When I was a lad ...

Discussions unearthing human history including cultural anthropology, linguistics, etc.

When I was a lad ...

Postby BadgerJelly on September 12th, 2012, 5:35 am 

The Golden Age, Eden, Elysium Fields etc ...

The harping back to bygone times is something that is prevalent in society as much today as always ... or so it seems?

Does this aspect of humanity give us the ability to progress by constantly regrouping and aspiring to make our world better?

My thinking is that if there was ever a time when man was abundant then when could this have been?

Anyway I'll add to this once I get some replies.
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Re: When I was a lad ...

Postby Forest_Dump on September 12th, 2012, 3:27 pm 

Well, there was certainly no time when people were more abundant than they are now.

However, ideas about a past golden age are certainly common, particularly among those who don't know much about history. Often the idea has to dowith a past time when people were closer to god or the gods. Within Judeo-Christian ideology, this actually comes from beliefs common up to the 19th century that earliest people, i.e., Adam and Eve, lived very, very long, as did their descendants who often lived for hundreds of years because they were closer to the divine creation condition. This degeneration belief, which definitely does still live on, holds that through time, people didn't and don't live as long, are not as healthy, etc., because the divine power or whatever it is has become diluted through time. But of course, none of this holds up to empirical studies of bodies from the past, etc., that routinely find people had an average life span of 40, high infant mortality, etc.
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Re: When I was a lad ...

Postby DragonFly on September 12th, 2012, 4:33 pm 

Yes, the nostalgia are of sentimental times, we always leaving out such as these were the times of polio.

And poor old Methuselah… One day he didn't look both ways when crossing a path and was run over by a horse cart.
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Re: When I was a lad ...

Postby DragonFly on September 12th, 2012, 4:35 pm 

Now and Then

As Peter walked to call on Angelina, he saw the town in a much younger light, and so he ran his hand along a picket fence, counting heartbeats, and soon began to run like a child, still carefully not stepping on the cracks of the sidewalk, then paused, and noted the ants thriving in the furrows, and then wondered at a tree that buckled the cement as it ever so gently tilted the walking plane.

Somehow a few chestnut trees had survived the blight and had presented him once more with a gift of his youth, of the hidden visions of tire swings hung from a low branch, of a lemonade stand secure in the shade.

Out in the street, the back door of the bread wagon reopened once more and released its fresh baked aroma, as a young woman, now a grandmother who played cards, came out with a handful of nickels and dimes, and, like a serf brought into modern times, bought that which for her would have once taken three hours to bake.

On the steps of the houses rested newspapers and the ghostly images of the sturdy rounded bottles of clean white milk, compliments of Elsie the cow, truly a vision from the grazings of childhood.

Peter’s youth came flooding back as he walked, and he gave it life:

We used to lay out all of our baseball cards on the sidewalk, trading famous pitchers and batters, and looking up their stats. My friend had seven Mickey Mantle cards, but wouldn’t trade even one to me. My friend’s mother always gave him enough money to buy the whole box when a new series came out. Now, grown up, I play another kind of game in which I juggle workers, go to bat at work each day, make a lot of hits, and some errors, and look at stats like stocks and bonds.

We played games on the sidewalks, too, like hopscotch, roller-skating, and marbles. My assorted marbles were my bag of jewels. One day I brought to school a cool green cat’s eye, a big blue boulder, and various pockmarked throwaways. Never mind that the marbles got scratched on the concrete, although we always started on the dirt. There was nothing like that long roll and a hit!

And on carefree summer days, we’d swim in the public pool, jump off the high board, or dive off the pool side after a penny, retrieving it from the bottom, near the big drains. On the way home, we’d stop for a Green River soda and a movie.

What do I do now that I’ve grown old? Well, I do the same kinds of things, for, luckily, I never grew up.

Peter saw a lush garden, lovingly attended by an old lady, and many bees and butterflies, and indulged further flights of fancy into his youth:

As children, and even now, if we’re young at heart, we’d always pause in play when the first butterfly fluttered by, that fragile ephemeral vision of something Heavenly—a flower floating on air perhaps. This event signaled that our endless summer had begun, that something called ‘school’ was now an ancient artifact of the past.

The butterfly first arose from the soul of the pansy, said a legend, one of those inexplicable edenesque transformations from long before human time, when there was still magic on the earth. The metamorphosis is still rather miraculous, even now, albeit only from a caterpillar. Amazingly, butterflies, fragile as they seem, fly all the way to Mexico, taking their sweet time, fluttering here, alighting there, meandering from flower to flower. One wonders how they ever get anywhere. We can learn from them that there is often more fun along the way than when we ‘get there’.

Peter leaned over the fence to smell a flower and a thousand memories reoccurred:

Each Morning Glory blossom lives for but a single day, and is replaced by another as the next day dawns, each flower in succession shining in its morning glory, wilting in the noon heat, withering in the afternoon, languishing in the evening, and then dying in the night. Their message to us remains: a new day will always come on.

There’s a bright flower.

I’ve always been intrigued by the Amaranth, for its leaves never fade in color, even long after death, remaining a vivid red for ever and ever. Could it be that some portion of the eternalness of the Infinite has somehow made it into the unfading red leaf of this flower?

A snapdragon appeared.

You had to know just where and how to hold Snapdragons, just around the crease, then slowly they would open on the unsuspecting person and then SNAP! Got you!

There, galaxies of sunflowers.

The luminosity was blinding, so to speak, as when we had discovered a field of Sunflowers in the yard of the old abandoned house where we weren’t supposed to play. We learned how to dry the seeds so we could eat them, each still a glowing ember of memory, even up to now, of those bright days in the land of a thousand suns.

Then there were the elfin goblets.

We humans, too, can drink from the little yellow flowers that populate every lawn, those buttercup potions of lively yellow light, the color that is the easiest and the quickest to see; yellow flowers grab our attention so they can take us into the secret realm of fairies, elves, pixies, fays, goblins, trolls, and sprites.

Ah, nasturtiums.

We called them ‘Nasties’, for they had a real sharp taste, but we were still fond of their colors, and besides, they grew in Grandma’s yard, where every turn of the eye took one back to the times that were safe and secure, for, when we were young, this had been our whole world.

Purple crocus was still vibrant, with its golden grains inside, demonstrating the complimentary colors of spring, seen also in the yellow primrose and its romantic friend, the purple violet. It’s the loving sun, as it were, warming the virginal earth, with love and life, into spring.

And then there were the weeds—honored because the plant that is the most alive is the one that is the wildest, and, therefore, the dandelion is the most ever present flower, although it’s better known as a weed. Of course, when its dried blossom is blown with a puff, it turns into just so much fluff, reminding us that someday we, too, must lie amid the dust.

I’d walk down to the stream with my sister and we’d pick the yellow St. John’s Wort and put them in a basket for a table centerpiece. Then we’d pick some dandelions and make a salad of some of them, while dad made wine from the remainder.

We had a strawberry patch and also a grape arbor, too. Following their progress each day, we’d beat the squirrels to the berries, eating them fresh, always forgetting to wash them, and, after driving the birds from the grapes, we’d eat them, too, sour as they were, spitting out the seeds. We had a good cherry tree for awhile, too, until it fell in a storm.

I like flowers that are outside of a garden even better. Sometimes flowers grow in strange places, as along a rocky path, and, as such, they give a greater pleasure, in a way, than they could in a whole garden. In later life, I would often think of these flowers when I found pleasure in the midst of a rocky work day, pausing for fun, mixing work and play into life’s bouquet, always stopping to smell the flowers.

Where did all the flowers come from and thrive? Legends say that fairies tend the flowers, and that there are invisible, funnel-like entrances to other worlds, nearby, especially in flower circles, such as to fairy kingdoms, the small end hard to find at first, but easy to get funneled back out of, worlds that are difficult to tell apart from our own except by their more vivid colors and subtle differences; so—upon entering one, I wasn’t sure where I was exactly, but then I saw a pterodactyl flying by!

Peter walked on, seeing a lake with old broken down vacation cabins all around it, and, since he was in a such a youthful mood, it brought to mind his own vacations as a boy:

Of course we were never ‘there yet’ when we asked it early on in the vacation trip, but, soon we tired of asking and dozed off into a warm sleep, the fight for the window seat long forgotten, and, when we awoke, there it was, a crystal blue lake just beyond the turn, seen through the trees.

