Friday, August 29, 2008

Rationing, Oleo, party lines, and running boards

When we write about what our lives were like fifty or more years ago, we use the words we understand, but will our great-grandchildren know the meaning of them? Anyone who grew up in the fifties knows the phrase, "Which twin has the Toni?" What would an eight year old today think when hearing that phrase?
A student in one of my classes wrote a story about his life during World War II. He used the word rationing several times but did not explain it.
I asked him if his grandchildren knew that word and he thought a moment and said,"I doubt they'd understand what rationing was in that time unless I explain it."

Of course, you might want your family to go to the dictionary and look up the words and expressions we take for granted because we heard them all our lives. My students often see that, just as today's jargon their children and grandchildren use seem foreign, the language of the Greatest Generation befuddle Generation X and will be more puzzling to generations to come.

When I was a child I loved to ride on the running board of the farm truck. When did running boards go out of style? How would you explain a running board to a youngster of today?
Did you ever have a home permanent? Can you describe the horrific smell and the fear that when those curlers came out you'd have hair like a Brillo pad?
Writing the stories of our lives for future generations of our family is important to keep the legacy of our time on this earth flowing down and down as years pass.
But we want to write these stories in a way that is entertaining and fun to read while we inform and enlighten our readers.
I begin a class on writing about your life on September 9 at Tri-County College in Murphy, NC. Teaching this class is a great joy to me. I feel I'm back sitting on the floor looking up at and listening to Uncle Jimmy tell us kids and my parents one of his tales. We all have stories to tell. My job is helping my students write the best stories and in the best way possible.

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