This Ol' Town
Edited by Anne Goddard
Copyright 2020 by Lew Goddard
used to be SO simple!
creation of this story commenced when I left THIS OLí TOWN.
Thatís sixty-five years ago.
2018 my life changed drastically when I found out that I had a
that state I re-lived my life a number of times and decided if I
couldnít do anything about the condition, I would accept it.
And I did.
I didnít give up. I have had a good life and want for very
incredible surgeon arranged to insert stents to alleviate the
I decided to bring forth some of the reasons why I left that OlĒ
eighty-four now and I believe that growing up years were THE GOLDEN
Why would anyone want to live their entire
this olí town? He said to himself out loud. Someone asks you
where your home town is, you answer them. You get a blank look and an
Oh. Nobody knows where Sintaluta is located.
No pavement on most streets. No waste and
systems. Well, each household did have a waste disposal system. You
knew how to get rid of the ďslopsĒ. Residual waste from
cooking, washing dishes and bathing. The slops were stored in a pail
under a homemade sink that had an actual drain. When the pail was
full, it was simply poured onto some part of the earth. Usually in
the ditch on the opposite side of the road.
Bathing was a laugh. You added hot water to
galvanized wash tub brought in from the dirty shed. Then you bathed
in water that your parents had already bathed in. Bathed? That was
questionable even if it took the dirt from a week long sojourn from
any type of washing.
Now you had to figure out how you could get
that water into a pail so you could carry it out, cross the road and
empty it in the ditch on the other side. Can you imagine using some
kind of container, like about the size of water pitcher or empty
Rogers Corn Syrup can to reduce the volume so that you could lift the
tub and pour the last of the bathing water into the pail?
One thing that was instrumental was that
always spilled water in this attempt. The floor was washed whether it
needed it or not.
Once you were clean for another week,
Nature would probably call you for a bowel movement. Now that was no
big deal in the summer when it was warm. There was a wooden structure
enclosed with a door at the rear of the property with what looked
like a bench with a hole in it. The aperture had not been subject to
sanding but over the years users had smoothed it. And another hole in
the ground further down. Before you sat down you stamped your feet on
the wooden floor to chase the rats that may be scavenging (Ugh),
under there. When you look back on that activity, it was what we now
call ďa green actioní to save the environment. Over the
winter in this country the human waste was considerably reduced and
the next summer, we started all over again.
Speaking of winter, you couldnít use
the outdoor facilities unless you wanted to freeze your jewels. There
was a receptacle not like the outdoor one. The support was a wooden
box about the height of a toilet. The seat, thankfully, was a wooden
that had been bought at a store in the next city. It was smooth and
had been painted when it was new. Unfortunately, with a number of
people using this depository, it often reached the top of the pail
that was under the seat. Thatís when you had to be a
contortionist to be able to escape with reasonably clean under wear.
Oh, yes, it was vented to the brick chimney to make sure there was no
malodorous odor left. Do you think?
Now the chore that you often had was to
that pail by carrying it down stairs that werenít much more
than a ladder and take said pail full out to the garden and empty it.
You then cleaned it very carefully before putting it back in place.
There was a waterworks system. It was work
right. You had to walk at least a block to get to the nearest public
well. It seemed heavier than normal, probably due to the hardness in
The water pail in the winter had an
use. Your alarm was your Father breaking the ice in the drinking
water pail in the morning.
Speaking of ice, there was no furnace to
house warm in the cold winter. Temperatures often hovered around
forty below outside Father would place a couple of large pieces of
hard coal in the wood and coal range and that would keep most of the
house above freezing.
again about ice. Do you remember that you helped your Dad find
several dugouts as close as possible to town? He would break an
opening in the ice that was often more than a foot thick and then,
take a long saw, (about five feet long with gigantic teeth), and cut
blocks sixteen inches by sixteen inches and whatever the depth of the
ice had formed. Did you ever wonder at the suction power that the
remaining water produced? Lifting a lump of ice that large weighed
considerably more to pull it out of the water than it would be
sitting by itself. The lumps were lifted and placed on the dray. The
dray was drawn by two Percheron horses. The job was not yet finished
until the ice was delivered. It was stacked in an insulated building
behind the Butcher shop in town. Each layer of ice was covered
liberty with sawdust to help keep it frozen. The Butcher used this
ice for his in-store cooler. He had no refrigerator or freezer.
Believe it or not that ice would last from winter to near the end of
August that year. After that it was up to the Butcher to obtain ice
where he could.
have to relate an incident that happened in the preparation and
delivery of the ice.
cold sunny afternoon with the temperature hovering around twenty
below zero Fahrenheit your Dad slipped and fell into the freezing
water up to his waist. You helped him out and shed your parka and
wrapped it around him. You then took the bridle of one of the horses
and ran beside back to town. A distance of about three quarters of a
the time he was stripped of his wet clothes and covered with warm
bklankets and with his feet in the oven of the kitchen range he
should warm up. Your Mother made hot tea to drink. He seemed to
think everything was funny. You didnít know but that he was
well into hypothermia. It took the better of a week for him to fell
that he was warm.
Iím not certain whether the ice kept
all meat products cold. (I ate raw hamburger meat.)
The house was comprised of a lower single
on the ground floor, and later a small TV room and small kitchen was
added. It was considered a story and a half because the walls in the
upper floor were on the angle of the roof on t wo sides. In one end
near the brick chimney there was a small opening to allow the heat to
rise from the lower floor. By morning in the winter, it was freezing
upstairs. There was no insulation in the walls. In the summer it was
quite the opposite. Hotter than Hell.