“We’re there,” said dad. We’d dig the worms at night and keep them moist, get up with the sun, and walk down to the pier to fish before it got too hot for them to bite, then bait the hook and catch them, keeping only the big ones. Skin them and cook them up for lunch and dinner. This is America Remembered.

Dad was always out fishing on our vacations and caught many fish in his time, although he often came back with none. I went a few times, and my brother Mike more often. I see now that fishing has a little to do with fish but with warm sun, cool breezes, moist air, watery smells, and peace and quiet. We wore our life preservers all day long, even on land. One time, leaning over the pier for a closer look at the fish darting in the water, I fell in and went straight to the bottom, then pushed up with my feet, swimming with the fishes for an exciting instant, then surfaced just like a rocket, my new lifejacket working fine, now all broken-in.

All sorts of water craft are seen on the lakes these days, such as wind surfers, jet-skis, and even submersibles. Yes, water has been conquered and we can almost walk on it, well, at least glide on it, but give me a rowboat with my paramour in it with m and we’ll drift under the branches near the shore and have all the adventuring that we need.

My brothers and I loved our first motorized rowboat We had puttered over to that mysterious island five miles out into the lake. There we found—nothing—but we camped on shore and had lunch and felt like pirates the rest of the day, telling no one about it until a whole day later.

Our shore house was crudely made out of whole logs, and we used it for drying fish and towels, and the owners used it for parking the boats during the winter. It had an open front and was a shady place to sit and hang out and tell some stories and smoke, and, oh yes, kiss a girl.

Often, we and our vacation girlfriends would take the dirt road from our vacation cottage to the garbage dump at twilight, where we’d watch the bears forage for scraps. However, one night there wasn’t much food to be found, and then the bears turned and looked over at us.

Then there were the rainy days. Mother would call out during the storm and say “Don’t you have enough sense to come in out of the rain?” but we liked being in the rain—that’s what made it fun. Nowadays, unless we wear sun block, the sun is considered dangerous, and the mothers say, “Don’t you have enough sense to come in out of the sunlight?”

Anyway, as soon as the sun came out after a storm, we’d run out to see if there was a rainbow, that shimmering otherworldly vision which seemed to belong more to the world of angels and fairies than to humans, and there it was, always magical, and ever revealing the deep and colorful secrets of ‘simple’ white light.

Then the rainbow faded. Once upon a time there was gold at the end of the rainbow, but now we find toxic gases and chemicals there, so, the message for today is an I.O.U. written there, instead of gold, that says we’d better take care of the colors of the sky, or nature will be no more.

What strange colors lie beyond the rainbow? What unknown colors hide between blue and green? How are millions of colors made from just the three primaries? Why do the wavelengths of light form colors in our minds? Why is the sky blue? Well, I’ll tell you one thing: color was invented in the 60‘s; for proof, just look at TV shows made before then!

Oh, those hot summer days! To keep cool in summer we once carried fans, pinwheels, parasols, and sucked on a piece of ice. We’d leave the sweltering house to make for a cool stream, pool, or glade, but now we have electricity to run motorized fans, tVs, the internet, and air-conditioners, so we stay in the house all day long!

In those really old days, real scandals, not just idle rumors, could be learned of by eavesdropping on the party line, for one couldn’t help but accidentally overhear a few words when trying to make a call, and, if it was more interesting than watching the grass grow, then we’d have to hear the whole story, although it was sometimes difficult to keep quiet.

Before we had a telephone, our information was communicated by tell-a-woman! Now, these days, we talk to answering machines, computers, or solicitors, and many think that a cellular phone is a necessity, but I feel that life should be taken in easy steps, so, if you’re not there when the phone rings, you’re not there, because you’re doing something else and don’t want to be disturbed!

We looked for bottles to get the two cent deposit, especially on playgrounds, and collected popsicle sticks to glue together into little boxes. Then I got hooked on cigarette packs, sometimes finding a smoke left inside, but my mother threw them all away. Even now my hand still tries to pick them up when I spot one. We took the returnable bottles to the corner market. Larger than a corner store, the corner market carried all that we needed, especially vegetables and fresh fruits over brimming with their natural healthiness and normal color.

