Old Time same as the New Time

Simpler yes but no more time.

In this crowded hive of humming buzzing humanity that is today’s society it is not uncommon to hear people express a longing for life in a simpler era.


South Park, Colorado

Quite often this yearning for the past is simply a wish for less demand on our time. There is a general misconception that in years past there was somehow more time at hand, personal time. There was not. Then as now you get up in the morning, commit to 8 or 12 hours of work of some kind, take care of necessaries, seek a little relaxation and go to bed. 100 years ago life was simpler in some aspects and less complex but people had to interact more directly with the environment for heating the home, hauling water or feeding livestock as they did not have the ‘time saving conveniences’ that we enjoy today.

067Only a century ago more of the population lived in rural areas than in an urban environment. Different scenarios can be painted for different locations on how people spent their hours in a bygone day. Farmers, ranchers, loggers and fishermen all have individual tales to tell of living on the sea or the vast prairie. South Park City, Colorado is an example, a glimpse what life was like and how time was spent in a typical small western town.

094First chore in the morning is to start a fire in the cook stove, put on a pan of water to heat for washing and start breakfast. Flapjacks or buckwheat cakes might be served or very often it might be just reheating some beans. Homesteads may have chickens that provide fresh eggs but most single men did not have that luxury.

075Unless one lived within walking distance of a place of employment the mode of transportation was horseback. The horse had to be be saddled of course before leaving home and returning at the end of the day the animal needed to be tended and saddle and blankets put away.

074A carriage, wagon or buggy might be used for transportation but it takes time to hitch and harness a horse before departing home.  Either way, horseback or buggy, one was  exposed to winter weather, wind, dust and rain on the way to and from and at any time a horse could go lame or a wheel become mired in mud. The animals and equipment required a lot of time for routine care and maintenance.

029Mining drove a booming economy in the mountain towns of Colorado in the late 1800s. Employment was high and workers could find steady work in a variety of trades. As more ore and minerals were continuously discovered the population exploded and towns sprang up overnight. The work was hard, the days were long, but if you got up and went to work every morning you could earn a paycheck.

033Not everyone involved in the mining industry was a miner. Some would have worked at a milling operation to separate the ore. Others would maintain equipment and some would work in transportation.

031Transportation of ore was big business and narrow gauge railway lines were constructed throughout the mountains to serve the various mining districts.

043Communities that base their economy on extractive resources will see cycles of boom and bust years. Resources eventually run dry or are no longer in demand. During the boom years the people are busy. They’re working.

113After work, a stop at the general store for supplies.


099dry goods


019After purchasing what supplies may be needed at the general store and taking care of any other business needed tending, a bit of socializing at the saloon was a popular way to unwind and catch up on any local news. It also provided most of the entertainment available.

017Rache’s Place was once a bustling saloon and gambling house in Alma, Colorado, elevation 10,578 ft., the highest incorporated town in North America.

060Once back home at the cabin, the order of business was to put the horse in the corral or barn to feed and then wipe down the saddle, harness and gear and then grab an armload of firewood before entering the house. Fires must be tended and candles or kerosene lamps lit.

021Having running water in the kitchen via a small hand pump made life a little easier. Most folks would have a hand dug well in the yard where they could draw water with a bucket or they might gather water from a nearby stream.

070Most homes and cabins did not have a bathtub. When one was available it required filling by hand with buckets of water, which had to be heated on the wood stove. A bath was usually a once a week affair.

073 With only candles or kerosene lamps for light, a book or bottle for entertainment, time for bed was usually soon after dark.

Then and now there are only 3 to 5 hours in a day that we can call our own. Time to spend with family, children, friends, entertainment, hobbies, chores and subsistence. How those few hours are spent is a choice. There are a multitude of choices we have now that did not exist even 50 years ago. There are all sorts of attractions clamoring for our attention. 100 years ago life was simpler but at the end of the day they too had only a few hours to call their own. You can’t turn back the clock to an idealized past but you can simplify your life by reducing consumption and by making healthy choices. To simplify is especially nice for our planet.

Surprisingly the inventions, appliances and gadgets promoted as conveniences and ‘time savers’ over the past 50 years did not lead to a life of leisure as predicted.

A Hui Hou, Dohn

About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
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5 Responses to Old Time same as the New Time

  1. I love this it’s so true. The simple “old time” idyllic wasn’t all fresh baked muffins and sun drenched meadows and nor has our high tech world given us the leisure time we thought it would. If anything it’s made work even more evasive with all our mobile gadgets. You’re so right through we can choose to simplify and perhaps learn from and get the best from both “worlds”. Good to see you blogging again!

  2. I like it here and now, believe me. No desire at all to revisit the past. Dead at 30, no antibiotics for my kids, no indoor plumbing sometimes. Candles, no skyscrapers. Nah uh. I like Chicago, my home town. I like today and all the things that come along with it. Very grateful for cars and lights and books and heat and air conditioning and jets. Thank you very much.

  3. That’s an interesting one. I would like the simpler life not for more time (although who would say no to that) but to be rid of the consumerism. Even if I pare down my life, it is still all around me. We only have cold water in our kitchen at the finca, so we too boil water on a small stove for washing and washing up. In summer, the water out of the tap is warm enough.

    The freezer packed up years ago, but as the fridge still works we never replaced it, so all our food is fresh. I bake my own bread, OK I don’t work now, but I used to do it when I fell in from work years ago. I grow veg at the finca. We keep our vehicle use to a minimum, ie walk and get the bus rather than drive around the place. Or we cycle. And when we have power cuts, we get out the candles. Not so different at all.

    Your assessment of 3-5 hours is spot-on. We have an hour/hour and a half in the morning together and 3-4 hours in the evening.

  4. Cathy says:

    I am also guilty of wishing I had more time for this or that, but in effect it’s up to us to prioritize! Simplifying is definitely a good idea and if you live out of town it’s easier to consume less.

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