I am 75 years old, when my children were young and asked me about when I was a child I would tell them about how I grew up on a small farm on a small island in Denmark.
We did not have any electricity and had to use kerosene lamps. There was no fridge or freezer, no television or radio. We went to school three days a week as there was only one teacher and one classroom. Grades one to four went Monday, Wednesday and Friday,and grades five, six and seven went Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We had holidays to fit in with the farm work.
As we lived on and island I had to sail if there was a high tide or walk at low tide 1.5km, then I had to walk or ride a pushbike 3km on the mainland to the school.
I stated school three months before my seventh birthday and finished just before I turned 14. I stayed home to help my parents for six months and then I got a job on a farm 12km away. My day started at 5:30am. I had to get the fire going in the kitchen stove with hot water for cleaning the milk junges. I had to feed the hens. Then I would get breakfast going with the help of the housewife. There were six people for breakfast. I would clean the bathroom, dining room, lounge, and bedrooms. Then I would clean the hen house. By 10am coffee would be served for every one, 12pm was lunch, then there would a break for the farm workers until 2pm, and the neighbour’s girl and I would have two hours free.
There was an old aunt living with the family, she always found some knitting for us to do as we should not sit with idle hands. (I smile thinking that if we asked our young people today to do this, it would not go down very well.)
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Once a month it was washing week. On Monday all the washing was sorted and the dirties were soaked unto next day, whites were boiled. There was no washing machine. By Tuesday evening everything was on the line, when dry it everything was ironed, which took a couple of days. While we had our washing week the neighbours looked after the coffee breaks. When they had their washing week we did the coffee. I was there for 12 months with one weekend off a month and my pay was placed into a bank account; I only got a small amount for pocket money. My pay was $30 a month plus full board. We changed employment in May or November.
This sounded very odd for my children as they did not think that I was old enough to have lived in a time were not everyone had power.
Life could be hard as we did have to help in the field or with the cows, horses, hens or pigs. I was the oldest of three — my younger brother stayed more with our mum and I was the farm helper, working with horses in the field ploughing, and whatever else that needed to be done on a farm.
We also did have fun in our school holidays as our cousins from the mainland loved to visit us. Our dad put hay up in the barn loft and we all slept up there. During the days we went fishing, rabbit hunting and had fun.
I cannot remember every saying we were bored, as there was always something to do, and working on the farm never did us any harm.
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That was more than 50 years ago.
What was life like for you growing up? How does it compare to today’s standards?
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