A strange occurrence took place every year
the oncoming cold weather. Intermittent sharp noises were heard from
some section of the house. Your Father used to say that it was the
railroad ties all placed on end in the outer walls contracting with
the cold. The noises would stop because ice was built up in the walls
and actually it helped to keep the wind out.
After a blizzard had passed through there
snowplow to clear the streets. Streets were gravel and gravel mixed
with cinders from the train dropping them between the rails and the
town fathers would clean up the ashes.
You remember the winter when there was more
than normal snow. It was possible to create a tunnel in it from the
house to the barn. It was four feet high and six feet long. The
house was about fifty feet from the barn.
During a blizzard it was common to see kids
and their dog playing in the snow. Once, during a blizzard your
Mother didnít want you to go downtown because you might get
lost. In the dark. As if there were no street lights and store front
Your Father would order wood from the First
Nation people who lived about six miles south of town. (You called
them Indians then.) Poplar trees, upwards to seventy or eighty, were
delivered to our back yard. It was assumed that the trees originated
at the reservation but it was never explored.
The buck saw had to be sharpened to cut all
these trees into lengths that would fit in the kitchen stove. Bucking
took you nearly a month after school and weekends.
When the blisters healed, it was time to
sharpen the axe and chop all those pieces so that they would burn
better in the stove. To add to the work, kindling was split holding
the log with your hand and slicing each into one to two-inch-wide
shafts. All the wood had to be stored in a dry location.
The wood shed was then filled with all this
chopped wood. The split logs and kindling were piled nearly six feet
high, six levels from back to front and ten feet wide to fit the
Your Dad brought a ton of hard chunk coal,
placed it in another shed.
The two large Percheron horses that lived
barn and yard had to have sufficient feed and water. The water was
brought from the well in two, two-gallon pails. It was amazing that
each horse would drink a pail full even in cold weather.
At the beginning of summer two piglets were
purchased. They were placed in a small enclosure. You noted that they
were offered coal to eat. Your Dad said that the carbon was good for
them. Something to do with their digestion it is guessed. It
certainly allowed them to defecate at will. Then they had just
disappeared usually in October There was a lot of pork on the menu
Prior to winter, usually near the end of
September, the job was to unload coal from the railroad cars and
place most of it in the bins beside the railway. As you grew older
and more muscular, you helped. The two of you would unload twenty
tons of coal in two sixteen-hour days. This was what they called lump
coal or hard coal.
There were varieties of coal. The hard-lump
would burn better and give off heat much longer than the softer coal
that some people used.
Then came the stoker coal that had to be
totally shoveled. It was back breaking work and your Dad was always
in a hurry to unload it because there was an urgency called murage
whatever that was. It somehow was helpful to hurry and create more
money for the workers. You never received any more money.
About ten tons of stoker coal ended up at
school. It was loaded onto a wagon, called a dray and then shoveled
on to a slide and down into the basement. How well you remember the
task of crawling into the basement coal bin and spreading it about to
be able to deliver as much as possible. Coal is very dusty and dirty.
So was the one who had crawled into the coal bin. He actually needed
a bath and he did so in clean water.
Now I ask myself, would anyone in
age go to all that trouble to stay warm? Not many will recall if born
Then there was food! Apples and oranges
a delicacy. Some of the problem was that they were expensive for the
grocer and in this miniscule town. Apples in particular, became soggy
by the time they were sold. It was slightly different at Christmas. Of
course, there was Pork.
Each year a garden was planted the total
of a city lot. (50 x 120 feet)
When you were old enough, your Sunday
morning job was to collect a quart or two of milk. from the dairy. It
was merchandised on an honor system. You had to have the right change
when you entered the back door of his house and picked up what you
this day, I donít know if the milk was pasteurized. We were
never ill. I donít think.
canít be said that you starved. The grocery store that your
parents supported offered bananas at a very cheap rate. Of course,
one must have a receptacle after the attempt to peel. Most of the
time, they outer sides were nearly black and there was no need to
chew the fruit.
this point, I wish to clarify that to this day I do not like bananas.
Of course, almost all meals were meat and
style. And Pork.
With no sewage disposal system in the town,
community hall and the school developed what was called drop tube and
tank operation. It was your Dadís job to empty those tanks when
they became full.
Surely, you will never forget the action
empty the tanks. A ďhoney wagonĒ was the vehicle to
transport the effluent away from the two buildings. It was no closer
to honey than lemons are to candy. It was horrible. The stench
reached out and imbedded itself in your nose, hair, skin and the
gloves that were worn to keep from getting this stuff on your hands.
Of course, the person operating the pump, moving back and forth never
became dirty or wet. Not!
On one occasion at the community hall, the
ceased to bring the waste into the honey wagon.
What made it more interesting were the new
that you learned that day from your Father.
After the pump had been taken apart to see
the problem was, an article that looked somewhat like a filthy dirty
fish was extracted. Your Father looked at you when you were twelve or
thirteen years of age and said as he held up his catch, ďI
donít suppose that you know what this is, but on the other
hand, I think you do.Ē
It was a womanís sanitary napkin!
The honey wagon was emptied in a slough at
side of the road about a half mile from town.
theme of the story has become a life of work with my Dad. I do not
regret working with him those years. They are treasures.
intended to expose why I would leave this OLĒ TOWN. The
hardship and everything were difficult and one had to work so hard.
of course, there was really no employment opportunities.
Father would marvel at the conveniences we have now.
donít think he would like them all.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
Lew's story list and biography
Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher