Maybe I am showing my age or just getting sentimental, but I really miss the big old-fashioned back porch. Most everyone I knew, when I was growing up, had either a big front porch or a big back porch. Ours was a big back porch. It was a vital part of our lives.
There was a swing, a couple of chairs, a small table and a place to leave muddy shoes and boots. In one corner was a place where Momma stored her broom and dustpan. It was a great place to play on warm rainy days and a place to enjoy the fresh evening summer air.
My father had a lumber business and I can remember that when the mid-summer thundershowers would hit in the middle of the afternoons, my father and his workers would take a break to sit and have a cool drink on the back porch. I loved to sit and listen to the tall tales they would tell about things they did when they were young.
The swing was a great place to play, but it had many other practical uses. My mother and I would sit in the swing and break green beans or shell peas for canning or for the evening meal. The porch was where cream was churned into butter for the family, or black walnuts were cracked and the nutmeats removed for baking cookies and cakes. Maybe most important of all, it gave Momma a break from the hot kitchen where the wood stove was used to cook three meals a day.
At the corner of the house was an unusually a big oak shade tree that made it more comfortable place in the summer. In the evening, the porch was a gathering place for the family and neighbors. They would visit or, perhaps, get out their guitars, fiddles, banjos and harmonicas and sing the old songs. Sometimes, my father would bring out the old wind-up record player and we would listen to music recorded on large plastic records. They sounded scratchy and the voices did not sound like real people singing most of the time, but more like cartoon characters. The back porch was always where the family gathered on Sunday after church and a big Sunday dinner, usually fried chicken.
In the wintertime, the porch was a place to leave out snow packed boots and a place to brush off our clothes before entering the house. It was a place where we would make homemade ice cream out of fresh fallen snow.
Eventually, my father screened in the back porch. Back then, if a porch was enclosed it was not a porch anymore, it was a room. Once the back porch was screened in, it took on a variety of other uses.
There was a small table about 18 inches deep and 18 inches across. There was a washbasin resting on it and a mirror hanging from the wall above it. There was also a straight razor, a razor strap for sharpening it and a shaving mug with a shaving brush in it. The table also had a washbasin for hands with a towel on the wall. Beside the washbasin sat a big cedar bucket with a large dipper. There you could get cool drinks, except in the winter, when the water in it would freeze.
The back porch is one of my fondest memories and I often wish that the house I live in today had one, but it would not be the same because too many other things have changed as well. We have lost a lot since house builders quit putting porches on new houses. The families have also lost a lot, and what they have lost is much more than that old back porch.