Skills Your Grandma Had …

Recently, I read this article about about skills your grandma had that we (ie, folks nowadays) don’t.

I figured it would feature things like “talking face-to-face instead of electronically,” and yes, there’s a nod to that, but some of the other “skills” listed kind of surprised me. Number one was “cooking from scratch.” Maybe it’s because of my menu planning and my basic frugality, but I’d never considered that people today don’t have the “skill” of cooking and baking. Honestly, I don’t consider it a skill — it just takes time and planning. Then again, I suppose those are two things in short supply these days. But is it harder to cook today than it was 30 years ago? I don’t know.

The article discussed sewing, quilting, and darning. I know that only a few would sew their own clothes these days. It has surprised me, though, to see how few people can do things like re-hem a pair of too-long pants or sew on a button. Years back, when I was teaching, another teacher offered to pay me to hem some pants for her husband. It was surprising to me because I just assumed everyone could do that. The article mentions part of the problem here being that home ec classes are being dropped by schools. I’m not sure that’s a major factor, though. My girls have taken the (required) middle school home ec classes, and the only sewing involved was to hand-sew a pillow (which I might add sounds like a mighty cumbersome way to make a pillow!). I doubt that the kids who’ve taken these classes would feel comfortable doing sewing repairs as adult.

Canning — and ironing “really well” — well, they’ve got me there. I honestly don’t have much interest in getting all the equipment needed to can, and I’ve done fine with freezing garden fare. I do iron — very occasionally — but I’ll free admit I’m not great at ironing sleeves or other tricky things. Same with “haggling” — did people really do that a lot in the good ‘ol days? I am uncomfortable trying to get someone to take less for something they’re offering for sale (and when I have a garage sale, I don’t like it when someone tries to get my .50 shirt for a quarter!)

Another one I relate to is writing letters. I miss these. I remember writing a letter home each week when I was in college, and on into my young adult life. Long distance phone calls were pretty expensive (remember standing with your hand over the receiver, calling out, “Hurry up! It’s LONG DISTANCE!?), and of course there were no texts or emails. No, I never used the beautiful fountain pens, but I did write many a letter. Now, other than writing notes in cards to people, I don’t write letters at all. I don’t receive any, either. I kind of miss that.

What about you? Can you think of any skills that older people have that the younger generation is missing out on?




4 thoughts on “Skills Your Grandma Had …

  1. I miss letters too–one benefit to a family member being away is that is how we’ve communicated. I can sew myself clothing [I hate it, but i can] (my Mom was a clothing home ec major at Purdue–you be I learned….). I could hem pants if I could measure straight!! Gave up on that years ago. I can do cross-stitch and a little embroidery too.I know how to quilt and still want to make a puffy quilt and a denim rag quilt but have never done so.I can knit anything you want except my wrist can’t handle it anymore. I learned the basics of crochet in Girl Scouts but can’t get it to ever work right! I have certainly done tours of duty in the canning kitchen when I was still at home! Except for tomatoes (the smell makes me queasy!) I would easily slip back into that if I had a) cheap source for supplies; b) a turkey fryer stand to put the big heavy pot on outside like my brother does! Freezing is great and fast and I can, when I want to, put together as many as 90 days of meals in the freezer for dinner with a few snacks and breakfast items in there too I DO struggle with meeting people, but I’m an introvert–online has helped me make good friends! Haggling? Ugh I hate buying cars! Houses I did much better at dealing. Cooking–I love it and I can feed us as frugally as my tightwad grandmother any day. It is bizarre to me that well educated people can’t follow directions to just make dinner! Baking–sure, what would you like? I enjoy cooking more. I learned to iron as a kid–Mom sprinkled Dad’s daily dress shirts and ironed them–I started with the hankies.I can do a shirt, trousers, pleats etc. I rarely do so any more because I carefully choose things that don’t need dry cleaning or ironing, but an occasional blouse has to be ironed.

    I notice Scrapbooking isn’t in there! Grandma had a cheaper, more intimate version–family history at the dinner table. Bored me silly a lot, but today I’m very grateful I was made to be polite, sit up straight and listen! I wasn’t allowed to go play and miss out. (For the record: I love scrapbooking! But it isn’t that frugal with either rmoney or time). And many, many a grandmother never saw the need for more than one book–the Bible–which I can’t do! It IS enough though since there’s everything in it!

