Life as it was then in the Good Old Days
By Angela Seneviratne
@ DM / 01MAR2006
I’ve been thinking, which is dangerous. Thinking about when I was real young and had no idea what I was about. We lived out in the country in the villages , poor and didn’t know it ‘cause there were a lot of people worse off than we were. This was the late 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s out of Colombo . As you already know, I spent my life in the picturesque hamlet of Hambantota, the Cyprus scented picturesque Bandarawela and the quaint dew kissed little town of Talawakelle where I spent my childhood and adolesecent years.
Plumbing and electricity
Very few people in the rural areas in the late 60’s and early 70’s had indoor plumbing; we didn’t. In Hambantota we collected water in two 50-gallon drums (barrels) under a spreading tamarind tree from the only tap on the property. Of course over the years with us kids growing up and proud of paltry salary of sorts,a cement tank was constructed It was almost the same in Talawakelle , the only difference being that the tank was indoors in an outhouse !!,Hambantota and Bandarawela didn’t have toilets where we lived, though the houses were spacious. It was a time when “sanitary labourors” existed, which was hard to comprehend when there was no “ bathroom ” and the we grew up with a lot of saw dust and mobile buckets that were discreetly taken away by “them ”
Also, it is hard to believe these days,but a lot of people didn’t have electricity. Our days ended by sundown and we survived the rest of the time with Petromax lanterns and bottle lamps. I used to visit some cousins who lived down the road in one of those areas, and they had a battery operated radio. When the battery got low, they put the radio by the fire and for some reason this charged it up.
Life at the Northern point was no different. My mother’s cousins and her offspring, my second cousins, lived in little box houses dotted about a large compound about a mile away from Jaffna, and all chores were completed by nightfall, except of course the time consuming task of studying which was essentially with the aid of the bottle lamp. Life was quiet then, interspersed with only the chirps of night insects and folks were content for they knew no other life, but then like everything else that seeks improvement they moved into an electrified area about the time I became cognizant of my surroundings. While I was at their house once on a visit with Mother Dearest, my Aunt Logeswary had to put some kerosene in the refrigerator, as it was getting low. I was amazed. I asked them how kerosene could keep things cool. In other words, how could something hot make things cold?
The refrigerator was an Electrolux, and I suppose the heat circulated the refrigerant somehow.
Just think how it is amongst us now. I have only 2 children at home, but we have four television sets. They are all utilized..
I was at least seventeen when I first laid eyes on a TV set in my Aunty Eva’s house in Welling, Kent. No one I knew in the villages I lived in or in the city had this grand picture box in their living rooms!! Later on I was able to install a dandy little television with two of those tall antennas on the antique tea poy. The antennas had a rotor so you could zoom in on the signal from the only station available to us at that time. There was no cable.
I remember watching the Wednesday night fights sponsored by Gillette (“to look sharp, to feel sharp”). Had Howdy Doody in the afternoons.. Sometimes the picture was sharp as it could be, and then other times there was nothing but snow — but we thought television was nothing short of a miracle.
Both Mother Dearest and Daddy being in the Postal Service I was quite familiar with telephones. In fact I took immense pleasure in watching the “ Hello girls “ of the Exchanges where Mother worked, deftly play with the many hued plugs while cheerily chirping “ Hello ” into their mouth pieces. None of the homes I lived in had phones,though and I think it was around the time I left school when telephone lines were finally run into our area The phones were not dial phones — we picked up the receiver and the operator came on the line and asked us for the number, then rang it. There was also the time when the crank phone was in fashion, and we would have to spin the dial a complete circle for the number to register.Posh ladies would daintily use a pencil to spin it, whereas I would chip my nails every time I spoke to Prince Charming.
Everybody had the same ringtone, unlike now We didn’t have a telephone, but my nearest neighbor in the house down the road did, and of course I was the main user. Wasn’t much gossip back then anyway,but just like now you can bet there was someone with their ear glued to that old phone whenever folks felt like talking.
Air conditioning in homes then was a fan if one was particularly wealthy and an open window. We also utilized natural “air conditioning” in warm weather by sleeping on the front porch. This arrangement was quite handy — all the male members of the family had to do was to go to the “bathroom”(which, as I’ve said, was nonexistent inside the walls of our house) was go off the porch. Air conditioning in cars was like this: windows down, vent glasses wide open, and dust everywhere.
So I kinda like it today..