The good old days weren’t so good

To the editor:

My father was born in the dead of winter exactly 100 years ago during the time of the great Spanish flu pandemic that killed 20-50 million people worldwide. America and northern Maine was not spared as there was no protection against the flu back then. My grandmother, who was 53, had had 13 children before the pandemic. This time she had twins, but my father’s twin sister did not survive the winter.

On an almost daily basis, I am confronted with the exclamation that it would be the best of all possible worlds if one could just return to those idyllic and mythical days of years past, just to be rid of all the pains, agony and hardships of modern day living.

There was no electricity up here on the border (it was quite spotty in the U.S. in 1919), nor were there cars, trucks, TVs, vacuums, sewage lines, plumbing, faucets, penicillin, phones, etc. In other words, the times were almost foreign to the modern sensibilities of 2019. But many, mostly those over 50, would just love to return to those good old days.

In 1919, up here in the wilds of Aroostook County, one’s whole existence was spent working 12/14 hour days, sunrise to sunset, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. All of it was hard labor, almost all of it done by hand. Woman had anywhere from 7 to 15 kids. The men tilled the land either by hand or with the help of their horses or oxen, all of which had to be fed and taken care of. There was no running water, no toilets. All food was raised by hand, all of it dug up and stored in cold storage or canned. Medical care was practically non-existent. There were no retirement homes, no social security to retire on, in fact, not much of any security at all except ones land and house.

Yet a good portion of our citizens, in fits of nostalgia, today pine to return to those good old times.

Humans love myths. They love the stories they create in their minds, real or unreal. The good old days is one of these myths. There is no going back.

Who would want to wake up at 4 a.m., put wood in the stove, haul or pump water from the well, make breakfast from scratch, go to the barn and feed all the animals, tend to the garden, wash clothes by hand, harness the horses, work 8-10 hours in the fields, etc., and then repeat on the following day, every day, for the rest of one’s life.

Myth about good old times and reality collide head on here, and reality, like old age, wins, as it always does.

James P. Chasse

St Agatha

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