    Great post, Susan!

  2. I know how to cook from scratch, especially as a Home Ec. major, but too frequently I go for convenience items because I don’t like to actually spend that much time in the kitchen. 🙂 I know how to cut up an chicken but it really grosses me out, so I enjoy using the skinless, boneless chicken tenderloins even though they are more expensive.

    Canning really doesn’t appeal to me, either. I think I’ve heard freezing is actually better anyway.

    I do miss handwritten letters. There is only one person with whom I still correspond by letter but those exchanges are becoming less frequent as she ages. They do take time to write well, though, so I don’t know what I’d do if I still corresponded with most people that way. I like Facebook and e-mail correspondence for its brevity, but I do still miss notes and ketters in the mail, too.

    I grew up with ironing and the little water bottle with holes in the top so we could sprinkle clothes (before they made irons that sprayed). I’m glad most of our clothes don’t need that any more. We still have a handful of things that need ironing and I try to do them all at once in order to be done with ironing for a long while in-between.

    I hate haggling, bit my husband loves it. I hadn’t realized that was a regular part of our grandparent’s lives.

  3. My grandmothers were born in the 1800s. I don’t think my life has much in common with any of theirs! Today our life is SOOOO easy. Their life was very hard! My Grandma Kamman lived in a big old farm house that was the Kamman home place. Her husband had numerous brothers all who moved away from home. Each summer they would return to the homeplace, with their families. Poor Grandma Kamman had to cook and cook and cook. When any grandma or even my mother wanted to serve fried chicken, first you caught a fat hen, cut her head off, and all that preparing a chicken entails. Today I hate it when I have to pull the skin off a chicken breast. We are so lazy! Monday was wash day.
    When Grandma Schulte or mother did the wash, they heated water in huge kettles on their stoves and carried the water to the wash machine. You also carried cold water and filled two big wash tubs for rinsing. You added bluing to the final rinse water. As you removed each thing from the hot hot wash machine, you used a stick because the water was too hot for your hands. You folded the clothes so the buttons were on the inside or they would pop off when you ran things through the wringer. You began by washing the whites. You never changed wash or rinse water between loads. Your final load would be denims or maybe a load of rags. After everything was hung on the clothes line you slowly carried buckets of the wash and rinse water outside and dumped it.
    Tuesday was the day they ironed. When my grandma’s ironed, they heated the heavy sad irons on their cooking stove which was kept hot with burning wood. Imagine when it was 90 in the shade and if you wanted to cook a meal, you had to have a fire going in your kitchen cookstove. Grandma Schulte would fix toast by laying slices of bread on top of the hot stove.
    In the summer they housecleaned and they REALLY cleaned! Rooms with wallpaper were cleaned with wall paper cleaner – a long slow process. Since our homes were heated with wood stoves there was a lot of dust. You stayed warm if you stayed near the heating stove. When curtains were washed, step two was to cook starch for curtains. Then we had curtain stretchers that we set up outside in the yard. You’d just have to see one to understand. The perimeter was lined with sticky metal pieces. You took the edges of the curtains and stuck them on the sticky metal pieces to stretch the curtains while they dried. In each room when we housecleanined, the woodwork was washed down with a mixture of water & vinegar. I will never forget the night my bedroom had been housecleaned. The smell was just heavenly!
    For years our family shared the use of Grandma & Grandpa Schulte’s tiny refrigerator.
    Our life today is like a trip to Disney Land every day we live. You young people have absolutely no clue how hard it was! I have just hit on a very few topics.

  4. Well, Attic Girl, you brought back lots of memories I’d long since forgotten. I know how, theoretically, to iron, cook from scratch, sew, etc., but I do very little of any of those things. One thing I never learned, which I wish I knew how to do, is iron a nice crease in a pair of dress slacks. Let me tell you, there are plenty of things I know how to do that I never do anymore. I much prefer the age in which we’re living, as far as the ease of living is concerned, over the one in which I grew up.

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