Skip to content

Trail Blazers: 'The good old days?'

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives.

by Sarah Benson-Lord

Trail Museum and Archives

Looking back 100 years, the June 27, 1924 Trail News ran an interesting editorial piece out of the U.S. imploring its readers to consider a stance of gratitude when assessing the world in which they live. 

That message of recognition of all we have is a constant in our contemporary practices of peace-finding and self-contentment. 

A disclaimer about the clear ageism this piece promotes right from the start; it was a different time, indeed. Even at 100 years old, the message resonates and perhaps, very little has actually changed. 

“If you sit down with a group of men past fifty, it won’t be long until you hear something about ‘the good old days.’ But nothing is said about the hotel room with bowl and pitcher and slop jar, a dirty piece of soap, a hairbrush on a chain, a roller towel, and a sink that stinks. 

When you hear some of these old moss-backs talking about ‘the good old days,’ just remind them of the old fly-brush going during meal time and the white winged brigade following the horses on the streets with shovels and push carts. When every home had a fence around it and the husband came home at night with his breath reeking of stale beer, limburger, and onions. When you read your book at night beside an ill-smelling coal-oil lamp and had to take off the chimney and trim the wick at intervals. When you heated a kettle of hot water on Saturday night and took your bath on a rubber mat on the kitchen floor. When the pictures on the parlor walls were crude crayon portraits of stern men with long beards and shriveled women in lace caps. 

‘Good old days,’ indeed! When you never saw an orange except at Christmas time and never tasted ice cream except on the Fourth of July, or at some grand social affair. When the county fair was the one big show of the year and the little children played with empty spools and corn cobs. 

Why, we live more in one glad week today than we did then in a whole year. We have oranges for breakfast almost the entire year-round. We have hot running water upstairs and down, and we bathe in clean porcelain bath tubs and tiled showers. We throw away beautiful calendars with colored pictures that people would have been proud to hang in the parlors in ‘those good old days.’ We drive twenty miles of an evening over paved roads, in soft cushioned cars, to see a moving picture that takes us around the world, and come back to a home that is warmed by furnace heat. 

We step to a little instrument upon a stand in the hall and talk to our distant friends instantly. We tune in on a radio and listen to a band playing hundreds of miles away. We go out to the front step and pick up the evening paper and read a full account of an earthquake disaster in Japan that happened the same day. We read of a big ship in mid-ocean that is in distress and learn that other vessels are steaming to her aid. 

We press a button and the house is flooded with light, we turn a little dial on the wall and know that though the thermometer falls below zero, the house will have a temperature of seventy when we awake in the morning. We drop our soiled linen into a clothes chute in the wall and it goes to the laundry in the cellar, where an electric washing machine awaits it. Frigid air in the ice chest keeps the food fresh and the housewife touches a match to the burner under the oven in the kitchen range, adjusts a heat regulator, puts in the meat for supper, and goes away to spend the afternoon while the evening meal is cooking. Our windows are screened against flies and bugs in the summer and weather stripped for the winter. We go farther, stay longer, and get back quicker than we ever did before. 

Don’t let the old fellows deceive you, my son, about ‘the good old days.’” 

Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

Read more