Call it the Baby-boomers, the Greatest Generation, the worst generation, etc. Fact is, the Boomers, and all its various sub-groups, at the heels of the Silent Generation (WWI), are the ones who witnessed the most world-changing events, inventions and revolutionary phenomena over a 70-80-year period.
Let’s have a pictorial mini wander in time at the,
Schwäbisches Bauernhof Museum – Illerbeuren, Baden Württemberg
Luise had invited me to join her for an Ausflug, an afternoon excursion to this museum, some 50 km away from our village.
At this Swabian farmstead museum, where one can see a collection of more than thirty old structures, I realized for the first time the sweeping advances that took place at dizzying speed over a period of 70-80 years. Granted, most structures have been around since the 1700s but a good number of the utensils were still in use until the 1950s. The large ceramic hearth structures of the past, are very much in use in today’s German homes.
Beautifully maintained and restored farms swept us back in time, to an era that was more genteel on one hand, and harsh and more labour-intensive on the other hand. It is also a stretch of time – with exception of the black thirties – where most people found steady work both in the cities and in rural areas. Since most work was done manually, more people were required to produce and finish the work.
Luise is five years my senior; even with that short span between us, her recollection of the way things were is more vivid than mine.Walking through the farm houses; kitchen implements, furniture even clothing, brought back childhood memories. “Yes, I remember seeing the butter churner”, “Look at that cheese maker, our farmer used to have one of those!” “Weren’t shoes sturdy and well made?!”
From time to time we would look nonplussed at a contraption that didn’t reveal its use; unfortunately not everything was logged and explained.
Seeing an antique washing machine, in my mind’s eye I saw my mom’s newest model, fitted with a manual clothes wringer atop the machine that had a swing-down mechanism for storage into the cavity after use. No more wringing by hand! Yet, we still had a huge oval metal washtub that mom and the maid put on the stove, filled with water and flaked Castile soap or lye. Whites were put to boil and stirred with a long pole, before transferring them to the washing machine. Sure way to remove those stubborn stains… and hard work! No modern detergent or stain remover achieves the whiteness and perfection those old methods did. Besides most of our present fabrics wouldn’t be able to withstand boiling point anyway; so we have to be content with yellowing whites.
The Equipment Building
Three levels displayed the advance of farm machines. Even tractor seats went from hard steel to cushy padded adjustable armchairs! Luise explained how life on the farm was very intensive and back-breaking at the time. It wasn’t until the first mechanized threshers, gatherers and such made their appearance, that it lightened the workload. This however was the privilege of the wealthier farmers, who could afford the new farm inventions, but fortunately farmers also shared their equipment.
Walking through a WWII makeshift shelter, we were surprised at how well-appointed it was. Deco, radio and furniture were all very familiar and had been part of our childhood, which we reminisced about with much glee and laughter.
Who would have thought that the farmer plowing the field with oxen, would be sitting on engine-driven tractors that would plow large sections of land in minimum time.
Who could have guessed the first moon landing by man, the dawn of computers (remember those gigantic apparatuses that would take up entire rooms?) morphing to laptops, cellular telephones and now smart phones, tablets and on and on…
Who could have foreseen being able to see life in the womb develop, and the discovery and wonders of DNA? The cloning of living creatures and…. you get the picture.
Casting back to childhood, teen years, adulthood and looking at the changes now, it is bewildering how, in such short time, we have been propelled in an era of space traveling possibilities, ever more elaborate technological inventions and medical advances. It would be hard for our technological generation to appreciate how we lived even thirty and forty years ago. Although rapid changes keep outpacing us, the full extent of progress that the older generations have experienced since the world wars, is rather unfathomable for the present generations.
I guess it has been, and still is a privilege to be witness to the God-given creative capabilities of humanity. At the same time, I’m asking myself whether all this progress and all the inventions spawned by the human mind, have made us better humans. Are we more advanced as human beings? Or have we become less human by allowing science, technology and machines to control all aspects of our lives? Are we more giving and caring towards others? Have we become more tolerant? (I don’t mean the PC tolerant.) Are we more or less selfish thanks to our inventions and advances? In the global environment we now live in, are we truly able to harness all these marvels of progress for the good of all?