“Mothers are the necessity of invention.”

The day is warm by winter’s usual standards. It’s 49°, but there is a little breeze which makes the day feel colder. On days like today I’d love a jacket like the ones I had as a kid. With those, each sleeve had a jersey cuff inside which kept the wind at bay, and all the jackets had hoods attached. Nothing is worse than ears which are red and frozen.

We always walked to school and never thought twice about the weather. Most families had only one car, and it left early to work with the dads. In my neighborhood, the only woman who drove was a widow who had no choice. The other mothers walked to do most of their errands. The only exception was the weekly groceries. It was a Friday tradition in my house for my Dad to drive my mother to the supermarket. I never went, but I’m willing to bet my dad waited in the car. Grocery shopping was a woman’s job.

When I was a kid, there was a clear delineation between household jobs for men and for women. I didn’t know any mother who had an outside job. Every mother in my neighborhood stayed at home and took care of the house and kids. Every morning the fathers, wearing suits and fedoras, drove to work. In the winter they shoveled and switched to snow tires, in the summer they mowed and trimmed the bushes, in the spring they planted and changed tires again and in the fall they raked and burned the leaves. They took down and put up the storm windows. They got the oil in the car changed and picked out every new car. On warm Saturday mornings, they washed those cars. They read the papers on Sunday mornings and watched football on Sunday afternoons. They were the threats our mothers used to keep us in line. Everything else our mothers did.

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21 Comments on ““Mothers are the necessity of invention.””

  1. Hedley Says:

    Is this an oblique Frank Zappa reference ?

    • Kat Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      Never entered my head!

    • Bubba Says:


      • Kat Says:

        Thanks Bubba!

        I wouldn’t have given them much thought as I am really not too familiar with their music. Now I get Hedley!

      • Bubba Says:

        Frank Zappa was an accomplished musician who studied @ Julliard School ,of music.
        In the beginings of the band Mark Volman (of the Group The Turtles) was one of its members.

  2. Bubba Says:

    “Mothers are the necessity of invention.”
    ya, they create Fathers

  3. Hedley Says:

    Bubba, I saw Frank Zappa at the Hammersmith Odeon. He wandered on to the stage, climbed up on a stool with his back to the audience and waived his arms at the Frank Zappa Orchestra. Never bothered to turn around.

    Of course, the wonderful Lowell George was part of the early version of the Mothers

    I can hardly wait until Kat has a “Weasels Ripped my Flesh” headline

    Thank you for posting Zappa

  4. olof1 Says:

    I don’t think it got any warmer than 14F here today, a bit to cold to walk in to be honest. But the sun was there shining all day so it could have been worse.

    Those “rules” were sort of dissolving when I grew up or it just was the neighborhood that forced women to work because we all were poor.

    Today it’s such a difference! In most homes men and women share all houshold work. Many men take paternity leave when they have new borns in the family, perhaps not half the time but many months anyway and women do what normally only men did back in the days 🙂

    Have a great day!

    • Kat Says:

      It is now 50° but I was chilly when I went outside.

      The rules are pretty much gone here too and they even disappeared when my parents were still alive. My father often made breakfast and helped clean up the dishes. He didn’t mind helping-the times had changed.

      Most places do not have paternity leave here but the fathers do take care of the babies in feeding and changing them. I think the cultural change in roles happened when my generation first became parents and then they became the role models for their children.

  5. Kat Says:

    Thanks, Bubba, as I really don’t know much about Frank Zappa.

  6. Zoey & Me Says:

    Everything you wrote was the same here when I grew up except for changing the oil on the cars. I know my Dad didn’t do it but you have me wondering who did. In Jersey he always left the car with “Jim” at the end of the road. We would walk up and get Cokes out of the coke machine for a dime. Those cokes were so good and cold. But in Virginia, no Jim and I have no idea what Dad did.

    • Kat Says:

      Z& Me,
      It was probably a gas station close to work.

      Bottles of Coke from the machine were the best of all. There was something great about holding those bottles.

  7. Bob Says:

    Today the temperatures here are in the mid seventies with partly cloudy skies. One of my coworkers from New Jersey was in Dallas today and remarked at what a nice warm winter they were having up north.

    In the 1950s we had two cars because it was too far for my mother to go to the grocery store on foot and my dad traveled from Monday morning until Friday evening. My dad always drove Buick cars and my mother drove a Kaiser. When the Kaiser finally broke down in 1958 my dad bought my mother a brand new Rambler station wagon. Kaiser made some great cars which were forced out of business by the big three.

    A man goes into a Kaiser Fraiser dealer to buy his girlfriend a new car. The salesman says, “Why don’t you buy her a Kaiser and surprise her”. The man thinks and the salesman says, “Why don’t you buy her a Fraiser and amaze her.” The man starts to leave and he says to the salesman, “I am going across the street to buy her a Tucker”.

