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Relics of the Past

Posted Friday, September 7, 2012, at 4:43 PM

Remembering the past

As I shuffle through my tangled mass of memories, I hear echoes of the past that awaken the ghosts of yesteryear, and the elusive figments of my fickle mind carry me back to a time when I was a six year old boy, living on a farm in south Bollinger County Missouri. I would hear the lonesome whistle of the distant train, and dream of the day that I could explore its vast domain, not realizing that the engineer on this train might be dreaming of the day he could retire from the rambling rails of rust and settle down on a quiet, peaceful farm.

As time passes, the numbers on my calendar propel me through the framework of time, and I hear echoes of the past that bring back memories of the many things that were an integral part of our daily lives, but are now only a ghost of yesteryear.

We don't hear the dinner bell any more, because they have gone the way of the horse and buggy, the corset, and the panama hats. My grandma had a dinner bell, and I remember hearing the "Bang-Bong" of this big bell as she alerted her men folks out in the field that dinner was ready. I also recall that it was not always exactly noontime when she rang this bell, because her only timepiece was an old eight-day, stem-winding, pendulum clock that was just about as dependable and reliable as a homemade sundial on a cloudy day.

There was a time when the housewife used the big black kettle out in the back yard to heat her wash water, and then punished her hands in a tub of hot lye soap water, as she rubbed and scrubbed the weeks supply of dirty overalls, long-johns, and petticoats on a washboard. Today this wash kettle sits in the front yard as a flowerbed. The wash board--that onetime "Lady Killer"-- is now a decorated ornament hanging on the kitchen wall, with hooks for hanging keys and posting notes.

It was a welcome wave of progress as glass insulators were attached to trees that supported the telephone wire, winding its way through south Bollinger County where I lived. This made it possible for neighbors to communicate with each other without having to wade the creek and track through dust or mud to ask a favor or deliver a message. This was a party-line telephone, where anyone along the line could pick up their phone and hear what their neighbors were talking about, so in this respect, any conversation on this party line was just about as confidential as the Indian sending up smoke signals.

Just a few years back, this landline telephone was the main source of telephone service for our homes, businesses, and Internet service. However, it now seems that this is all changing, as modern technology ushers in the advent of wireless communication.

The telephone booth, sitting on the sidewalk outside the business place has already become a "Ketch-All" for unwanted junk, and we see people, young and old, in our stores, often talking to a friend, or another member of their family on their cell phones, comparing prices of an object they intend to purchase.

Grandpa thought he had achieved the ultimate in taking pictures when he purchased a roll of film for his camera, took a half dozen pictures of the family reunion, mailed the film to the developer, and waited a week to see the results of his effort.

Today our six-year-old son or daughter can use his or her wireless telephone to take a picture of the life-size replica of a dinosaur, immediately see the picture and use the same instrument to call a friend telling that friend that he really got a good picture this time. He can send an email to a cousin in another state. This wireless telephone also becomes a GPS as it tells how far it is to our chosen destination and just what route to take to get there.

Today it is estimated that 35% of the homes in the United States have given up their landline telephones and gone 100% wireless, so it may not be long until the landline telephone will go the way of the "Passenger Pigeon."

Footnote by Madeline: Sadly, Paul Corbin is currently unable to use the computer, because of health issues. He will be 98 on Nov. 27, 2012! Through the years, he has written a wealth of wisdom. With his permission, I shall continue to share his stories, until such time as he can get back to his computer. "The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak!"


Comments
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I look forward to more of Mr. Corbin's "wanderings." What a sense of humor! Love to read his messages. Thank you, Madeline, for making my reading time more enjoyable.

-- Posted by TNMom2 on Fri, Sep 7, 2012, at 10:23 PM

You're welcome, TNMom2! I can't see letting Mr. Corbin's wonderful stories fall by the wayside, simply because he's not currently able to post them. He may live well past 100!

I'm also going to see if I can get the posts put back on the Statesman page, where more people can see them.

-- Posted by Madeline1 on Sun, Sep 9, 2012, at 9:06 AM

I shall be waiting and watching. Thanks!

-- Posted by TNMom2 on Mon, Sep 10, 2012, at 10:04 PM


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Paul Corbin is a 98-year-old historian, humorist, and amateur archeologist from Advance, Mo. He grew up in the Greenbrier area west of Advance, where he attended Stepp School on the banks of Cato Slough and the Castor River, important waterways throughout his life. In an age when many area residents did not go to high school, the young Corbin made the decision to walk the five miles to Zalma, graduating in 1933. Throughout his life, he was an enterprising businessman, selling Watkins products from house to house throughout a large area - and later opening a variety store in Advance. He and his wife Geneva traveled throughout the United States, even following the route that the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled. His knowledge of Native American culture is extensive, and he has donated a sizeable collection of his artifacts to the Cape Girardeau Conservation Nature Center and the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History in Marble Hill. Throughout the years, he has submitted articles to TBY, the North Stoddard Countian, the Ozark Mountaineer, and several other Missouri publications. He has also written two books - "Reflections in Missouri Mud," and "Fragments of my Feeble Mind." The first one is out of print.
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