Opinion: The Good Old Days?

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Commentary by Ward Degler

The good old days weren’t all that good. And some were so bad I hope to never see them again.

Compare air quality today with the toxic brown haze that saturated some of our cities years ago. Steel mills and power plants once spewed stuff into the air that destroyed our health. Today, the skies are blue, not yellow.

At home, we heated with coal or wood. It not only polluted the air, but on winter mornings we froze until the house warmed up. You couldn’t see out of the windows because they were coated with ice. We used to stick pennies onto the ice until they stuck in place. My bedroom window had 150 pennies frozen onto it one winter.

How about automobiles? No one drove any car more than 25,000 miles. If you reached that milestone you just knew the thing was going to fall apart the next time you drove around the block. I’ve easily put more than 200,000 miles on every car I’ve owned in the past 20 years.

Back then we paid $2,000 for a new car every two years and drove it for 25,000 miles. Today, I buy a used car for the same amount and put 200,000 miles on it over five years. Duh!

Another thing: Even new cars had annoying rattles back then. Today’s uni-body construction makes for an eerily quiet ride. Rack and pinion steering ended forever the old multi-turn, loosey-goosey steering in the old machines.

Tires today move you around for an easy 50,000 miles or more. Back in the day you were lucky to get 5,000 miles on a set of bias ply tires. We used to get flat tires a lot back then, too. Some of today’s wheels are actually puncture proof.

Air conditioning? Hard to find a car today that doesn’t have it. Back in the day we didn’t know what air conditioning was. Most folks didn’t have AC in their homes, either. We just knew July and August were going to try to kill us.

Then there’s lawn mowers. I used to push a cranky old reel mower over our yard and then do the same for neighbors to earn spending money. My hands were constantly riddled with splinters from the wooden handle, and I always spent at least an hour sharpening and adjusting the blades.

For trimming we used a sickle and bulky shears that you had to squeeze with both hands. Today, I sit to mow, and I trim with an electric weed whip.

I agree that we have way too many choices today, and things cost more. But I’ll take that over the good old days every time.


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