The Good Old Days
Return if you would to the early 1900s. The average life expectancy was 47. The average wage was twenty-cent an hour and the average salary $200-400 a year. But that was only for factory and office workers, not the laborer on the farm who had no guarantee of income. Only 14 percent of the nations homes had bathtubs, and this was principally in the industrial Northeast. In the South you bathed once a week during the summer, except for a occasional spit bath in between. In the winter, you might forget about the whole process until warm weather arrived.
Most travel was by walking, horse, or horse and wagon. There was no radio, no television, and, above all, no electricity or refrigeration in the rural South. Meat would spoil overnight unless you cured it and milk had to be kept in a cold cellar or dropped by a cord into the well. Chicken and small game became favorite dinner choices simply because they were easy to come up with and little meat would go to waste.
More than 90 per cent of children were born at home, often with the assistance of a mid-wife. Couples had large families, but they also expected two or three of their children to die in infancy. There were little or no effective treatments for pneumonia, influenza or tuberculosis, and from time to time, malarial fever made its call. The country doctor made house calls, but he rarely possessed enough education or resources to treat more than the common illnesses.
Adapted from an article in Genealogy Bulletin, Issue Number 55, February 2003