Today, I was sitting out on the front porch with Smirk (my stray cat who finally let me pet her). She was wild as a tiger only two month ago. There’s nothing so peaceful and mesmerizing as sitting on the porch and watching the world go by while petting a cat.
One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting on my Mama Lee’s front porch in Prentiss, Mississippi.
After supper we would head for the porch and rock or swing and discuss what was right or wrong with the world. I felt safe and secure and would be lulled to sleep by the rusty squeak of the chains on the swing. I never knew who took me to bed.
The great American front porch – what an institution – and one that I believe needs a revival.
The front porch owes its origin to several countries, including Italy, Spain, India and Africa, says Michael Dolan, author of The American Porch: An Informal History of an Informal Place.
African slaves were the first in America to universally build houses with porches.
By the 1880s, nearly every house in America, whether it was a humble shotgun-style or a Queen Anne mansion, boasted a front porch. The porch served as a cool and comfortable gathering spot that encouraged socializing and relaxing. The porch was so popular a setting that James Garfield waged a “front-porch campaign” for the U.S. presidency in 1880, meeting and greeting farmers and other folks from his own front porch in Mentor, Ohio (pop. 50,278).
After a long day, families retired to the breezy front porch to sip cool drinks and talk. But they didn’t have “American Idol” or the “Biggest Loser” in those days – why do we? I wonder. We are missing something important here.
In those day, they brought out guitars and harmonicas and sang and told stories. Women snapped beans into a dishpan on their laps as they sat in the porch glider or swing. Couples courted on the porch until a parent signaled with the porch light that a beau had overstayed his welcome.
The front porch remained popular until World War II, when several factors contributed to its decline, including automobiles, air-conditioning, television and, most of all, suburbs. Backyard patios and decks and a desire for privacy spelled the end of the front porch.
We’ve lost so much.
I want to bring back the front porch like the one Andy Griffith and Aunt Bee sat on each evening while Barney nagged them to go for ice cream.
I’m calling Yvonne and Brenda and we’re going to have a front porch party – we all have front porches. We’ll do one a week then take off the fourth to watch American Idol.
I’ll buy an ice cream freezer. This is going to be a great summer.