There was a glow of timelessness that carried us through our childhood, and I have a sense it is true no matter the era.
Between Petticoat Junction and The Beverly Hillbillies, my sisters and I watched and wondered what might become of us when the farm and our school no longer held us in a certain place.
When I heard of the passing of actress Donna Douglas at 81 on Jan. 1, it occurred to me that she is of my mother’s era, not mine.
Elly May, with her spunky charm and her flawless but simple beauty, made us all laugh and shake our head at the antics she so innocently played out. It goes without saying that those were much simpler times.
Stepping out of line, in any scope, brought consequences. It was a daring story line to us all if Elly May shot a critter out of season, and even her Pa couldn’t make the unlawfulness of such an act go away.
It went without saying that rules were not in place to be bent or broken. Teachers could paddle a student who was unruly and disrespectful, and we lived by the covenant if one of us got in trouble at school — that was nothing compared to what we would face at home.
Chores didn’t come with a list of instructions, nor did it come with reward attached.
“What would happen if you just said you don’t want to milk cows?” one of my “town” friends once asked me, upset that I couldn’t spend the weekend with her family.
My answer, quite direct and true, was we never would have pushed our luck enough to find out.
Even the world of television was cloaked in simple right and wrong, and did not force our parents to cover our eyes or send us to our room before they could watch their favorite program. We popped a big batch of popcorn and watched Red Skelton or Bonanza or The Beverly Hillbillies together.
We were often in awe of Elly May, who could hunt and skin and put a meal on the table with a little help from Granny.
“I didn’t mean to do no wrong,” was often the jist of an episode which found Elly May’s Pa trying to explain they were living in a different world than she had once known, with city-type laws governing the hunt.
The difference between then and now, so simply, was that adults were in charge, no matter the question. And whether we would have said so at the time, it created a sense of stability, in ways both large and insignificant, and kept the world spinning.
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