Kent Bernhardt: Want a ride in my time machine?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 13, 2017

There’s a question I’ve been pondering lately: When exactly were the good ol’ days?

I used to think I had the answer to that question, but now I’m not so sure. Most of us have a tendency to conjure up a magical era in the past that fits our idea of the perfect time and place we were the happiest; a time when life made more sense.

I hear more and more people wishing they could go back to that time in their lives. Sometimes I do too.

But the more I think about it, the more complicated that question gets.

A few years ago, I would’ve told you my good ol’ days were back in the mid to late 1960s. I was rounding the corner from my elementary school years into junior high. There was little responsibility in my life outside of mowing the lawn and getting my homework done. I had a roof over my head, three square meals a day, a mom and dad who loved me, and plenty of friends around.

Who wouldn’t want to return to such a time? I have to admit, the idea is pretty tempting. So, if I could throw a switch and send us all back there, would you want to ride along?

Think of it. You open your eyes and The Beatles are still together. That classic Mustang you always wanted would be rolling off the assembly line in mint condition. You could buy a week’s worth of groceries for under twenty bucks.

But there’s also the down side.

We’d live through the agony and horror of Vietnam all over again. Our nation would be torn asunder over that and many other social issues that haven’t really gotten better over time.

And yes, you could buy a week’s worth of groceries for under twenty bucks, but that would even out after you factor in the amount of your take home pay.

So even the good ol’ days might look a lot like today, when you get right down to it.

I heard this discussion at a nearby booth in a local restaurant recently. An older man, complaining about the state of the world today, was yearning for return to a simpler time. He was tired of modern technology, the unrest in our country and the world, and disrespectful kids.

I suddenly realized he was tired of all the same things I heard people complain about while I was growing up — in the 1960s. I had heard all of this before.

“TV is going to ruin us all. Kids sit in front of it all day and they watch mindless programming. There’s nothing really good on anymore, and the news reporting by all of the networks is biased.”

“Oh, and the music these disrespectful kids listen to – forget it. There’s nothing on the radio but that screaming by long-haired hippies. All our kids are doing drugs because of it. And if you play the music backwards, you can hear them talking about Satan. I’ve worn out three record needles just screening my kids’ music.”

The whole world was going to hell in a hand basket, I kept hearing. I never saw this hand basket, but I heard an awful lot about it back in my good ol’ days.

Which brings me to my point: Were things really better back then, or does it just seem like it as I view that time through my rose colored glasses?

Was life really better when we had to worry about polio, and little could be done to fight cancer and heart disease? Were we better off when we ran out of gas on a dark country road late at night and couldn’t whip out a smart phone to call for help?

Was TV better? Movies? Some yes, some no. I recently re-watched a few movies from my childhood that weren’t quite as good as I remembered them.

Was the world a better place to live? Frankly, we’re still struggling with many of the same issues we faced then. Maybe we just noticed it less then because it was easier to get away from it. But anger and discontent was still all around us.

So when someone invites you to step into their time machine to return to a simpler time, consider it carefully.

That trip to the past may look an awful lot like today.

Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

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