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Carol Perkins: Remember a time when no doors were locked

There was a time when no one knocked on doors. No doors were locked. A visitor usually gave out a shout, "Anybody home?" before opening the screen door. Most earlier homes had screen doors simply because there was no air conditioning. Looking back now, I wonder how we survived without air or felt safe enough to go to sleep with unlocked doors. -CAROL PERKINS
The next earlier Carol Perkins column - Carol Perkins: Red Solo Cup, a critique of the Toby Keith concert. Posted August 19, 2013

By Carol Perkins

My seven-year-old grandson Joseph dashed across the yard from my mother's house to the adjoining property owned by my mother's brother, which would make this my grandson's great-great uncle. I watched as he reached the front door to see if he was going to knock. He didn't. He opened the unlocked door and walked inside.



He didn't stay long, and when he came back to where my mother and I were sitting in the yard, I said, "Didn't you knock on the door before you went inside?"

He looked at me puzzled. "No, I'd been there before." In his mind this was family, he had been there before, so he felt comfortable enough to go right on inside. The logic was a sound one to a child, but I wanted him to understand the need to knock so as not to startle the person who was not expecting a visitor.

There was a time when no one knocked on doors. No doors were locked. A visitor usually gave out a shout, "Anybody home?" before opening the screen door. Most earlier homes had screen doors simply because there was no air conditioning. Looking back now, I wonder how we survived without air or felt safe enough to go to sleep with unlocked doors.

We raised windows during the day and even left them open on sultry nights, but often the night breeze brought enough of a chill that we would end up under a quilt or closing the window. Of course, we had fans going wide open when temperatures soared, and most of those fans were not child proof. A finger could snap off if caught in one of the blades. "Don't get near the fan!" parents warned. "Keep your fingers out of the fan!" For some reason kids liked to poke their fingers toward a blade, trying to out smart it. Many ended up with cut fingers. They also liked to stick objects in the fan to see if the blades would cut or bend an object like a spoon or fork. Those were popular with my brother.

Before air conditioning, we depended on shade trees for relief from the heat. Massive trees that had been there for many, many years, surrounded most homes. No one heard of landscaping. Houses were built around trees instead of cutting down trees to build houses. The home where I lived all my life was blessed with shade trees, and we kids played under them and adults sat under them in the late afternoon. Aunts and uncles visited and kids played in the yard. They also provided hideouts for my brother when he wanted to retreat from the rest of the family. I never was good at tree climbing, but my cousin could shimmy up one in a heartbeat. She was the look out her brother and my brother were trying to attack us during a raid (Cowboys and Indians). Guy recalls spending a lot of time sitting in a tree as a boy, pretending he was on one adventure after another.

As for locked doors, I never knew either set of my grandparents to lock a door. I never remember knocking when I went to visit. I never remember thinking that I better let them know I was coming through the door. There were so many people coming and going that they were never startled or surprised when someone showed up. I miss those days and the freedom they brought. After all, there was no need to knock. "We'd been there before." Carol Perkins


This story was posted on 2013-09-01 02:10:33
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