The old ways

10; 9; 8; … 3; 2; 1 lift off. As a kid, I, along with many other children and adults, followed along with the Apollo space craft program. Our 2 or 3 astronauts riding a rocket ship into space, going bravely into the unknown with the knowledge that all the components for the Apollo series space capsules were made by the lowest bidder.

The TV would show a control room of what seemed like 50 men in white short sleeve shirts with pocket protectors sporting several pens, pencils and red markers staring at their computer screens or TV screens and reel to reel computers with less computing power than one of the first smart phones. And what makes this American accomplishment even more astounding is that the engineers of that space capsule used slide rules the design it. Every piece had to fit perfectly or our astronauts would be dead shortly after lift off. It was not like the engineers could take out their iPhone and ask SIRI to calculate the trajectory of the booster rocket after seperation. They had to do it with a slide rule. (Go ahead and ask google what a slide rule is)

The analog wrist watch is a marvel to observe. What is even more amazing is the engineering that went into making that watch. I am not taking about the quartz watch that uses a small piece of quartz crystalto maintain its timing, I am talkingabout the manually wound spring watches with many small gears and cogs and a prcisely made mainspring to maintain time so accurately that you might gain or loose a second every week. Think of the precision and skill needed to manufacture a Swiss timepiece like a Rolex or Tudor. Like the old TV commercial for Timex said “…it takes a liking and keeps on ticking”

As a sailor in the US Navy back in the early 1960’s, my father served on board a destroyer, the USS Robison DDG-12. He was among the deck crew and as such had to learn certain skills to maintain the ships effectiveness. One of those skills was of course knot tying and leather work. The deck crew had to not only know how to tie specific knots, but also untie the knots in a second or cut a line (rope) in a flash of an eye. So the members of the deck team had to have a knife that was always sharp. Not just sharp, but so sharp you could shave with that knife. Since you needed to keep that knife at the ready, a sheath that had a flap to retain the knife was useless because of the time it took to unfasten the snap was time needed to cut the rope, it could mean your life or the life of a fellow crewman. So the need for a reliable leather sheath that could retain the knife yet still be able for easy accesability is apparent. Each sailor had to cut, shape and sew his own sheath from a pattern that was based on the knife that sailor chose to buy. I aquired the leather sheath that my father made. After some rubbing and buffing with some saddle soap, the sheath still looks good, the stitching (which you cant see as it is what was known as a hidden stitch to protect the stitching from wear) is still tight and the knife still fits in that sheath after 60 years and firmly retains that knife when inverted and shook.

I am sad to say that we, as a society, have lost and continue to loose the skills and knowledge that made us who we are. Yet there are still pockets of people that know these skills like farmers, tradesman, sailors and …. our elderly. Think of the wealth of knowledge we loose every day. Our society has become dependant on computers and have lost the ability to provide for themselves.

I am, what some may say, is the oreo generation. The last of the ‘baby boomers’. The ones that still remember the old ways and know the new ways. Yes, it is true that I write this article on an iPad connected to the internet and shared around the world to those that might be interested, but I make my own pens, I write in cursive with a fountain pen that I made, I wear an analog watch made in Japan that winds itseld with the movement of my hands, I shave with a safety razor and just yesterday, I made my own leather sheath for my own knife patterned after my dads that he made so long ago. I tried to locate a copy of the book that my dad had in the Navy that taught the skills needed to tie knots, work with leather and canvas only to find it is no longer available, not even the vintage books. Once these skills are gone, it is unlikely to be used or discovered again, yet these very skills and abilities are what made us what we are. Now, our leather work is done by slave labor in a Chinese work camp, bought by us in America because we can’t do it ourselves. We had better learn to provide for ourselves before it is too late and our sources of knowledge are gone. Just like in the book ‘The Time Machine’ when our victorian time traveler traveled far into his/our future only to find that the eloi, the child like surface dwellers who had life so easy, they had neglected their education. Their books of knowledge had turned to dust and they, the eloi had become the sheep for the morlocks who devoured them. Todays American society are fast becoming the eloi and the morlocks are everywhere. Those that do not study history….

One thought on “The old ways

  1. So true so true. Many of the Arts and craftsmanship of the old days are fading away or have already. I became interested in stained glass which was a fading art, the one hope that we have is that it is a craft that can come back in the future. Leather craft is a fading art there are many crafts that were popular in the old days that have faded away in the time. My great-grandchildren don’t know what it is to play games on a board, to go outside and play, or to use their imagination to pretend there on Treasure Island or on the raft with Tom Sawyer. Or what it’s like to just get to sit down and play in the dirt. Where I rode a bicycle and where I had roller skates, my great-grandchildren have a cell phone or a tablet, and I only want to play video games. That’s why it is so exciting when somebody desires to bring back an old crap such as watch making, leather work, and stained glass. It’s not a cheap craft, but it doesn’t fall apart in a month either.


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