By Kaci Woodrome
The “good ole days” – times when things were done differently and usually remembered as better than the present. Of course, the good ole days look a little different for everyone. But there are a few favorite hobbies and activities that are timeless, spanning generations despite the ebb and flow of societal trends and the digital age.
What makes certain pastimes everlasting? The people who share their passions with others.
For Nell Shepherd and her husband, TJ, college sweethearts who met 57 years ago, it’s important to spend time outdoors and find teachable moments in nature with their children and grandchildren.
“The main thing I love doing with them is gardening,” Nell Shepherd says. “The kids have a chance to explain to me how a plant grows. They will go to the extent of telling me about photosynthesis, and about hummingbirds, and about nature. Those are things that I don’t think they would be interested in had we not brought it up.”
Years ago, the Shepherds planted a tree with one of their grandsons. At the time, the tree was not much taller than he was, but now it’s three times his size.
“He asks about the tree all the time. That’s something he’ll take with him the rest of his life,” Nell says.
Nell inherited her love of gardening from her mother. She now grows enough peppers, tomatoes, mustard greens, and kale to share with neighbors and friends at Precinct 4’s Big Stone Lodge.
The Shepherds, who have 16 grandchildren and great grandchildren ranging in age from one to 28, also believe in teaching their family about the importance of volunteering.
“We have a garden in Old Town Spring Heights – it’s called a prayer garden that was dedicated last year for that community – so I have them go down there and help me to clean that up,” Nell says.
While sharing their love of the outdoors and community involvement with their family is a top priority for the Shepherds, they also want to pass down “lifelong skills that they can use once they mature and get their own place,” TJ says.
“Instead of getting gifts that they’ll discard, introduce them to the importance of handling their money,” TJ says. “Let’s take this dollar and see if there’s any way that you can invest it.”
Longtime Humble resident David DeFord has devoted much of his life to collecting and selling vinyl records, comics, glassware, pottery, and antiques. He owned a small shop in Humble for more than 20 years and operated out of various antique malls throughout the Houston area.
“It’s a good hobby and a good investment because a lot of people still invest in old records – a lot of collectors and people who are into music like me.”
His deep love for collections and history began when DeFord was growing up with his grandparents, who owned a small grocery store.
“Back in the late ‘40s and ‘50s, I used to collect soda water bottles. And then at that time, I was collecting comic books, and I’d trade and sell comics. And we used to sell bubble gum cards and baseball cards,” DeFord says.
In many cases, the popularity of collectibles changes over time. As demand fluctuates, production of the collectibles is impacted too. For example, vinyl records have transformed significantly from their debut in the 19th century.
Although people have created music for more than 35,000 years, the ability to record and play back music is relatively new. The Victrola, the first record player available commercially, was only introduced in the late 1800s.
As technology advanced, so did vinyl record design. Initially, records were played at 78 revolutions per minute. They later slowed the speed to 33 1/3 RPM and increased the size of the records to 10 inches and then 12 inches to allow more songs on each side for “long play” – or “LP,” as they are commonly known.
“My mother worked for a record person here in Houston that used to go around to warehouses and buy 78 (RPM) records when they were converting from the 78 style to the album style – this is from about ‘54 to about ’56 or ’57,” DeFord says. His interest in collecting vinyl records gained momentum when he later inherited a collection from his father, who sold records in Tampa, Fla., in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
With the popularity of compact discs, many record producers sold their record presses. However, the way music is enjoyed has come full circle. There was a resurgence in vinyl records starting around 2000 that continues today.
“Now they’re redoing all the older records and repressing them into newer records,” DeFord says.
Kate Schultz has experience with crafts and other activities that have also had their highs and lows over the years.
With technology reigning over the digital age, hobbies like knitting, crocheting, quilting, and gardening seemed lackluster. But many of these “old fashioned” activities are becoming more attractive to younger generations – especially now, with many social activities scaled back due to COVID-19 concerns.
“I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, and we were organic before there was such a word,” Schultz says. “When winter was coming, we didn’t have to worry about food, because we canned everything, and we had our own beef because we raised cattle. We’d make our own bread. My mom even made butter and cottage cheese. We wanted for nothing.”
Schultz has enjoyed sharing her love of crafts, gardening, and canning with her family and friends over the years.
Schultz enjoys spending time at Precinct 4’s Southwell Community Building with ladies who work on their own projects – some knitting, crocheting, or quilting – and share patterns and ideas with each other. She’s also taught these skills to her grandchildren because “we need to at least expose them to these crafts or they will become lost,” she says.
Whether picking apples for apple butter or apple cider or gathering elderberries to make elderberry juice to ward off colds, Schultz always involves her family during a harvest at her childhood home.
“I really love it there with the children, because you more or less have their undivided attention. They’re not on a device. And they become interested in what you’re doing. I garden and can, and my great-grandson came to visit this summer, and they were so excited because we had a big harvest of zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes,” Schultz says.
“I’ve always thought that it was so important that they didn’t think food just magically appeared at the grocery store.”
Schultz and her husband – whom she met while performing music – play instruments, volunteered at Jones Park as reenactors, share an affinity for collecting hobbies, and inspire others to always learn something new – even if it’s a little old fashioned.
“I feel we should always be in the process of learning something,” she says. “I think maybe we sometimes inspire people without knowing it. We never know when something we have said might make a difference on down the line. You might not see it straightaway, you know, but later it will.”