Occasionally one will hear about the “good ole days.” Just this morning the idea that the past may have been better than the present came up in conversation. And it put me into a state of deep thought — well, at least as deep as one can get over grits, eggs and sausage.
Yes, many of us will reflect on a lot of good times. But when we refer to the “good ole days,” there may be some over-generalization going on there. I made sort of a small list of good and bad in the crux of this coffee shop/time travel analysis.
On the one hand, it was good to live in a time when you felt safe with your doors unlocked. But it was also a time when we were crawling under our desks in fear of being hit by a Russian atomic bomb. I still don’t know why we crawled under our desks. We might as well have been out on the school yard playing Red Rover.
Those were the days when a hand shake was as good as a written contract, a comforting thought when it comes to examining the integrity of a generation. But you also might have died of something as simple as appendicitis.
We had some happy days doing cannon balls into the old swimming hole on Sunday afternoons. On Monday we were being vaccinated for polio.
I still have an occasional flashback of getting up at 4 a.m. and unloading a barn of cured tobacco, then spending the rest of the day in a hot tobacco field cropping leaves that would turn into cigarettes that subsequently would dispense heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema. We would go to church on Sunday and pray for those who had the disease. Sad irony. Today, we know better and many people have reacted favorably to this knowledge.
Of course back then we didn’t have crack-cocaine and meth. There were other substances that could get one high, but few of us knew anyone who would have been termed a drug addict.
We all rode the big yellow buses to school. Only a handful of kids drove their own cars to school. Good or bad when compared to today?
And there was a time when I wasn’t sure if linoleum was meant as floor covering or insulation.
Today we crack a lot of jokes about cell phones. I recall having to drive up the road to use the neighbor’s phone in the event of an emergency. I also recall having to climb out the dining room window to turn the television antenna with a pipe wrench. And of course, I had to walk all the way from the sofa to the television to change one of the three channels.
Those were the days when I respected my all-white teacher in my all-white school because the prevailing thought of the white majority was that another race was inferior. We had color television, but for all practical purpose that world was still black and white. Sometimes when we grow older we also grow wiser. Sometimes.
But, life is a matter of perspective. Until you have something to compare it to, you don’t know how to grade it. Hindsight is always 20/20 and retrospect offers the advantage of panorama.
So I asked around and everyone remembered how things were and had some stories to tell. They wouldn’t take anything for many of their experiences. But no one wanted to go back.
We hold onto the past very selectively. Those old pie safes are less functional today and more decorative. There’s a fine line between antiques and old crap.
It often has to do with personal attachments. Tin roofs have made a comeback, but the rain won’t play a melody on them like it did back then. But who would give up the insulation in the attic for that tune?
And so I concluded that “the good ole days” must be now, despite many of the issues that we face on a daily basis. Funny how it works that way.
Walden is editor/publisher of The Moultrie Observer.