Someone once commented to me that it would be “good to bring back the good old days”. That comment led me to thinking more about that – the good old days and how we perceive them.
No doubt, it is nice to reminisce about days past. In fact, for some people, it is therapeutic. When we look back nostalgically, we generally tend to focus more on the positive aspects. We mutate our thoughts into romanticizing past people, days, and events, and block out all that was, in our own now twisted judgment, “bad.”
There was a time I wished I lived in a different era, with hoop skirts and kindly gentlemen, or another era with flappers, sheiks, shebas, and jazz. Even paddling down the Nile while the pyramids were being built was another “Ah, how I wish” for me.
That is basically how we perceive the past— illusions that “back then” people did the things people do today, but so much nicer.
In fact, all that we believe didn’t exist way back when, it actually did.
The generations didn’t always understand one another. For example, there was a time when Grandma did not understand Granddaughter embracing the loosening social constraints of the post-bellum years, yet Grandma, in her youthful time, wore diaphanous and revealing clothing of the 1820s that shocked her mother. Later, in another century, Dad and Mom were horrified that Junior and Sis were taking to rock and roll music, yet in their day in the not-so-distant-past, Dad and Mom horrified their elders by showing kneecaps and participating in petting parties with their friends in the old Flivver.
Today, we hear how “the young kids today don’t understand or appreciate (insert your favorite topic here).” It’s a time-worn cliché that actually transpired throughout history – the ancient Romans complained at how the younger generation didn’t know what it was like to work hard, et cetera. More recently, one of the elder characters in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s nineteenth century novel, “Pink and White Tyranny” lamented that the young people of those days (mid-nineteenth century) didn’t know what it was like to experience society as they did. Sound familiar?
In the good old days, terrorists were everywhere. There were the Moors who hijacked and pirated the Mediterranean in the late eighteen century through the early nineteenth century. The United States Marines’ Hymn has a line in it that goes “. . . to the shores of Triopli. . .” and harkens back to their fight with those fanatics. Terrorists ransacked Europe in the early Middle Ages (Visigoths and Huns, anyone?), and more recently, in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, terrorists bombed buildings and public squares under the guise of anarchists. Remember the Haymarket Massacre?
In the good old days, killers, even on a large scale, were nothing new. Did you know there was a serial killer in Chicago during the 1893 Columbian Exposition who disposed of his victims similarly to what Ed Geen and John Wayne Gacy did? There were even female serial killers in Missouri (Bertha Gifford) and in Massachusetts (Honora Kelley, a.k.a. Jane Toppan) around the turn of the twentieth century.
Illness was difficult to diagnose and treat in the good old days. Some diseases were always, by far, a death sentence. Childbirth? Many times, Mom and/or Baby didn’t survive. Minor infection? Most likely it would get worse, and death would follow.
Overall, the Good Old Days were what we perceive them to be. People were kind, people were nasty; the sun rose, the sun set; war and peace; feast and famine. In fact, in a lot of ways, they weren’t much different that today – just a different date on the calendar and different fashions.
©2022 Colcannon Metropolis, excerpt from “Points Well Taken”