Friday, July 26, 2013

A Little Old-Fashioned Fun

I'm an avid history buff, specifically American history, although stories of past events from other times and places in the world do catch my eye from time to time. In my own writing, however, I tend to stick with Americana.

Much of my interest, I suspect, comes from living with my grandfather as I grew up. He was quite a storyteller. In the evenings I'd sit at his knee listening as he shared stories of his own childhood...living in a soddy on the Kansas prairies, traveling with his parents and younger brothers in a wagon, sleeping beneath that wagon at night with a shotgun nearby to ward off attacks from wild creatures. He told me about the time he fell through the ice on Grand River, and the time he was thrown from a horse into a patch of brambles. Once, we visited the little schoolroom in Dewitt, Missouri, where he learned readin', 'riting' and 'rithmetic, known in those days as "the 3 R's".

And then there were the war stories. It often surprises people that I have such a keen interest in military history and war-gaming, but again, I come by it naturally. My grandfather was a World War I veteran who served in France and saved his brother's life.


After one gruesome battle, doctors walked the fields marking the men who could be saved -- and those whose injuries were so critical they had little chance of survival. Those men were to be left behind. My great-uncle was one of those. But my grandfather wasn't about to walk away and leave his brother to die on a field in France. He stole a doctor's coat, threw it on, and marched to where Mike lay. "This one will make it," he called out, summoning the men with their stretchers. Yes, Mike did make it, but only because my stubborn, willful grandfather made sure of it.

History is not all about wars and atrocities, of course, although we humans do seem to have a penchant for creating trouble. History is also about everyday people living ordinary lives, doing simple things that we still do today -- but doing them in very different ways.

One of the greatest joys in writing historical romance comes from research. It's so much fun to slip back in time, to listen to conversations, to read old letters, and to see how life was lived, what values were taught, and what strange beliefs folks had.

Back to my own family history again...I remember reading my great-grandfather's obituary. It was said that he died from a cancer which had apparently been caused by a snake-bite. Yep, you read that right. Our medical knowledge has certainly increased, even if we haven't yet found that long-sought cure for cancer.

Our beliefs about proper behavior have changed a great deal, too, as have our standards of beauty. I recall my grandfather telling me how, in his day, women carried parasols and used powders to keep their skin as fair as possible. I've since -- in my research -- found precise instructions:

TO WHITEN ARMS. For an evening party or theatricals, rub arms with glycerine, and before the skin has absorbed it all, dust on refined chalk.

Or, how about this practical advice?

TO FORTIFY AGAINST WRINKLES. The hand of time cannot be stayed, but his marks upon the face need not be placed there prematurely. One of the best treatments consists in bathing the skin frequently in cold water and then rubbing with a towel until the flesh is aglow. A little bran added to the water is a decided improvement. This treatment stimulates the functions of the skin and gives it vigor. Wrinkling may be further remedied by washing the parts three times a day with a mix of 4 drams gylcerine, a dram tannin, 2 drams rectified spirits, and 8 ounces water.

So, ladies, there you have it! You very own anti-wrinkle treatment! But wait, there's more! What if it's not your face, but your hair that's showing your age? Never fear. We can fix that problem, too.

TO WARD OFF GRAY HAIR. We can only counsel moderation in those pleasures that tend to an exciting, unhealthy mode of living, but here is a recipe that a writer believes will prevent graying: Melt 4 ounces pure hog's lard (unsalted) and 4 drams spermaceti, and when cool, add 4 drams oxide of bismuth. Perfume to suit.

And teeth?

TO CLEAN THE TEETH. Rub them with the ashes of burnt bread. The juice of the strawberry is a natural dentifrice.

I could go on, and on. I love reading these simple, old-fashioned recipes and the advice that goes along with them. These examples come from a marvelous, fun research book in my collection, titled Keeping Hearth and Home in Old Colorado. Another valuable research guide is Everyday Life in the 1800s. 

Our way of life is vastly different now. I often wonder at the incredible changes my grandfather witnessed during his lifetime. As a boy, he traveled across the prairie in a wagon, yet before his death, he saw men walk on the moon.  Amazing, really, when you think about it.

