapers rely on advertising and with small communities there is not the broad business base there once was, so newspapers must appeal to those also outside their area in order to sell advertising.

Communities used to be sufficient within their borders. Our small towns had clothing stores, grocery stores, shoe stores, restaurants, lumberyards, car dealerships, churches and people to support these businesses. These businesses advertised and the local news was reported. Small towns were happening.

As much as we want our area newspapers to stay the same, if you look back through history there has been change in the newspapers formats and there has always been resistance to change. Life is change. Every single day when we open our eyes something about our life is going to be different.

I like to look at the change in area newspapers as progress. I love reading a story outside of my little world that broadens my learning and my knowledge of places and people. I love reading a story in a newspaper that challenges my thinking whether I agree with it or not.

Newspapers now have an online presence. They have a Facebook page. They need to keep up with social media to survive.

When I used to read my local paper when I was younger, the local stories pertained only to my hometown. It was a time when businesses were thriving, schools had double the kids we have now and life revolved around activities only in our community. I was content with that. As I look at what is happening now and the possibilities for our young people to learn more about people halfway across the continent, I think perhaps I missed out. There is so much good to learn from others stories.

That is my opinion. The next time you pick up your local paper and the stories reach out and are about others in other communities, you can thank the editor for expanding your world or … you can be upset because the paper isn’t about only your community or your interests.

The choice is yours. Does the community newspaper tradition grow into the future or will its obituary report its death?