Back in the nineteen seventies my mother and one of my brothers took a Sunday afternoon ride to Galveston Island which was about fifty miles away from where I lived. I was recovering from hepatitis and it was meant to be a relaxing excursion. My mama always believed that the ocean air was good for whatever ailments one had. Going down to the sea was one of her most frequent destinations.
We rode along the seawall built by heroic Galveston residents who refused to be chased away by the 1900 storm that killed more than 2000 people in one dark night. It was a lovely early spring day and it felt wonderful to escape from the confinement that I had endured for many weeks. My mother always knew exactly how to nurse me back to health.
Mama wasn’t much for driving on freeways so we took an old highway back home that was less traveled at the time. Along the way her car broke down, a not so uncommon occurrence for her because she tended to keep her autos until the wheels fell off. There was no sign of life anywhere near where we were and of course there were no cell phones back then. We had to rely on our own ingenuity to find a way out of our dilemma.
For quite some time we pushed the car hoping that either it would spontaneously come back to life or that we might encounter a phone booth or service station where we might find help. I soon grew quite weary. I had been instructed by my doctor not to over exert myself and the effort of moving a heavy object down an asphalt runway soon sapped what little energy I had. We decided to simply get the car out of the road and walk until we found signs of life.
It felt as though we had to travel several miles before we finally found a place of business where we were able to call my husband who rescued us quickly after that. He drove us back to Mama’s car and noticed that she had run out of gasoline which he remedied as well. The incident became one of those laughable family moments and a memory of life in times past.
I can’t help but think of how much easier it would have been for us to find the assistance that we needed if only there had been cell phones back then. It is highly likely that at least two of us would have been able to take care of the problem with a few keystrokes. The modern world with its many inventions has made our lives so much easier than it has ever been.
I often see photos of what it was like when I was young on Facebook. My friends sometimes reminisce about the good old days. We even had a politician who won the presidency with the promise to make America great again. The problem that I find with such nostalgia is that going backwards in time is not generally something that we should want to do. I like the progress that we have made and I see little point in turning back the clock. Instead I try to enjoy the days that I have right now.
My grandfather was born in 1878 and did not die until the nineteen eighties. He often laughed when people asked him to tell about the good old days. “These are the good old days,” he would always insist. He easily recalled the hardships of living without refrigeration or electricity. He remembered the first time that he saw a town lit up with lights and the sense of wonder that overcame him. He read the headlines cheering the first flight of an airplane and watched with elation as a human walked on the moon. He remembered how his grandmother treated illnesses with herbs and what it was like watching people die of terrible infectious diseases that were eventually eradicated by modern medicine. The level of comfort that he experienced in his later life had been unimaginable when he was a child and he appreciated all of the advancements that had made the world a better place to be.
I hark back to the nineteen fifties and sixties, a time of great scientific exploration that changed the way we live and work at rocket speed. I am able to tell horror stories about attempting to type a long research paper without mistakes on an old typewriter with keys that would stick and smear ink on my fine white paper. My efforts were always so homely because I had to cover my errors with blobs of liquid paper that dotted my manuscripts like droplets of snow. If I had to have multiple copies that meant using carbon paper that left purple stains on my fingers and anything else that it touched. Creating documents was a time consuming and onerous task for me that thankfully is a thing of the past.
Like my grandfather I might list hundreds of examples regarding the difficulties that existed simply because the solutions to the various problems had not yet been invented. Any of us who did research of during the nineteen sixties shudder at the thought of spending hours combing through a card catalog in a library only to find that the very book that we needed had already been checked out by someone on a similar mission. Almost everything was in hard copy form back then. Sometimes documents were photographed and stored on little reels that had to be read using a machine that invariably broke in the middle of the process.
If I were to begin to list all of the changes that have occurred in my own lifetime it would require pages and pages. Man’s ingenuity has indeed been an engine that has driven progress inevitably forward and there is little reason for us to wish to turn back the clock which, by the way, we don’t have to wind anymore like we did in the past. The history of mankind is one of advancement with a few hiccups along the way but inevitably we seem to find better and better ways of enjoying life. I suspect that my very wise grandfather had it right all along when he would insist that these are the good old days.