We all like to talk about the ‘Good Old Days’ as being much better than the present. Why do we think that? Our present era is fraught with worries and concerns; economic recession, unemployment, terrorism, drug abuse, global warming, a large national debt, millions of people with no healthcare. In our memories, the good old days seem so much better. Let’s examine that premise.
Are the ‘Good Old Days’ a Figment of the Imagination?
The actuality is, what we now consider the ‘Good Old Days’ had their own hazards and uncertainties. Our country went through the great depression, with unemployment rates twice as high as we have now. We were embroiled in World War II that killed 73,000,000 people, according to Wikipedia. We were worrying whether the United States and Russia were going to start a nuclear war and end civilization as we know it. This was much more of an immediate threat than anything we have now. Although both countries still have a sizable nuclear arsenal, and probably have missiles aimed at each other, the threat seems much diminished. These events all happened during what a lot of people call the ‘Good Old Days.’
The government was willing to send you plans for an underground shelter for protection from radioactive fallout. You would have had to stock it with enough food and water to supply you for several days, until the radioactivity decayed.
What they did not tell you was that since you would probably have the only fallout shelter on the block, you would probably need a gun to repel some neighbors who would understandably desire to share your shelter with you. There just wasn’t room for everybody. Your neighbors would probably resent being kept out at gunpoint, become passive-aggressive and maybe plug up your air vent, if nothing worse.
The only way a fallout shelter would be practical, would be to build it yourself in the basement while telling your neighbors you were actually building a sauna and then never letting anyone see it. It would require a CIA level of secrecy to conceal the project, especially if you had children. We actually considered doing this one time but never got around to it. Since nuclear war did not happen, those days have become the ‘Good Old Days’ for a lot of people. It is remarkable how time changes your perspective.
The Domino Theory Was Not Valid
In the years immediately after World War II, when eastern Europe and China fell under Communist domination, we were terrified of Communism taking over the world. Remember the ‘domino theory’, if one fell, they all fell. The domino named South Vietnam fell but the world did not fall, if fact it eventually went the other way, with the number of democracies multiplying instead of falling to the Communists.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was probably our worst threat of nuclear war, our family bought a battery-powered radio and stocked up on food, flashlights, bulbs, batteries and a whole carton of 22 caliber ammunition. The gun and ammunition were to protect us during civil unrest, which could follow a nuclear war.
At the height of the missile crisis, we were receiving a radio news report every four hours on the Russian attempts to break our naval blockade, so I set the alarm clock to wake up and listen to the reports. We did not have a basement, so if we had received a warning of nuclear attack, we were going to head for my parents’ nearby home, because they had a basement. It was an indescribable sense of relief when the Russians capitulated.
Is The Term “Good Old Days’ Valid or a Misnomer?
My point is that the ‘Good Old Days’ were filled with threats and insecurities just like today. Most of the things we worried about never happened. We tend to forget all the threats and worries that never materialized and remember all the good things that did happen. Maybe this says that optimism is a natural human trait. If nothing very bad happened to you or your family during that period, you now look back and say those were truly the ‘Good Old Days’. In reality they exist only in our very selective memories.
Related Articles by Stewart Lodge:
The 1930’s Great Depression: Childhood Toys Were Simple
While Growing Up During the 1930s Great Depression, Life was Quite Austere but Practical
Growing Up During the Great Depression in the 1930’s: Our Frugal Lifestyle
“World War II”/Wikipedia