The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

January 28, 2012

Looking Back: We got a chance to see the greener grass on the other side

Daily Star

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People seem never to be satisfied with what they have in life. There is always better and bigger, or perhaps it's "the grass that looks greener on the other side of the fence."

Growing up back in the 1930s and 1940s, our parents always strove to have life better than they had. I wonder if most parents still feel that way, with our economy today being so different then that of "yesterday."

Of course, circumstances can be very adverse sometimes and plans go astray.

Sending older folks to live in adult homes or some other housing facility was unheard of for the most part. My grandparents lived with us. They had their own space of privacy and shared in family activities.

My grandfather was that handy Victory gardener, as you have read before, and Grandma shared in all that canning from that garden.

We all had good times together and those times and memories would not be there if they had lived elsewhere.

My father was always going and coming from work and home. Weekends found him and Mom enjoying golf together or bowling.

We children even joined in every so often with what was called "duck-pins." Summertime weekdays found us children with Mom at the Long Island Sound swimming or the golf club pool, and so life went smoothly in our early lives, with parents and grandparents to oversee us and give us security.

Then the Crash and Great Depression, as historians labeled such. Being so young and naturally shielded by our parents, I don't remember too much. It was early to bed for us kiddies, so we very seldom were privy to any adult conversations. But several things I do remember, for many times through the years, those difficult times were referred to.

My father had had a prestigious job in Manhattan and commuted daily. Back then, many lost their jobs and families were on stricter budgets. We sold our lovely New York home and relocated to where my father found suitable employment for the coming year, in-between his steady employment. That was in a small suburb in Pennsylvania where the government was converting a washing machine factory into one for the war effort: World War II was raging.

Life became very interesting, for the rented home looked like a small castle to this 10-year-old. It included three floors with an elevator (it was locked) and a circular turret gracing the outside.

The structure had three floors of large rooms with the semi-circular formation in the living room, second floor bedroom where my grandparents slept and the third-floor game room, which housed our popular pool table.

Evidently the home was originally one with servants, for there were quarters for the one-time hired help, along with a convenient back stairway.

Of course, now was the time, with the Depression and war, for "tightening the belt," so many of these larger homes were on the market but seldom sold.

A temporary rental residence was greatly appreciated. Sad to say there were several even-larger homes close by that weren't that fortunate as they fell into disarray, with weeds growing out in-between the patio bluestone and walkways. Windows and doors were always boarded and secure, but every so often snoopy kids found an entrance way.

We three children had a lot to investigate but I don't think we were very thorough, for the year went by so quickly and there's not too much to remember, except for the bat population.

When evening came there was always the bat scene for entertainment. (Don't forget: No television back then.)

We would throw pebbles high up in the air and those super-sonic bats would perform endlessly, thinking each tiny stone could be their next meal.

Their agility was absolutely amazing, and something scientists have learned a lot from. Certainly another proof of divine creation.

When Dad was back commuting to Manhattan again (the Pennsylvania job completed) with an executive position in lower New York City, it was time for another move. This time Mom found a lovely Tudor-type stucco and brick home in Northern New Jersey. We lived there until our parents were ready for retirement, when we three siblings were out of school and out of the nest.

We enjoyed some of the "grass that was greener on the other side of the fence." Necessity of providing for family was always paramount and well-thought-out. Putting priorities first in life and being able to make-do had good results.

Elaine W. Kniskern is a 79-year-old resident of Schenevus and a grandmother of five. She can reached at 'Senior Scene' columns can be found at