Simple Life, Yesteryear and Today

Ah remember the good ole days when life was simple? Even without rose colored glasses, most probably yearn for at least one event, one moment, in one’s personal past. Sometimes it might be because we experienced the event when we were younger, perhaps naïve, maybe even innocent, at least to a degree. In other cases, we recall with the benefit of that 20/20 hindsight which is a gift upon bestowed upon one with experience. At times, however, one may and can recall that the not having of choices, lack of options, brought simplicity as a specific yes or no, black and white, no gray areas of maybe.

All of that might be true. It’s especially true for me as I recall memories of listening to the old men talk with my Grandfather in the strawberry packing shed. It’s true when thinking of the times spent in the K&B stores with my Dad. As a kid, teen, and young adult, all unrelated elders had the same first names. Every man was “Mr.” followed by his first name and the women were “Ms.” followed by their first name. The only exception which was never gender specific went to those individuals who you referred to as “Coach.” The terms of “Sir” and “Ma’am” were expected additions to any answer or question one might offer.

I admit that my rearing took place in a rural environment. The Hungarian Settlement in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, wasn’t a city or even a town.  Nearby Albany was a village which only reached a town population a few years back. Springfield to the South has less population within the incorporated limits than Albany. Together, however, I grew up in a community. People actually knew each other and more importantly sincerely cared about one another. Yes, I have at least a rose colored monocle on, but seriously it seemed that way back then and still today when I visit the ole stomping grounds.

Now even in that type of environment, life is different today. The kids have access to a lot more than we did at that stage in development. My first mode of transportation was my feet which sufficed for miles whether alongside a road, through a field or pasture, or through the woods. As we grew older, our bikes allowed us to go further faster. Some friends had horses, but we never did so the first powered transportation for folks like me was the tractor. Eventually we turned 16 and could legally drive something that could move as fast as the speed limit on the highway.

We actually had private lines for phone service back in my childhood. My only firsthand experience with party lines happened when we visited relatives and friends who lived off in the sticks or out in the swamp. The phone, however, was never a replacement for walking over to talk with who you needed face to face. Unless it was an emergency, calling someone within an hour or so walk from you was considered a sign of laziness by many. That philosophy did change during my school years as it became more acceptable to place a 5 or 10 minute call. The real fun obviously was during the high school years when you called a girl. On your end you had as much privacy as you could stretch the cord on the receiver or the distance from which the phone could be moved from the wall jack. On the girl’s end, you would hear her family in the background and sooner rather than later a younger sister or brother would be listening on the extension.

We did get to visit faraway lands and engage in great adventures outside our realm.  No, not by actually traveling to other locations. The portals to such excursions were books, and the local library contained a seemingly infinite amount of possible journeys upon which to traverse. Even the mundane quests for information could be derived from a dictionary or from looking up a term in the encyclopedia.

Some of my friends’ kids still walk and engage in transportation similar to those ancient 1970s and 80s. Phones are no longer attached to walls, but appear to be individually grafted to the body of every person. Questions are merely a few clicks or taps away from one’s phone or tablet. Fantasy no longer necessitates imagination as technology has become so realistic. Even with no drive and too much imagination for any one person, I doubt if it were possible to completely suspend belief for more than brief periods with those old fashioned “high tech” video games. How about those graphics on Atari football or basketball? Grab your quarters and head to the arcade for fun and socializing, but in real life could you envision Donkey Kong, Tempest, or Centipede? My favorite was Gorf and that game talked!

Historically, the above represents things that every generation has experienced. Just tweak the technology and automation, and the above applies to different eras.

I cannot pinpoint a cause, but one thing is different today from that of yesteryear. In one important aspect, life was more complicated in the past than it is today.

Think about it. Throughout my lifetime there have been numerous things that I do not like. There were things about which I complained and complaints I have today. My Grandfather never minded me complaining. Neither did my Dad or teachers for that matter. My Grandfather had a simple yet effective method to blow off steam. Just head out into the field and work for a few hours until you figured out why you were angry or upset. My Dad liked to employ one of his former coach’s maxims of just start running and don’t stop until you puke.

That took care of one type of belly aching. The other type is where life truly was more complicated. If you did not like how something was being done, you always heard the question “HOW WOULD YOU DO IT BETTER?” You weren’t allowed to simply whine, squawk, cry, or complain. You had to provide an alternative. Seriously, most of the things you did not like did not shock others as they felt the same. Everybody could see if something didn’t work or got broken. You just didn’t spend time merely complaining because that was time wasted as you had to figure out not just how to but also to fix whatever did not function as it should.

Who would you rather have on your side? Would you want a person who only complains and leaves the work for you or someone else to do? Do you want someone who at least tries to fix the problems or is willing to be shown and learn how to make the repair?

Why is it today that leaders become popular and powerful by complaining about things we already know? Many of the problems are complex, but are they honestly that difficult to actually begin working toward a solution? If one disagrees with the process or the solution offered by another, fine, but what is the alternative? If you have a better solution, what’s stopping you from at least trying to start the work?

Ah remember the good ole days, the days when it didn’t matter who did the job because somehow the job had to get completed. If it wasn’t working when you found it, it was your responsibility to take the steps necessary to get it working again. You could fix it, or find someone to fix it or better demonstrate how to fix it. You could replace it, or at worst inform someone who has the authority to replace it. You just didn’t sit and whine or ignore the problem. You sure as heck didn’t brag about finding problems and not fixing them. Today, that method makes you popular and a leader in politics. I think my Dad’s application of his coach’s philosophy works well. Instead of sitting around getting sick to my stomach at people telling me over and over what’s wrong, I’m going to combine the wisdom of Dad and maternal Grandfather. I’m going out to bust my tail working to fix things, and I’m going to keep at it until I start puking or vomiting my guts out. Then I’m going to take a swig of water and work harder than I was before I lost those pounds involuntarily.

That used to be and should return as political opposition in the United States of America.  That’s the view from a bare footed strawberry farm kid and Professor of History who heard his mentors whether it was Grandfather in field, Dad in the K&B, teachers in grade school, professors in graduate school, colleagues and peers from community colleges, and regional and state universities to Johns Hopkins pose that question and challenge me or another to “Do It Better.”