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Friday, September 16, 2011

Yearning for the Good Old Days

I have been in a nostalgic mood for the past few months. While flipping through the many channels available from our satellite television provider one day, I noticed that reruns of The Waltons were on. So I started watching. Later, I found reruns of Little House on the Prairie and Happy Days.

One recent late-summer morning, while walking my dogs, I heard what sounded like a screen door slam (most houses around here don't have screen doors due to the harsh climate). That brief sound immediately brought back a flood of memories of summer visits to my maternal grandparents. They lived on the edge of a very small town in southern Illinois.

Their house got its awful, iron-tasting water from a well. There was no air conditioning to keep the heat and humidity at bay. The dwelling was heated by a single coal-burning stove in the center of the house. My grandparents owned quite a bit of land, which included a pond (home to snapping turtles and small fish) and walnut trees. They had an old 1947 car, and they raised chickens and a variety of vegetables in their garden. My aunt and uncle, with their three daughters, lived down the hill. They had lots of things that we city kids didn't have, including homemade go-karts and horses. Our days were filled with exciting outdoor activities. It was safe, and we were free to be kids. If it was too hot to be running around, we sat under a huge tree in the back yard.

Certainly, life was very difficult during the Depression, when The Waltons was set. Little House took place in the 1880's on the prairie of Minnesota. Just eking out a living was a challenge. But it seems that people were stronger, communities and individuals more willing to help others, and life was so much less complicated, during those hard-scrabble times.

Is it my age, the ubiquitous technology that allows us to be in constant touch via e-mail, text messages and cell phone calls, or the ever-on, non-stop cable television and satellite radio that makes me yearn for the old days? The days of leaving the house unlocked are long gone, even when I'm home. Spending time just sitting and chatting with family under a big tree truly seems a thing of the past. My family lives in Alaska, Illinois and New Mexico. We are rarely together.

A friend recently sent me an e-mail with reminders of what everyday items cost in the 1950s. People complained that gasoline cost 20 cents/gallon; McDonald's hamburgers -- a real treat for us kids at the time -- were 15 cents each. Hamburger was 3 pounds/$1. I remember the very first pizza I ever had. My mom made it from a box of Chef Boyardee pizza mix. What a great novelty that was! Now there is a pizza place on every corner, or so it seems.

To quote from a song by Carly Simon, "These are the good old days." I can't turn back the clock, and the simpler times of 40 or 50 years ago truly are a thing of the past for most of us.  I guess I will have to settle for watching old reruns on television, listening to the music of my youth and fondly recalling the simpler times when prompted by a random sound on a hot, late-summer morning.