“Long as I remember, the rain been comin’ down.”
That familiar first line of a song from long ago keeps running through my head, because it sure has been a rainy summer. The floods, Hurricane Florence, and all this rain made me start thinking about my adventures involving “rain” while growing up.
Like when a dreary rainy day meant sitting out on the back porch, playing Monopoly for hours, while the rain poured down. Or reading in bed, and comparing parts of my life to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House in the Big Woods.”
I’m sure people who grew up near rivers or creeks have harrowing memories of heavy downpours, which meant rising water and floods. Growing up on a hill, with nary a river or creek nearby, I didn’t have that worry.
And since we didn’t have a basement in our house, we didn’t even need to worry about our basement flooding. But we did have to worry about leaks in the roof. During storms, metal buckets placed strategically throughout the house would temporarily solve the problem.
Then, when the sun decided to shine again, my older brother would climb the wooden ladder that was always left propped up against the porch roof. Carrying a bucket of tar and a brush, he would trudge up the ladder to the roof. With any luck, he would find the correct spot to spread the thick black goo over, and seal up the leak.
That ladder was perpetually propped against the back porch because we seemed to spend a lot of time going up there on the roof. If someone wasn’t going up to try to find a leak, they were going up to adjust the TV antenna.
The wind would blow, the antenna attached to the roof would move, and our television reception would be gone. To get our Channels 6 and 10 back, our windows to the world, the important three-man job of adjusting the antenna needed to be completed.
The process went something like this.
One person crawled up the ladder to the roof, to the place where the antenna was fastened. One person, in the living room, would monitor the picture on the TV, yelling out the picture status through the window to someone who was standing outside. That person, in turn, would relay the message to the person up on the roof, who was turning the base of the antenna.
Shouts of “no, turn it back… a little more…a little more….no, go back the other way” would continue until the welcomed words, “STOP – that’s good, that’s good” were relayed.
And, no matter how good the TV program was, if our reception went sour during a windy rainstorm, the antenna was never adjusted.
My mom hated thunderstorms.
During severe storms, mom would take some pieces of dried palm branches, saved from Palm Sunday, which were carefully draped over a holy picture on the wall. She would open one of the lids on the kitchen cook stove and toss some palm branches into the fire. That, along with a holy candle lit on the kitchen table, were her symbolic requests to God to please stop the lightning and thunder.
Sometimes rain was a welcome sight. Whenever it rained in the hot summer, that meant we didn’t need to water the garden by hand. Also, a rainfall meant the well would replenish itself with water, which was very important.
Another good thing about a downpour was that, since we didn’t have a shower in the bathroom, a heavy summer rain meant water running off the porch gutters. It was great to stand outside under that stream of water and wash your hair.
And, anyone who has ever used rainwater to wash their hair knows there is NO need to use conditioner after shampooing. Rainwater makes your hair as soft as silk.
Walking a mile in the rain to school was never fun. But rain meant inside recess, which gave us kids the opportunity to open up those big tin-lidded cardboard cans. Inside were wooden Tinker Toys or American Plastic Bricks – those red-and-white plastic precursors to Legos that went together so easily.
There were lots of songs about rain in the Sixties.
The Cascades told us to “listen to the rhythm of the falling rain.” And, since there weren’t air conditioners and the house windows were usually open in the summer, we got to listen to the rhythm of the falling rain quite often.
Bobby Vinton crooned, “Rain, rain – go away. Bring my love a sunny day.” Songs of the Fifties and Sixties were simple, and you could easily understand the words.
It seemed there was always the chorus of a song to sing that seemed to fit the situation. Back then, the songs we heard on the radio were taken at face value. There were no YouTube videos or websites to explain what the songs were actually about. We thought for ourselves, and the words of the songs just meant what we thought they meant.
For example, rain was rain.
So with all the storms that America has been having, I’ll end this column with the same question that John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival asked nearly fifty years ago.
“Good men through the ages – tryin’ to find the sun. And I wonder, still I wonder – who’ll stop the rain?”