Sixty-some years ago, when things seemed to move a little more slowly, there was a word which brought excitement to our young lives – company. That’s “company” as in when Mom would say, “Pick up those toys, boys, company’s coming!”
Among the folks my family associated with when I was a youngster, socializing did not involve debutante balls, dressy dances or lavish parties. Getting together with friends or relatives for an evening or a Sunday afternoon visit was a big part of our social life.
Whether “company” was coming or we were going somewhere “for company,” it was something we kids looked forward to, particularly since it usually involved families with kids our ages.
Many of the folks in our family’s social circle were relatives. Of course, in a rural community that can take in quite a few people.
Sometimes “company” involved a little ESP. Mom occasionally said, “I have a feeling (name of prospective visitors) may come for company tonight.” Many times, when the phone rang later in the day it would be a friend or relative calling to see if we’d be home that evening.
A typical evening visit began with a generational split-up. The adults generally went to the living room or front porch, depending upon the season, to visit. We kids paired off in age groups and did our own thing.
During the warmer months, “our thing” might involve playing catch or, if there were enough kids, a game of “work up.” Sometimes it involved a game of hide-and-seek or building a “fort” in the grove. Other times we rode bikes down a farm lane or around our small town.
Often we bumped into our fathers who were touring the farmstead, looking over a new piece of machinery or admiring the livestock.
During the winter months we kids often found ourselves sitting around a kitchen table playing Chinese checkers, Parcheesi, tic-tac-toe, hangman or other games. There were no video games back then; we were the Game Boys!
Watching television was a rare option since most homes had only one TV set and that was in the living room where the adults were visiting.
We kids were on our best behavior around company. Well, maybe not best behavior. Come to think of it, we just weren’t as rotten as normal. Any discipline not administered in the presence of company would be carried out later. You could count on it.
A highlight of the evening for me began when the hostess came into the kitchen and began preparing what we simply called a “lunch,” not to be confused with dinner.
The experience began with the aroma of percolating coffee. Soon we saw plates heaped full of homemade cookies and cake and, frequently, luncheon-meat sandwiches. It wasn’t uncommon to enjoy a big dip of ice cream on the cake.
While our elders enjoyed their lunch with coffee, we kids washed down the goodies with Kool-Aid or Hi-C orange drink.
The visit usually ended sometime after 10 p.m. As television sets began appearing in more and more homes, the evening ended after the 10 o’clock news and weather. By now the younger children had fallen asleep on the living room floor and our parents had to virtually awaken the dead to get everyone in the car for the trip home. This experience was aggravated by cold weather when parents had to wrestle a heavy winter coat onto a limp, sleeping child.
During the warmer months, good-byes were often extended as the adults’ conversation lingered under an incandescent yard light or a bright summer moon while we kids drifted back into slumber in the car.
This social phenomenon called “company” may seem unexciting in these fast-paced days, but it left many pleasant memories. At a high school alumni reunion a number of years ago, I ran into a distant cousin I had not seen for at least 25 years. After introducing our wives, our conversation quickly turned to the good times we had when our families used to get together “for company.”
Company. It was something we enjoyed back when things seemed to move a little more slowly.
Arvid Huisman began writing Country Roads 32 years ago, and today the column appears in several Iowa newspapers. He can be contacted at email@example.com.