Anyone Else Longing For “The Good Old Days”?

They say that youth is wasted on the young and the older I get, the truer that saying becomes.  How many of us can remember our grandparents waxing nostalgic about “the good old days” and we would secretly laugh them off?  I am discovering the older I get, the more I miss my grandparents and the more I miss their ways and wisdom.  And the more I can relate to their nostalgia.  That said, I am also thankful they are not around to see the clown show occurring all around us these days.  If I come across as some old crusty curmudgeon as I write this, well, so be it.  I love that word, curmudgeon, by the way.

Everywhere I look, there are posts and videos and movies that are talking about the way things were when people my age were kids.  I am referring to those of us who were born in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  In my opinion, and I know there are always exceptions, anyone who is under 40, maybe even 45, has no idea what they are missing.  One meme I saw recently that I really loved talked about how we had the coolest cars and the best music and we really did.  Our cars were made of metal and they were built to last.  Muscle cars in particular, were beautiful and fast.  Our bands played real instruments, wrote their own music and could really sing with zero “enhancement.”  That is not to dismiss every vehicle or musician today.  Like previous generations, we just happen to think ours were much better.

After a long winter without having a smiling service station operator offer to wash the windows and check the tires a driver from west of the Cascades drove east of the mountains to find service at this station. US National Archives. David Falconer. February, 1974.

Ironically, I recently had a 30-something year-old argue with me about this, saying that things are not any different today, that they are just more out in the open now because of things like the Internet and social media.  Besides the fact that this person has zero clue because they were not even born yet or even a glimmer in their parent’s eyes, their ridiculous assertions actually validated what I was trying to say.  They have absolutely no idea.

By and large, I know I do not need to explain myself to the generation I am really speaking to, but for the enlightenment of this younger generation and a sense of brother/sisterhood for my peers, I will elaborate.  My clueless young friend would have absolutely zero concept of growing up without a cell phone, internet service, computers and five gazillion television channels operating 24/7/365.  Egad, can you imagine what they would do if they could not just pick up their phone and search for something and get 5000 immediate results?  Or having to hand-write letters and put them in snail mail and then have to wait for at least a week or more for a hand-written response?

I do not say any of this as a complaint.  Exactly the opposite.  Instead of these electronic time-wasters that are currently sucking up our health, time, energy and motivation, we were usually outside grounding ourselves with bare feet; getting fresh air, sunshine and exercise.  Instead of our faces in our phones or playing video games, we knew all of our neighbors and everyone looked out for each other.  We did not have or need gym memberships.  We had our bicycles (no helmets!  The horror!), “dangerous” playground equipment and we walked or ran.  If it was winter, we were ice skating, sledding, tobogganing, skiing or snow shoeing. Can you seriously imagine a kid today with our playground equipment?  Remember those huge metal slides when it was 90 degrees outside and we were wearing shorts?  How about the merry go round or teeter totters? One would be hard-pressed to argue that we were not tough.

Miles and neighborhood kids. Miles Smith. October 1981.

I could go on for days, but I know I am already preaching to the choir.  I cannot speak for everyone, but I think there is very good reason for the nostalgia so many of us are feeling.  We all knew freedom and liberty.  We had peace and quiet, but then we also had a strong sense of community.  The pace of life was slower and people overall were just more polite and respectful.  For the most part, things were simpler.  

Yes, there were bad eggs and evil people, but their behavior was not out in the open.  Instead, they had to work hard to keep it hidden, because they knew their nonsense would not be tolerated.  Or accepted.  Or even celebrated.  And if they dared to flaunt it, there would actually be accountability and repercussions.  As kids, we were so much more innocent, because we did not have adult things in our faces every waking hour and we most definitely were not taught those things in school.  It was generally accepted that the whole “birds and bees” conversation was the parent’s responsibility.  But then, parents had far more rights at that time, too.

Youths congregate around the front steps of a home in New Ulm, Minnesota, to decide what to do on a summer day. US National Archives. Flip Schulke. 1975.

As whatever is coming approaches, we see more the need to remember the lessons our grandparents taught us.  Most of our grandparents lived during the Great Depression, so it was expected that everyone had a garden and grew produce.  Most had chickens and many even had a dairy cow and pigs.  Things were not thrown away; they were saved, repaired, reused or used for parts.  Banks were not to be trusted and most certainly not the stock market.  Neighbors and community were important and people helped those in need as they were able to.  Most attended church.  If one did not have the money to buy something, it was not purchased.  Cash was king and credit was a rarity and viewed in a very negative light.

I was recently reminded of the excellent song, “The Little Man” by Alan Jackson, released 24-years ago. In the introduction to the music video, he explains his inspiration for the song and in the music video itself, the lyrics ring even more true now than they did when the song was originally released.  If you haven’t seen it or it has been awhile, have a listen.  Have your tissues handy.

What do you think?