Yesterday's Magazette

13 – Sounds

Sounds From The 40s And 50s

By Joye O’Keefe

All adults have memories of sounds from their childhood. Some are wonderful, others are not. Perhaps because I did not see well when I was young, the sounds of my early world were a treasure.


The first robin of spring with his welcoming chirp brought a sigh of relief. A new season was blossoming rapidly.

The large rain drops splatting against the windows and the bubbling gurgle as rainwater filled the cistern. Once full, the sounds changed to a sharper splashing cascade of water hitting the bricks as the rainspout was diverted to the outside beneath the window.

The music of the wind sighing through the budding tree branches brought a gentle promise of future rustlings. I eagerly kept an ear out for the cheerful excited honking of the geese flying overhead in their perpetual V-shape as they returned from the south.


An early morning robin, a sparrow, or perhaps a blue jay brought me from sleep into waking with their cheerful music, outside my bedroom window.

Sometimes I  heard the chick,chick,chick or the slower erratic click,click of the push mower blades. Then there was the ring, ring, clang! Ring, thud, clunk! as Dad practiced horseshoes. The sound brought pride to my childish mind. Perhaps he’d win another trophy at the next competition.

The mournful coo-coo of the unseen mourning doves gave me peace that all was well in spite of a hectic day. Then, in the early evening, the sleepy, soft coo-chirp trill of the sleepy robins brought comfort and tranquility.

After dark, there was the thunk! Then the echoing tinny rumble of an empty can being kicked across the cement as a game of “Kick the Can” began. When time ran out and bedtime loomed, we sadly heard the call of “Oli, Oli, Ocean, all in free!”

Sleep came with the song of crickets, like many violins. Their joyful nightly serenade mingled with the roar, then the quickly fading, fading sound of trucks that traveled along the busy street in front of our house.

The last sound I would hear before falling to sleep would be the distant, lonesome whoo, whooo! and the faint clack, clack of steel wheels on metal rails as trains journeyed on their way.


The change in fall brought new sounds. I listened for the nearly silent shh-shh as the tree leaves fell and hit the ground. Mornings brought laughter, calls, or grumbles as we trudged to school. Then the scwhhhissssh-crunch of the multicolored leaves scattered before running, kicking feet.

How I loved the crackling of the leaves as they burned with sweet-smelling smoke.

Then there were the sounds of geese, returning southward. Now they honked with a sad and mournful tone.

I remember how we looked forward eagerly to the scrape, scrape sound of the spoon cleaning the pumpkins on Halloween and the sounds of our laughter over the strange faces we had carved.


The heavy silence after we awoke to see an overnight snowfall.

I loved the crunch, sluff as we walked on or through the snow, but even more I loved the squeak, groan of large snowballs being rolled around the yard in anticipation of making a snowman or fort.

The clank, rattle of tire chains, sometimes muffled, sometimes sharp, as cars traveled on snow-filled or clear patches of street gave us a loud warning of approaching  traffic.

There was the thunk, splat as a snowball hit a house, window, car, tree, or your head, which gave you reason to retaliate in kind.

The schwish, schwish of discarded Christmas trees. I dragged as many as I could behind me because I enjoyed making forts and secret hiding places with them until, at last, they outlived their usefulness.

Then came the huge shwooosh-whoomph of the dried trees as Dad set them afire. There would be a collective, loud gasping Ooooohhhh from the gathered neighborhood kids as we listened to the roaring crackle of the burning branches until the pops and sputters faded into the night.

Finally, the most comforting sound, I have ever heard. The early morning schlaape, schlaape of the wide shovel sliding along the cement floor in our coal bin, biting into and lifting the coal for the coal furnace.

Yes, many years have passed since those sounds of my youth were made. Yet, some of these sounds can still be heard today: the sounds of migrating geese, early morning bird songs, wind in the trees, train sounds and even the ring of horseshoes have not been completely lost.

Any gentle waterfall brings the same sound of water pouring into the long gone cistern. Some sounds have been replaced, such as the chick, chick of the push mower is now the roar of the power mower. The clink, rattle of chains is now the heavy squeak of snow tires.

Sadly, in this high-tech world, there is one sound lost forever: my favorite schlaape, schlaape sound of the coal shovel has been silenced. But, when the need arises, I can still hear it. I just bring it forth from the recesses of my mind, where all sounds from my  childhood abide.

Vol. 40 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – 2013


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