Spinning 45s on the porch
If you have a porch attached to your house, you are lucky. Porches provide a calm oasis away from the hubbub happening on the inside of the house. It also offers a safe place to watch the sometimes severe elements of Mother Nature, and a shady place to sit and snap peas from the garden.
Growing up, we had two porches. Our front closed-in porch was strictly utilitarian. It was a place for Mom to house the wringer-washer, so if the water sloshed out onto the floor, it was no problem at all. A few extra buckets of coal were also stored there, in case more coal was needed when it was raining, etc., and a trip outside to the coal shanty was inconvenient.
However, our back porch was practically unused when I was growing up. Secluded in the back of the house… I could call it my own.
I would drag an electrical cord, which had been plugged into a wall socket in my room, out through a window onto the porch. Because of the lack of installed wall sockets, sometimes sets of brown electrical cords snaked for miles inside our house.
Then I would lug out the chunky brown and tan record player and a stack of 45 records, and spend a few hours immersed in music on the back porch.
Now, these records belonged to my sister, who was 15 years my elder. She had left some of her old records behind when she moved to Boston. So I was not listening to the hits of the ’60s, but rather learning to yodel Eddie Arnold’s Cattle Call and singing Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Sixteen Tons. Looking back, it certainly increased my musical repertoire. And the type of songs really didn’t matter to me. Music was music.
The old 45s needed a plastic middle piece put in the center of each record, so the 45 would fit on the spindle of the record player, which was built to play albums that had a smaller center hole.
Every three minutes, when a song was over, you had to take the red or yellow plastic piece out of one record, and insert it in the center of the next record you were going to play. I shuddered whenever I dropped the plastic piece in the replacement process, fearing it would fall through the wood slats in the porch floor and be lost forever.
The back porch also was a great place to have sleepovers with your friends. You were close to the safety of the house, but still free from the watchful eye of parents. Covering up with feather ticks kept out the damp cold of the night. But in the morning, when you finally woke up and the hot sun was blaring down on you, you would find yourself in a sweat.
The back porch was very close to the back railroad tracks. Past that were miles of deep woods, filled with mountain laurel, hemlock trees, and all sorts of wildlife and birds.
Night sounds coming from those woods were frightening, especially to a 10-year-old girl. I remember sitting on the back porch with my dad, at night. We would swing and watch the traveling flashing lights of the fireflies in the darkness, while listening to the calls of night birds. Dad would imitate the woeful sounds of the owls and the whip-poor-wills, and the birds would call back from somewhere deep in the woods.
Sometimes dad would play his harmonica, to chase away my fears that one of those unseen birds might swoop down and carry me off.
When my husband built our house 30 years ago, I wanted both a back and front porch in the plans. We also put a swing on our back porch, but nowadays instead of listening to 45s on the porch, I am content to listen to wind chimes and the swish of the leaves in the wind.
Sitting on the porch at night now, I see the fireflies still glow. But I haven’t heard a whip-poor-will’s call since I was a little girl. Maybe they have disappeared from this area, reduced to memories — just like feather ticks, the whistle of a passing train, and 45 rpm records.
Would I want to go back to those days? No, never. Still it was a happy time, when life moved slower and the smallest of things was appreciated.
I think I’ll go out and sit on the porch swing now — and remember.
Rose Hoover is a freelance writer for The Express. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 814-387-4016.