Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yesterday and today

The trappings of life haven't always been like this have they? We've simply gotten used to them. We've changed our perspectives and expectations to accommodate all these new fangled technological contraptions as well as life expectancy and the ease of going about our business each day. When I was very young my folks saw to it that I enjoyed the company and musings of my older uncles after Thanksgiving dinner. Many of my dreams of the future were influenced by their stories of riding horses, hunting for food, warming themselves by campfires, building houses, fighting off wolves or pumas or bears with knives and bare hands and, of course drinking home made rot gut whiskey to keep from freezing when they got stuck someplace in a car in the wintertime. There was a lot of laughter and teasing that went with those stories but the truth was that life grew easier as time went on.

The news keeps us aware of the hardships of our fellow citizens. To be sure the headlines have changed.

On the medical front, vaccines have all but obliterated chicken pox, whooping cough, mumps, small pox and the flu doesn't condor up as much fear as it did only a half century ago. Heart disease is treated with medicines, balloons, stents, transplants and pacemakers. Many diseases that used to kill can now be treated. Yet there is still no cure for the common cold. We live on average years beyond what our recent ancestors did. Elder care is big business now. Aging with dignity is the big news now.

Complaints of only being able to draw unemployment benefits for 96 weeks is all the talk. Whatever will we do? They ask. Social programs may be brought to an end after only four years and that is bringing unheard of hardship to many. There never seems to be enough food for the poor. No matter how much is provided we still read that four out of nine kids goes to bed hungry. We are asked to donate food but only if it is sugar and additive free and a major brand, not the cheap stuff.

The cars we drive only get 31 miles per gallon. The engines only last about 200,ooo miles, they rust out after only about 15 years. The speed limit is too low, the speed limit is too high. We are running out of oil to make fuel. The bus and train services need subsidies because of so few riders. The paved roads aren't quite smooth enough. Gasoline taxes are too high.

The mortgage lenders charge too much interest!
My landlords are mean and want the payment on time all the time!
Everyone but me is getting paid too much!

Hey wait a minute here. Are these really the headlines? Or are they simply reflections of change. Can you remember:
Lining up at the government food surplus building for cheese, powdered milk, rice and flour?
Driving through five foot snow drifts on un-plowed roads with chains on your tires?
Waiting in line at the bus stop hoping it won't be too full and you'll have to wait fir the next one?
Working two jobs at minimum wage or lower to pay the bills?
Making bread and neck bone soup to feed the family for a few days?
Unemployment lasting 13 to 26 weeks-Period!?
Working under the hood of an old broken down car to keep it running to get to work?
Creating wondrous meals using canned meat?
Coal being dumped through a chute into the basement to fuel the furnace?
The ice man bringing a block of ice to keep the icebox and its food cold for a week?
Walking a mile or more to go to school or go to the grocery store?
Police officers walking the beat?
Everyone going "Downtown" at Christmas time to see the decorated windows?
When you were down and out and the only place left to go for help was your church?
Being all excited about the brand new, six inch round, black and white TV the size of a refrigerator?
No electronic toys, just Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Rag and China Dolls, Etch a Sketch was all the rage, cap guns, coonskin caps, BB guns, chemistry sets?
Real Christmas trees or maybe an aluminum silver tree with a rotating light to change colors and Angel Hair thrown on to diffuse the light?
Everyone sitting in the living room on a cold winters night to stay warm around the wood fired furnace that heated the entire house?
Going outside to the outhouse at all times of the day and night in all kinds of weather?
Getting water from one faucet in the kitchen sink and having to prime the pump when it went dry.
Putting pennies on the train tracks to make huge disks from them?
Heating the frozen water pipes in the basement with rolled up burning newspapers?
Not having enough money for Christmas presents and making something out of what you had?
Being alone and broke, sleeping in the basement of a small unheated building on Thanksgiving and again on Christmas, using newspapers for covers?

I guess not much of this was particularly headline news was it? No particular reason to relive any of it either. But those things did happen to a lot of people. Those people became strong and survived and built the framework for the progress we enjoy today. A reason to be thankful I think. I lived through those things and I believe we will live through what we are faced with today.

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