With the inauguration this week and many of us questioning the new occupant’s legitimacy, I thought a look at that old phrase about days gone by was appropriate. Do the good old days really exist or is it just that as we grow older we have such fond memories of the past? Do we tend to remember only the good parts and block out the bad parts? As I started to write about this I realized that for me it was going to turn out different than what I had envisioned going in. There was a realization that perspective and who you are have a lot to do with it.
This is my perspective and look back at our country during my life.
When I look back on what some would say are the good old days I do have pleasant memories of many things that for the most part are now almost totally gone. Things like the family run businesses, mom and pops we call them. They existed in the large cities and the small towns throughout the country. Your needs were met mostly by businesses locally owned and operated, again the mom and pops. No matter whether it was groceries, appliances, hardware, electronics, clothing, vehicles, prescription drugs, you name it, the business was likely to be locally owned.
And even in many, actually most small towns and large cities there were locally owned factories. Now not all were locally owned of course but many were. Those factories employed a sizable segment of the population that did not own their own business. Even the mom and pop stores served as employers. You even had milk and your local newspaper delivered to your front door at no extra charge. The mail for the most part ran on time.
There were locally owned banks and thrift institutions. They cared about every depositor no matter how much those depositors had. You could say there were Baily Brothers Building and Loan type banks and financial institutions throughout the America of my youth. Those banks and other businesses, all the mom and pop types knew you by name. They even knew your kids names. Your were their customer and they wanted you to know they valued that relationship. There really were Bedford Falls all over America.
Farms were family owned. I can remember in the county I grew up in NC that there were quite a few family owned dairy farms. There were hog farms family owned, poultry farms and just plain farms. The livestock family farms would eventually succumb to stringent health and sanitary regulations that only the new Big Agri Corporations could afford to comply with. And my state had it’s share of family owned tobacco farms. Flu cured it was called in my county. We all know what happen with those farms, but there was a time during my youth when they were highly profitable enterprises.
The church played a much more important role in peoples lives than it does now. If you were not a member of a church and didn’t attend services on a regular basis you were considered an anomaly. Now if you do those things you are an anomaly.
And now we get to political speech. All the way up basically through the Reagan administration, conservatives could put a bumper sticker on their vehicle without fear of it being vandalized by someone who didn’t agree with the message. Others may not have agreed with the sticker’s message, but the vehicle’s owners didn’t have to worry about leaving their vehicle unattended. Try it now-a-days in some places and if your message on the sticker is not politically correct, you might consider yourself lucky to be able to drive your vehicle away after leaving it unattended.
But not all speech even back then during the mom and pop era was treated equally. A black person couldn’t put a bumper sticker on their vehicle with a message about racial inequality without the fear of in many cases horrible retribution, especially in the deep south. The country for far too long had treated the black race as second class citizens. But the black race was not to be denied any longer. Men like Dr Martin Luther King led a movement that brought about equality for a large segment of the population that was generations overdue.
It was also an era that saw America land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth. A feat that 51 years later no other country has managed to accomplished.
But something was changing in the country. Something that would move the country in a whole new direction. We’ll discuss that in the next segment.