Most people think of Benjamin Franklin as the man who discovered electricity, and they would be right, but there was really so much more to the man that just that. While we think of Ben Franklin as a genius, and he was, he only had two years of actual schooling. After that, he quit school to help his family make soap and candles, and later, joined his brother, James as an indentured apprentice at a printing shop when he was twelve. This led to an obsession for books. Franklin loved the written word, and spent much of the little money he made to buy books. Because of his love of books, he became known as an author, printer, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, activist, statesman, and diplomat…all of it self taught.
While much of Ben Franklin’s life was centered around serious accomplishments, he also had a human side. There were things that he felt strongly about. He left 2,000 pounds of sterling silver to Boston and Philadelphia, with the stipulation that the money be held for 100 years, and then a small percentage could be used for loans for local tradesmen. After that, the rest was to be saved for another 100 years. The rest of the funds were used to build the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston. I’m not sure that was exactly what he wanted done with that balance, but it is a nice way to honor his memory.
Ben Franklin believed in the importance of fire prevention, and created the first volunteer fire department in 1736 called the Union Fire Company. Because he created it, the company was often called Benjamin Franklin’s Bucket Brigade. He also loved swimming, and he was a bit of an inventor there too. As a child, he used a kite to skim across the water, and he invented a pair of hand paddles that he used to navigate the Charles River. He was given an honorary induction in the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
All that is interesting, but to me one of his coolest accomplishments was the Glass Armonica. You might be wondering what that is, but if you have ever played a water glass with a damp finger, you would have a pretty good idea how to play the Glass Armonica. Debuted in 1761, it was beautifully engineered with blown glass bowls. To play it, you simply wet your fingers and touched the various bowls to get a variety of sounds. The instrument was so popular that Beethoven and Mozart began creating music for it. Unfortunately the novelty wore off after a time, and that is why most people don’t even know what it is today. Ben Franklin was a man of many talents, and yet all we ever really thought about was the discovery of electricity.
When it comes to teaching babies how to do things, it seems like we all want a part in it. We may not even realize that we do, but we do. As mothers, we try many things to get our babies to eat solid foods…especially those dreaded vegetables. You might see a mother pretending that the spoon is an airplane or a train, hoping that her child will decide that food on a train or plane tastes better, or won’t notice that the dreaded vegetable has been eaten. Maybe those things work and maybe they don’t but either way, they can look very funny, and to think that as teenagers we were always thought of as pretty cool…so what happened? The thing I find really funny is that the mother always opens her mouth to apparently show the child what he needs to do. Like a kid who hates his vegetables is going to open his mouth just because his mommy did, right. I think not. Of course the funniest face in the food game is that of a child who absolutely hates the food he is getting. They look like you have just given them poison and…seriously, how could you be such a bad parent, but have you ever noticed that even a baby who hates food, happens to find her toes, she has no problem putting those in her mouth.
Something women tend to do for no real reason is the open mouth to put on mascara maneuver. I really don’t know what purpose this serves, but yes, I do it too. And, I don’t know of a single woman who wears mascara that doesn’t do that. Maybe it’s an instinct, but I simply can’t understand why. It’s rarely something I think of when I am putting on my mascara, but when it is mentioned…usually by a man…I have to wonder why I do it. They say that it doesn’t make it easier to get your mascara on, but they can’t convince my mouth of that fact. It just instinctively wants to help, just like the mom who opens her mouth to get baby to eat. I don’t know, maybe there really is an eye mouth connection.
Then, of course, there is the child having his first birthday. It’s only one candle, but for some reason, not even the baby’s breath can manage to blow it out. If you want those candles to stay lit, they simply won’t, but if baby is trying to blow them out, they are like a never ending flame. Have you ever looked around at the other people who are watching? I’ll bet that about half of them have their mouth puckered up trying to help the baby blow out the candles. They aren’t blowing out any air, they are just puckered up…almost like they are throwing a kiss, and the baby just sits there looking at the pretty candle. I’m not even sure they really want to blow it out. Whatever the reason, you will find no such difficulty when told to eat that cake. That kid…even the one who hates everything, will dive right in, and have a totally different look on their face. But then, the look on your face might be different if you were eating cake too.
All too often, in this day and age, we don’t think about the modern conveniences that we have. Things like electricity, indoor plumbing, gas (both for cars and houses), cars, television, and telephone are the normal everyday items we count on, but think very little about.
When you consider that not so very many years ago, people had to either get out of bed, practically get dressed, and go outside…even in the bitter cold of winter, to go to the outhouse, you know the outdoor toilet which was a little building out back of the house, or have a pot in the bedroom to use, and then emptied in the morning. Neither choice was perfect, but I suppose the pot in the house would have been better than going outside in the bitter cold of winter. These days we abhor the thought of stopping at a rest stop on a trip and finding out that all it has is an outhouse, because we expect that every place has modern indoor plumbing, whether it is a fact or not.
In times past, people went to bed and got up with the sun, because it was too expensive to light candles or lanterns. The work had to be done by daylight anyway, so they might just as well be up at dawn. of course, most teenagers these days consider anything before noon to be pure torture, and might even whine a little if they have to be up before that hour. Still, there wasn’t really any shift work back then, and families were together in the evening, unless the father was working in another state or town.
Letters were used to communicate, and unfortunately that often meant that if your loved ones didn’t live in the same place you did, you might hear of their passing months after the fact. It took a long time for letters to arrive, especially if they were coming from back east. Today, we can inform people of events that happen in our lives, almost the second they happen. In fact, it’s almost like they are there with you, and if it is an event you know about ahead of time, you can Skype with them, and they can watch it happen. Sometimes, even with all of our modern conveniences, we still think life is really hard, but if we think back to days gone by, we will know that we really have no idea what a hard life is.