• For My Grandkids

    • Posted on Aug 18, 1978


    Driving by the old icehouse in Cedar Falls last summer, I noticed the roof being renovated; new beams were being placed and the old building is thankfully looking sturdy again.

    It was 90 degrees that day, and a question suddenly popped up: how did they ever manage to keep that river ice from melting from April to October?  That’s seven months, after all. 

    Then another question: who would know the answer to that? Of course, grandpa would.  But my problem is, one grandpa has been dead since my own dad was twelve, and the other one died when I was just a little curtain-climber.

    So I began to realize how much I have missed by not having any grandpa around to ask questions about melting ice and such.

    So as a kind of insurance policy, I have provided here for my own future grandchildren (and any others who might lose the experience of a wise old grandpa) the answers to questions they might ask about our lives and times.

    Grandchildren’s Question: Grandpa Cawelti, do you remember when everyone drove cars?

                My Old Grandpa Answer: Yep, sure do.  Why, everyone had a big car there for awhile.  Some families even had two! We didn’t think a thing about it. Gas stations were everywhere, just as plentiful as horse barns and bike shops are today.  

    We would buy all the gas we wanted cheap – it actually cost about the same as a gallon of distilled water way back in the seventies – and drive anywhere we could afford.  Why, son-of-a-Nixon, we used to see the whole country from our car windows.  We figured we’d always be able to do that. 

    Then cars got smaller and smaller, gas got higher and higher, and your were born just about the time people began riding gorses and bikes everywhere.  No one could afford gas except Arabs and airlines.

    GCQ: Do you remember too, grandpa-with-the-beard, when people lived in their own houses all over town?

    MOGA: Do I ever! Jumpin’ Jimmy, that was fun.  What block parties we had! We had neighborhoods where there might be 15 or 20 houses on a block with just that many families! I know that’s hard to believe, but everyone’s dream in those days was to own a house all his-er own. 

    Why, for awhile there, some folks were getting rich just buying a house one year and selling it a year or two later.  That was before anyone could see how owning a house was like owning three or four Cadillacs.  They just cost too much.  In fact, single-family houses disappeared right after Cadillacs.  Now only a few Arabs own houses and Cadillacs, and maybe a few old Rock Stars too.

    GCQ: What’s a Cadillac? What’s a rock star? What did you do for fun in all those little houses?

    MOGA: A Cadillac was a great big car that people bought because they thought it meant success.  They made a few little Cadillacs there for a while, but nobody bought them because they looked like they were cheaper to run. 

    And a rock star, kids, was a sort of entertainer who made his living by organizing thunder into patterns so kids could dance to it.  Some of the dumber kids listened to it too, but they soon went deaf.  Anyway, rock stars disappeared when generating plants pulled the plugs. 

    That was about the time people turned their television sets into planters or mirrors.  What’d we do before that? Well, we actually watched television, or people would sometimes come over at night and eat greasy salty snack food. 

    You’ve read about it in your health books.  Sometimes we would go out and eat greasy salty restaurant food, too.  We went to plays and movies, though I always preferred the movies.

    GCQ: Whoa, grandpa longhair. What’s “television?” What’s “going our and eat” and what’s a “Play”?

    MOGA: Heh-Heh-Heh.  I forgot how old I am and how much you kids don’t know.  Let me put it this way.  We used to enjoy almost everything that took money, gas, and electricity. 

    We kept lights on half the night, we drove to restaurants at night and they were always lit up; television was an electric sleeping pill and plays were just stories told by adults acting them out, and they were usually in big dark auditoriums with hundreds of lights used for effect. 

    We don’t have enough electricity for plays anymore.  Luckily, we still have enough to show movies once in a while.  Agnew it anyway, kids, we oldsters have had a hard time adjusting to all these bicycles and horses and buggies everywhere.  And the candles and kerosene lamps are such a bother when you’re used to light switches like I was for years. 

    Outdoor toilets, rainwater showers and group dining rooms took me awhile to get used to, I tell you.  I guess it’s not so bad. Every now and then though, I get a pang of nostalgia for the old days when I could jump in my Chevy and run our for a big Mac and take in some theater.

    GCQ: We’re glad you adjusted, grandpa Scott, even thought we don’t understand things like “Chevy” and “Big Mac” and “Theater.” Well, we’re all going to ride our bikes down to a band concert on the Parkade.  Wanta coma along?

     MOGA: Saint Elvis, it does my old heart good to know that something in Sturgis Falls has stayed the same.  I rode my old bike to those same concerts way back when the Parkade was nothing but a crooked street with cars parked on it.

    GCQ: Come along grandpa, you can ride a three-wheeler.  Maybe we can all go to a movie afterwards.  They’re showing “Star Wars meets Godzilla’s Granddaughter.”

    MOGA: Yep, always game for a movie. Even another “Star Wars.”

    Go comment!
    Posted in
    • Humor
    • Nostalgia
    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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“Even before the advent of the Internet, Cawelti’s columns went 'viral' in the Cedar Valley… the role of a columnist is to be thought provoking, to take tacks that shed a different light on an issue or possibly cause a reader to reevaluate a position. At the very least, it should bring clarity to a particular perspective, whether you buy into the commentator’s worldview or not.

Scott's work does just that.  Enjoy this collection of his writing.”

-Saul Shapiro, Former Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier Editor
Read Shapiro's entire introduction.


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