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How bad were the good old days?

January 19, 2012

Being somewhat the same vintage as Francis Adams (“A witness to big changes in America”, Dec. 27), I agree with much of what was noted as being positive about the 1930s, although not corporal punishment in schools.

However, the rosy look-back at that era is seriously flawed by ignoring the flaws of the time — a common problem with reviews of “the good old days.”

There was a lot that wasn't good about the ’30's. I lost a grandfather and an aunt, as well as having been bedridden myself for many months — all from diseases and conditions that are easily treatable or preventable today.

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I vividly remember the fear of getting polio that ran rampant every summer, particularly for children. Picture, if you will, iron lungs and their paralyzed inhabitants lined up one after another in medical wards.

The Great Depression was a disaster for millions. I vividly remember my father coming home one afternoon to tell us that we were going to lose our house. This didn't happen through some unusual good fortune.

First Class postage cost 3 cents, but wages were a fraction of what they are today. An hour of pay for my first job would buy eight stamps. Today's minimum wage job will provide around 20 stamps for an hour’s wages.

And were those good times for blacks, the Chinese and other racial minorities? Absolutely not. But maybe Adams doesn't think that they deserved consideration as equal human beings.

And let's not forget the lack of respect for the law and the vicious crime of the early 30's that accompanied Prohibition. And finally, even as a youngster, I recognized the ominous black clouds gathering with the ascent of murderous regimes in Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan.

The black clouds depressingly parted for the West in 1939, revealing the German blitzkrieg invasion of Poland, initiating a horrifying world war that killed millions and tore our world asunder for five years.

Yes, there were some good elements to life in the 30's that earn my nostalgia, and there are serious negatives in today's world. But on balance, I'd rather be growing up now than in those “good old days.”

Robert Morrison

Glendale

 
 

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