Sunday, September 11, 2022

My Grandparents Never…

It can be difficult to “place” our ancestors in time so that others get a clear picture of their lives. In an effort to do that, I am writing this post.

Nathaniel & Helen Gardner, Central Park, NYC c 1920

My maternal grandparents:

Nathaniel J. Gardner, 1882 NY – 1944 NY

Helen F. Coyle Gardner, 1897 NY – 1965 NY


My paternal grandparents:

Roy Jessie Brown, 1902 MS – 1956 MS

Ivy R. Mark Brown, 1908 OH – 2003 NY


Roy & Ivy Brown and Family NY, c 1949

·      My 4 grandparents never rode on an airplane. My maternal grandparents lived in New York City and rode on the subway and trains. Helen took a cruise to Bermuda in1930. Nathaniel had a 1934 Drivers License and he had a car for s short time in New York City. But they never took a plane ride and neither did my paternal grandparents. 

Air travel was largely reserved for the rich and famous in the late 1920s. Only 6,000 Americans flew in 1930. World War II produced enormous advances in aviation navigation, radar, and communications. Capital Airlines created the first coach fares for flights in 1948. The lower-cost tickets helped a much broader group of passengers experience air travel.  The "Jumbo Jet" opened up the skies for millions of travelers who previously couldn't afford it in 1970. Airlines, now able to fly large amounts of passengers, could now sell tickets at a more reasonable price.By the time air travel was commonplace 3 of my grandparents had died. Ivy could have but never did fly. 



·      My grandmothers never drove a car. Neither of them ever learned to drive. Helen lived most of her life in New York City where a car was not necessary but Ivy was always in rural areas. Today it is unusual to find a person who lives in a rural area and does not drive.


·      My 4 grandparents never touched a computer or had cell phones. Nathaniel worked for Western Union. He used a telegraph key to send messages across the country. He used a typewriter as he worked his way up to W. U. manager in the Bronx. I have hand written letters penned by Nathaniel, Helen and Ivy. Personal computers did not begin to appear in homes until the 1980s. 


·      3 of my grandparents never left our country. Helen did go to Bermuda on a cruise and may have gone to Canada. I am fairly certain the others never had passports or left the USA. 


·      My 4 grandparents never owned a dishwasher or a microwave. There were times they had no running water. During the Depression Roy and Ivy sometimes lived in a tent with their children when the weather was warm. They cooked over an open fire and washed in the river. When Helen and Nat moved from the Bronx to rural Germantown their house had no running water. There was a water pump in the front yard and an outhouse in the backyard. Dishes were washed by hand and meals were cooked on a stovetop or in an oven. In 1970 about 40,000 microwaves were sold in the U.S. and in 1975 one million were sold. 


·      Nathaniel never owned a television. His widow, Helen, did not have a television until circa 1960 when my mother said it would be more fun for her to watch her beloved NY Mets on a television rather than listening to the games on the radio. My mother bought her mom a small black and white television and Helen enjoyed watching those baseball games.  


·      Nathaniel & Helen never had air conditioning. Window air conditioning units went on sale in the early 1930s but were not widely purchased because of the high price. A decade later Henry Galson developed an inexpensive version. 43,000 units were sold in the USA. Nathaniel and Helen owned a small house in rural Germantown, NY about that time and that house never had an air conditioner. 

What did Your Grandparents Never Do?

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  1. Enjoyed this post, especially since I'm a Bronx native ;) My father, a travel agent, was born only a few years after air travel began and lived to sell tickets on jumbo jets.

  2. This post brought back a lot of memories. Thanks.

  3. I really love this post! What a fun an interesting take on the lives of your ancestors and giving us a glimpse into how we can incorporate such fun and interesting facts into the lives of our own ancestors! :)


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