Through the years, though, one thing has never changed. Men and women still meet, fall in love, marry, and bring new generations into the world. Courtship rituals and ideas about marriage were different in the past, of course, but even during times when women were closely chaperoned and marriages were often based on practicality, love still existed. Love has been with us from the earliest days of creation, and love will endure to the end of time. I'm grateful that as a romance author, I have a chance to share stories of love from long ago. I hope you enjoy reading them.

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Thank you so much for visiting Time for Love!
During our Historical Romance "Hop" we're celebration the spirit of love through the ages.
You can enter my giveaway here to win a Kindle edition of my upcoming historical, due to release soon from Secret Cravings Publishing.


 A summer of hopes and dreams, a summer of passion.
Could it also be a summer of forgiveness?

~ ~ ~ ~

I will be giving away two copies to two lucky readers!

For your chance to win, please comment below on a favorite summertime memory from your childhood. Please be sure you include your e-mail address so that I can contact you if you're one of my two winners.

Once you've left a comment here, hop on for more LOVE STORIES FROM LONG AGO.


18 comments:

  1. Good Morning Christina,
    Your granddad sounds like a fun guy. My step grandfather enlisted in the Army for World War I when he was only fifteen. He told the recruiters he was seventeen. Since birth certificates were not that common yet.

    I would love to win a copy of Summertime. <3

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    1. My grandfather was the most influential person in my life...and yes, life with him was fun. Never predictable. Among my collection of treasures are a number of letters he wrote home to his new bride soon after he was sent to Fort Dodge, Iowa before being shipped out to France.
      Thanks so much for stopping by. I know this historical hop is going to be a very enjoyable one. I can't wait to read everyone's posts!

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  2. As i grow older I find myself recalling more and more memories of my grandparents. I only ever had one set because the other grans passed on before I was born. But the one I had were wonderful and I miss them so much...Sad, that memories are all we end up with most of the time....great excerpt....can't wait to read ur book...

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    1. Thanks for dropping by and sharing your memories, Tabs!

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    1. Thanks, Kathleen. I'm glad you stopped by.

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  4. Congratulations on the upcoming release of your book!

    Favorite summer memory: ice cream. It is the one season where we indulge on this sweet treat. ^_^

    Thank you for the great giveaway!

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    1. I love ice cream...and enjoy it year-round. In fact, I tend to eat more ice cream during the cold winter months than during the summer. Go figure! Actually, there's a reason for that, and I even wrote a blog post about it last year. I've forgotten the reason though. I might have to go back and re-read my own post!

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  5. Summertime memory was our two week holiday with my family. I loved the caravan holidays, and being told to go and find the sea with my siblings while my mum and dad used the chance to be alone. Happy days. Hope to make memories like this with my children. Hugs Manda mrsajward@hotmail.com

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    1. Hi, Manda! Thanks for visiting. I know you're going to making lots of great memories for your children this summer. Hugs to you, too!

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  6. Absolutely fascinating, Christina, thanks for sharing. As you say the changes during the lifetime of your grandfather's generations was extraordinary. We forget everyone is a walking/living capsule of history.

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    1. I was fortunate that my grandfather chose to share his stories with me. He was an incredible man. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I love that story about your grandfather. What a great man he must have been! Lots of great advice in the post, too. I am also a history buff and enjoyed your post very much. Good luck with the new release.

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    1. Grrrrr! No, I'm not growling at you, Jillian. I'm frustrated with my flaky internet connection. I've tried responding to this post twice before this. Maybe third time really will be the charm! Thanks for dropping by.

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  8. Interesting story about your grandfather...World War I was brutal. My summer time memory is camping with my family and traveling all over the United States. jeanine.mcadam@gmail.com

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    1. Camping and traveling...must have been fun. I always envied families who took summer vacations. We went down to the family farm -- about 90 miles away -- but that was the extent of our vacations. That family farm, incidentally, is part of the inspiration behind Summertime.

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  9. My favorite childhood memory was swimming in the city cement wading pools. (triciaandersenauthor@gmail.com)

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    1. We once had a small concrete wading pool in the backyard, but it got cracks...so my grandfather filled it in with dirt and turned it into a flower garden. Oh, well. Thanks for stopping by!

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