Most families gathered around the table for dinner at the same time every evening, sharing stories from their day or things they had heard about. The after dinner clean up was a shared experience, too, with one person washing and one or more drying dishes. Children would gather to do homework around the table, and then, the whole family might watch a TV show or several members might play a board game or cards together.
Even solitary activities weren't totally solitary, as family members gathered in the living room or at the table to read and do handcrafts. Many, if not most, gifts were created by hand, and possessions were few and cherished.
There were schedules for doing certain things, such as cleaning the public rooms of the house every Saturday morning, and preparing for church by shining shoes, taking baths, and curling hair Saturday night. Children wore school clothes, play clothes, and dress clothes; changing for different activities, which required a variety of clothing, but allowed school clothes and dress clothes to last longer and require less cleaning. When you got dressed up, it was special, and you felt it.
There were also fewer restrictions on children's time and ability to roam. While at least one parent was generally at home, children could go outside to play and didn't need to stay within sight. They could come home when they got hungry or cold and had to be in by a certain time for dinner and after dinner in the summer. (Usually the latter was when the street lights went on, since none of the children had a watch.) Sometimes, the parent would call or whistle for children from a front porch. Kids always knew they had to hightail it home then. There were also the Saturday movie matinees, which the children would attend without adults, spending all afternoon taking in double features, with a live show or activity in between, usually with prizes.
In our shift to organized activities and love affair with technology, we seem to be missing a lot. Today, it is more likely that, even if the family meets for dinner, there will be little conversation. Afterwards, one person might load the dishwasher and run it, while the rest of the family retires to separate locations to watch shows, play on the computer, or runs off to practices. It is rare for a child to be able to play outside at all, let alone to roam freely without concern. Visits, too, are rare, with many of them taking place over the phone or via the Internet. We seem to be moving at a much quicker pace.
I suspect that much of the current fascination with vintage and some handcrafts is an attempt to bring back a bit of the sense of peace and slowness that was a part of those earlier times.
What about you? Does your image of simple living agree with mine? How does it make you feel?