I knew Aunt Mina from occasional visits to her home and her visits to my grandparents' home. She seemed a stern aunt when I was a child in the middle of the last century. She was a precise, accurate, children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard, and children-should-speak-when-spoken-to kind of aunt. My mom's sister recalls that Aunt Mina had an excellent memory (could recite the alphabet backward, could name and give dates for relatives and ancestors' births and deaths), and could sew practically anything. Mina married George K. Harris in 1910. They had five children before George died of scarlet fever on December 15, 1926. She carried on alone, working from home, providing for her family, and raising her children to adulthood. Her stern, non-nonsense demeanor was, perhaps, both a sign of the times and necessitated by being a widow with five children earning an income in the early part of the 20th century.
Aunt Mina was born on January 26, 1885, and died on March 14, 1986. Aunt Mina's memory never failed her.
However, there had been enough contact for my father to receive help from Brendice and her husband after he left home. Brendice's husband, Ray, helped my father get a job and I understand that Dad lived with them for a short while. We visited Brendice and her family occasionally during my childhood years. She also seemed a no-nonsense kind of person.
Brendice was born on October 9, 1895, and died on March 3, 1996.
When I think of these two aunts, born ten years apart in the late 1800s, I can't help but think about the changes they saw in the world around them during their lifetimes. Riding in horse-pulled buggies and railroad cars was probably the norm when they were young. Kitchen duties may have involved baking bread in wood-burning stoves, hauling water from a well outside the door, and, of course, doing dishes by hand. By the time they died, people were speeding along the interstates in air-conditioned automobiles or flying to their destinations. Store-bought bread was the norm, as was indoor plumbing and dishwashers. How times change over 100 years.
Just for fun I compiled a list of some inventions they saw during their lifetimes. Invention dates do not indicate that the inventions were in use or available at reasonable prices. It often took years for inventions to filter into common use.
Work Around the Home
Gasoline-powered vacuum cleaner, 1899
Electric vacuum cleaner, 1901
Electric washing machine, 1906
Upright vacuum cleaner, 1907
Microwave oven, 1947
Cotton candy, 1897
Frozen food, 1924
Fast food (McDonald's, White Castle, Wendy's, etc.), 1950s
World Wide Web, 1989
Camera simple, all-purpose, fixed-focus camera, 1888
Motion pictures, 1893
Radio (first practical system of wireless telegraphy), 1895
Tape recorder (magnetic steel tape), 1899
Radio, first long-distance telegraphic radio signal sent across the Atlantic, 1901
Crayola Crayons, 1903
Radio, regenerative circuit, allowing long-distance sound reception, 1912
Motion pictures with sound, 1926
Television, first all-electric television image, 1927
FM Radio, 1933
Kodachrome commercial photographic film with three emulsion layers, 1935
Polaroid Land camera, 1948
Color television, 1951, 1953
Compact disk, 1972
VCR and VHS home videotape systems, 1975
Automobile, various kinds, 1885-1892
Tank, military, 1914
Car radio, 1929
Helicopter, double rotor, 1936
Jet propulsion engine, 1936
Helicopter, single rotor, 1939
Jet propulsion aircraft, 1939
Seat belts in cars, 1962
Office Supplies and Equipment
Ball point pen for marking on rough surfaces, 1888
Paper clip, 1899-1901
"Scotch" tape, 1929
Ball point pen for handwriting, 1944
Electronic mail, 1972
Medicine, Health, and Personal Care
Safety razor successfully marketed, 1901
Insulin first isolated, 1921
Discovery of penicillin, the first modern antibiotic, 1928
Electric razor, 1928, 1931
Sulfa drugs for antibacterial activity, 1935
Measles vaccine, 1953
Polio vaccine, 1952; safe oral live-virus vaccine, 1954; officially approved, 1955
Heart, temporary artificial, 1957
Pacemaker (internal), 1957
Heart implanted in human, permanent artificial, 1982
Air conditioning, 1911
Aerosol can, 1926
Bar codes, 1970
Personal computer, 1976
First man in flight
World War I
World War II
Man on the moon, 1969
Revolving door, 1888
Electric motor with alternating current, 1892
Bakelite, first completely synthetic plastic, 1910
Radar (first practical radar-radio detection and ranging), 1934-1935
In the case of these aunts I suppose the most life-changing inventions/discoveries would have been the ones they used regularly in the home, such as electric vacuums, washers, dryers, fans, etc.; for transportation, especially automobiles; and in the areas of health care, vaccines, and medications to control pain, infection, and improve health in general.
If I should happen to live 100 years I wonder what the list my descendants would compile might look like. One hundred years seems like a very long time.
Copyright ©2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.