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Hard-earned skills of the past

April 14, 2016
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

Every stage of life brings with it a new set of skills.

In our early years, we began the great adventure of walking. There were many falls and rises along the way until we mastered that basic skill.

Then there was the challenge of learning to tie those pesky shoes. Finally, we mastered that one, too.

Eventually, we graduated to the thrill of riding a bicycle. Then, as years sped by, one day, we found ourselves in a driver's seat, ready to solo in a car.

But, as you progressed, you learned that some skills simply faded away as the world changed.

For instance, when I took my turn in the drivers' seat, the car was a sporty little 1952 Studebaker with a stick shift. Today, if you happen to find such a vehicle, it's in a museum or is part of a collection of vintage cars owned by a proud car guy.

Mastering the clutch/shift/gas sequence on that sleek little beauty took many hours of jerky travel.

These days, it seems the only time I read about a stick shift is when some young would-be car thief is caught unsuccessfully trying to steal one.

Another skill most of us had to develop in our long-ago school years was the ability to add long columns of numbers. After much practice, it became second nature to total a sheet of figures both quickly and accurately.

Then, along came the calculator. Since it appeared on the scene, this little electronic marvel has taken the guesswork and worry out of all those mathematical calculations.

I can even remember that complex tool we used in first-year college math, the mysterious slide rule. Somehow, by the end of the first semester, I managed to use the slide rule with a modicum of efficiency. Thank heaven I don't have to use one today.

When you go back in memory to all the skills you and I learned as we traveled down the road of life, it's amazing how many have become obsolete.

I can't imagine using a "mangle" to do the ironing today. And I haven't darned a sock in many years. The old treadle sewing machine I learned on is now in someone's antique collection. And I no longer keep a supply of white correction tape to make my typing presentable.

So many past skills have been discarded. So many new ones have been embraced. That's growth. That's what life is all about.

Still, all those abilities are tucked away, waiting in limbo just in case they're needed again.

So here and now I want to go on record that I'm ready and able if a mangle operator is needed or if there's a call for someone to drive a stick shift car.

However, if the slide rule makes a comeback, call somebody else!



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