Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nostalgia Ain't What It's Cracked Up to Be

Pining for the "good old days" is probably as old as humanity is.  But today, we have electronic ways of expressing it - especially, for the last 15 years or so - email.

Anyone over the age of - oh, 45 or so - has gotten these emails. You know "those emails": the emails full of photos of Howdy Doody and church keys and reminiscences of old black and white TV show.  Memories of idyllic childhood straight out of Dick and Jane books try to get you to pine for the "good old days".

Yeah, right.  And that is because there is no such thing as the 'good old days".  Never has been.

If yoiu, gentle reader, are in your 20's and 30's, just wait....in about 20 or so years that nostalgia mosquito is going to bite you.  One day you'll find yourself frustrated with technology that your 10 year old child uses effortlessly.  Or you'll suddenly realize that TV shows (if they even have TV in 20 years) just aren't made the way they used to be.

That "my childhood is a museum" feeling that I used to get talking to my son will be your feeling, too.

And the thing is:  "those days" weren't ideal.   Not everything was great.  Not everything has gone downhill.

So exactly what it is about the "good old days" that I don't miss? . For my younger readers: you get one point for every item where you actually knew what I was talking about without using the link.  Ready?  Let's go!

1.  Coke-bottle eyeglasses.  If you wear glasses and have poor vision (like me) I am thankful daily for ultra light lenses that don't leave permanent sores on your nose and your ears.  And which don't break because the lenses were made of glass.

2. Typewriters.  I learned to type on a manual typewriter in Mrs. Gottlieb's 7th grade typing class.  Mrs. Gottlieb was the most feared teacher in my school.  She put tape on all the keys so you couldn't cheat and find the correct key by glancing down.   Typewriters?  Well, if you didn't have one, you'd have to pay someone to type your term papers.  It was a complex process:  inserting paper into a roller, rolling it into position, setting the margins, typing, and when you heard a bell, you knew you were about 5 spaces from the end.  Time to hypehenate, then return the carriage to where it started, and type your next sentence.

3.  Carbon Paper.   And  onionskin.
If you needed copies, you just didn't tell your word processing software to print multiple copies.  You took special paper, and inserted carbon paper between each sheet - and heaven help you if you made a typo and had to correct all of those pages.  That was an art form in itself.

4.  Old fashioned medicine.  I'm probably going to get an earful about this.  But, let's put it this way.  I have a medical condition, easily treated today for many people with diet, exercise and medication.  My grandmother died from the same condition in 1927 because there was no treatment.  Things wouldn't have been much better in the 1950's.

Modern medicine has a lot of problems, no doubt about it.  But enough of us are walking around right now who may not be on this earth if we hadn't expanded on the medical knowledge of the 1950's.

5.  Pup tents.  My first camping adventure was in a small canvas tent borrowed from a fellow college student.   Guess what.  It rained. Do you know what happens when it is raining and you touch the walls of your canvas pup tent, which, from the weight of the water, has sagged so the entire tent is inches away from you?  What happens is that you spend the rest of the stormy evening in the ladies rest room of the campground.  Which, in this case at least, wasn't a latrine.  Give me a modern tent made of synthetic materials any day.

You'll notice I am talking about technology and not culture, not people's attitudes.  There's enough material there for another blog post.

Do you feel nostalgic for your childhood or teenage years?  What don't you miss about it?


  1. Interesting post. You are spot on. Funny, I was just writing a post about watching an old TV show with my daughter and how it made me feel. I don't want to go back, but sometimes advancing isn't the best thing either.

    Hmmmm. You've left me with a lot to think about. (I've also been gathering information on things my kids will never know.)

  2. I miss the good tv shows. I just can't get into much of what is on TV these days.
    I miss less pollution both noise & air.
    Times were simpler. That was the good part.


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