    My dad always did the yard work and my mother did the cooking and the cleaning. Eventually we hired an African American woman to come in once a week to help her with housework. I don’t know who worked harder the cleaning lady or my mother when she arrived at our house. In those days Texas was a segregated state and our cleaning lady rode the bus, sitting in the back, to go to and from our all white middle class neighborhood to her black neighborhood on the other side of town. I never understood segregation, but it lasted in public accommodations until the business community in downtown realized that Jim Crow laws would eventually cost them money if the city was wracked by racial unrest. They completely desegregated the public accommodations in one day in the early 1960s lead by progressive merchants such as Stanley Marcus.

    Unfortunately, the public schools, jobs, voting rights and higher education took much longer to desegregate. I never understood how an educated person could justify discrimination for any reason. The color of one’s skin or religion should not make any difference. In those days single working woman were pitied by society because they didn’t have a husband. Woman’s rights also took awhile to change society’s attitudes.

    • Kat Says:

      It’s true-today reached the 50’s and tonight it’s still 40°. The only time the golf course was closed was that snowstorm which the rain melted a day later.

      I don’t remember the Kaiser so I had to look it up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one. My neighborhood was filled with Chevys and Fords. I also looked up the Tucker. What an odd looking car.

      When I was 3, my mother and I were in a Sears’ elevator and a Black lady got on. She was the first Black I had ever seen. I asked my mother why the lady was chocolate, and the woman started screaming at us and calling us white trash. I didn’t see another Black until I was in high school and a church group to which I belonged had a picnic for us with some Black kids from the city. It was because none of us had even met any Blacks and thepriest wanted us to realize that we were all alike despite the colors of our skins. The next Black I met was in college, and I think he was the only one there. Then I ended up ih Ghana for two years. Kind of a neat ending to the story.

      I lived in a white suburb which was just happenstance. No Blacks were turned away; just none lived there. It was a town of Irish and Italian names.

      I was never thwarted because I was a woman; luckily, I escaped that/

      • Bob Says:

        The Tucker was a revolutionary car that was killed by the Detroit car business. The Tucker had an air cooled rear engine, the center head light would track with the steering, it had a padded dash, seat belts and four wheel independent suspension. Most of these features did not appear in production cars for many years. You might want to see the movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” it starred Jeff Bridges and was directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1988.

  8. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    The rules in my childhood were sort of similar except that my mother drove a car and always worked and my father went to work in his dress uniform. Sometimes he had the car and sometimes she had the car. He always changed the oil, though. 🙂
    When there were Italian markets close to us, my mother walked to them to do a lot of the food shopping. After they all closed, it became necessary to use the car because the main markets were all too far away to lug food and kids on foot. I don’t remember my father ever driving my mother to the food market.
    My street is a dead end and pretty quiet since all the cars went off to work with the fathers every day. The only traffic we got was the milk man, the Cushman man and the odd salesman. The best one was the scissor sharpener man on his little zamboni-like sharpening bike with the clanging bell. Nowadays, the traffic on the street is fairly constant. Everyone of driving age seems to have a vehicle and they come and go at all hours. Still, the kids in the neighborhood manage to play in the street the same as we all did when I was young.

    • Kat Says:

      Hi Caryn,
      My mother didn’t get her license until we moved to the cape where one was a necessity as there were no buses. She was in her late 30’s.

      I loved the knife sharpener man who also did scissors. He had a grindstone attached to his bike, and we always watched. My mother brought him her knives. I could use one of those guys now.

      My street is quite short and is pretty quiet. Two of the houses have no one in them all winter. Generally the only cars I see are my neighbors and the mailman.

  9. Bill S. Says:

    The first car I ever really owned was a 1972 Datsun B210 wagon, dark blue with a white interior (good for kids??). I used it four days a week to get to and from work, and on Wednesdays I left it for Peg to do her grocery shopping, with two kids in tow, while I got a ride with someone else. We lived in an apartment in Nashua after returning from Ghana, and for four years we had the one car, until we had the money to buy a second used car (another Datsun).
    Those were depressing years for me, especially the first year after leaving Ghana, living in an apartment and bringing home $89 per week. Those were not the good old days.

    The first car I remember my parents had was a ’52 Nash, brown and beige with cloth interior. I was driving with my mom once in the Nash after dropping off dad at the golf course, and she ran over a stop sign. How do you run over a stop sign??? I would love to have that car now.

    • katry Says:

      My first car was my parents old Chevy. They gave it to me as they got a new car. I remember the vinyl top flew off once on my way to Boston. It was a boat which really needed a mooring.

      I had no job except substitute teaching that first year home then a teacher quit in October. He had grade 9 classes and the kids in 2 of them would now be in special classes while the rest were in what was then called the general track. One kid was 19 and he dropped out and went into the marines. Another ate bugs. One girl used to sit and write foul words on her pants. I hated every day as I was hired as a permanent substitute for those classes. I had no medical, no benefits and was, as you were, depressed. On the weekends I’d get drunk with one of my friends. I did that a lot back then.

      I couldn’t afford a car and my roomate drove me to work and then I’d find someone to drive me home.

      In January they gave me a contract starting semester 2 but I still had the same kids but now I could actually get paid for being sick. I hated that year.

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