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Mary Cook at the CBC

by Mary Cook

Photo: Mary Cook, at her very first day as a broadcaster with the CBC


There aren’t too many people of my vintage who would really welcome going back in time to that era where clothes were washed on the scrub board, Eaton’s catalogue hung in the outhouse on a spike, coal oil lamps were the only light in the house, and the wood cookstove thumped away winter and summer in the kitchen.

Gone are the days when you huddled around the battery radio to catch Major Bowes Amateur Hour and you thought you were being royally entertained. Today, there are few people who would give up their nightly television, their CDs, and their rental movies to sit in front of a box, which at best scratched out faded voices that crackled and then often vanished altogether, signaling that the battery was dying a sure and quick death.

No, these are not things even the most nostalgic of us would want to go back to.

But when you stop to think about it, aren’t there customs, habits, traditions and yes, even relics of times past that you wish were back in our lives?

Take whistling for instance. Not many people go along the street whistling today. But it doesn’t seem that long ago, that just about everyone whistled. My mother whistled while she kneaded bread. My father whistled when he was doing chores in the barn. We kids learned to whistle almost as soon as we learned to talk. You could hear whistles and whistlers everywhere. Just about the only time you didn’t whistle was sitting in church on Sunday! I can remember walking the country road to school, whistling and kicking stones ahead of me with the toe of my shoe. I hear in my mind, my brothers, each trying to outdo the other, whistling the familiar tunes of the day. Anyone caught whistling, walking a busy city street, carrying a briefcase today, would no doubt be considered at the least, strange, and very likely ready to be committed!

I have a picture of my very first day as a broadcaster with the CBC. There I am with a perky straw hat, and white gloves.

And what has happened to white gloves? Wasn’t there a touch of elegance to the lady who wore white gloves to church, to afternoon teas, yes, even to work? I have a picture of my very first day as a broadcaster with the CBC. There I am with a perky straw hat, and white gloves. Today, gloves are reserved for very formal occasions, and when the temperature dips to freezing, and rarely are they white! I still own a couple pairs of white gloves, but alas, they are wrapped in tissue in the bottom of a drawer, and haven’t been worn for years.

Does anyone go out for a leisurely walk anymore? Does anyone start out walking just for the sheer joy of ambling along with no definite destination in mind? It seems to me there are lots of walkers, but they speed walk. They are intent on getting from here to there in the least possible time. I realize they are exercising, and keeping in shape, and paying attention to a healthy heart. But once in a while, couldn’t they just abandon the speed walk, and just amble along, not with a finger on their pulse, or an eye on the pedometer? But walking just for the sheer joy of watching the scenery unfold before them, stopping occasionally to pass the time of day with a neighbour, or to pause long enough to take a few deep breaths on a crisp fall day.

And where have all the wedding receptions gone where there was wonderful dance music, played loud enough so that you could pick out the tune, but not so ear-piercing that you had to make an appointment with a hearing doctor the next day? For that matter, where has all the music gone where you could actually understand the lyrics? No longer can you sit at a dance and talk to the person sitting beside you.

And how I miss seeing nurses wearing their caps. Each training hospital had its own unique shape or design, and there was an air of efficiency about the nurse who came into your room in her cap. You knew without a doubt she had graduated, and was well-equipped to take care of you. I know, I know...the nurses I talk to today say, “good riddance,” claiming nurses’ caps were the harbingers of millions of germs. Well, have you ever heard of a nurse dying from ‘dirty cap disease,’ or passing on cap germs to a patient?

As a consummate letter writer, who has been known to churn out two or three letters on any given day, I regret the loss of the written word. The hand written word, that is. Today, my incoming e-mails outnumber the handwritten letters by about ten to one. The electric age is here to stay, and in most cases has streamlined our lives. But it has also taken away the human touch. I don’t ever have to lay eyes on my bank teller, or the friendly clerk in the post office if I don’t want to. I could carry on my business from my desk. But by doing so, I would isolate myself from some of the great joys of life: making contact with a human face.

I long for the voice of Central, that wonderful person on the end of the rural phone, and just one government agency or place of business with a real person on the end of the telephone. I am tired of hearing a recording telling me my call is important to them. If it’s so important, tell me in person!

Wouldn’t it be nice to retain some of the customs and traditions, habits and lifestyles of the past, and meld them with today’s modern trappings, trends and inventions, and create a happy marriage between both?

This is an original story, first published in The Country Connection Magazine, Issue 52, Summer 2006. Copyright Mary Cook.



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