Not touching the apples, or anything else for that matter, was nearly impossible for a young child, for the shiny red apple called out, “Touch me, buy me, eat me,” and so, before the mind knew what the hand was doing, a bite had been taken—and trouble was at hand, but it was crispy, sweet. I ate plums on the way home; they were soft, ripe, and juicy, and dripping down the front of my shirt. I rode my bike everywhere. Once, I rode up and down the steep hill, hoping that my bad brakes still worked, but my brakes broke and so I went flying into a bush.

Another time, I fell on my roller skates at the same place. Now I drive my car on that killer hill and have finally learned to be careful there—yes, I’m finally getting over the hill!

On Memorial Day, then called Decoration Day, we’d run crepe paper through the spokes of our bike wheels and ride along at the back of the parade after we’d watched it from the curb side and waved our flags. Now, not much happens on Memorial Day; it’s a pretty dead day, but that is only fitting.

I saw a penny on the ground once, and picked it up for good luck or bad, heads or tails. And I always picked up a pin—more good luck. And I must nail a horseshoe on a front door. I had a friend who once found a horseshoe all of the sudden—it was very bad luck for him that it was still on the horse’s foot!

I saved a lot of coins as a boy, mostly ones that dad gave me, but also traded in dollars at the bank for rolls, finding a few old dimes and steel pennies therein, not yet so scarce as they are now. I found the collection in the basement the other day; the hunt for the 1950D nickel goes on.

We used the rest of our money to buy candy and ice cream. We were afraid of the scissors grinding man, but we all screamed when the ice cream man came ringing down the street. After a scramble for loose change, we’d cut him off on the next block, always asking for a piece of dry ice to play with, when he reached way way back into the cart to retrieve our cones.

Reading was our other diversion, after playing, in the old days, since there was no TV. Children’s books were lavishly illustrated, as seen now in the libraries’ special collections. Chromolithographic colors were vivid but laborious to create; yes, they just don’t make colors like that anymore.

Then there were the parks, and the graveyards. Rural cemeteries were meant to be used as parks way back when, and so ours became a familiar place, especially the duck pond where we’d give the ducks stale bread, but then we’d run away when the geese stampeded us.

Years later I returned with my sweetheart, like a duck that had been away for too many summers.

At the park, there were monkey bars for the climbers, swings for the movers, seesaws teeter tottering for the restless, and a sandbox for the diggers, even a refreshing sprinkler to go into afterwards, but there was always some kid sitting right on top of the sprinkler, blocking the spray.

Other hobbies were making model airplanes; we coated them with extra glue, then set them on fire and threw them into the air, as flaming wrecks. We did other crafts, as well. Greeting cards were made only by hand, using colored paper decorated with assorted scraps saved from magazines, with some lace, perhaps, or ribbons, writing an original message on it. Nowadays, we buy an expensive, dumb looking card with fluffy words already on it and give it, but in a day or two it is in the trash, for it wasn’t a keepsake.

Then there was stealing apples. As soon as we knew that our neighbor was occupied, we’d climb her fence and scramble up onto her garage, from where we could bend down the apple branches and steal some good ones before we got yelled at, for nothing tasted better than a stolen apple, sour as it was!

Autumn was great, too. Who ever remembers the leaves but the child in you who raked them into a pile, so that it could be jumped into. Some days later, the by now dispersed pile was regathered for a few last jumps and then lit with a match; ah, the wonderful smell of burning leaves on a cool autumn night.

Peter thought of Angelina as he entered her neighborhood:

I first learned about love from some postcards that I’d found in the attic, old ones showing the formalities of hand kissing, the language of the flowers, and other such courtship rituals. So, when I bowed down and kissed the hand of the girl down the street, inviting her to play in the sandbox, she most readily accepted.

Also in the attic, I saw an old sepia print of a young lady. She was my grandfather’s sweetheart, his paramour. He gave her the gift of the spring flowers, the wealth of the summer hours, the colorful walks of autumn, and the winter’s warm fire. The spirit of love still lives in them, calling them back, to/from somewhere in time.

He still wears a hat. Men always wore hats in the old days. I can remember trying on my father’s many hats, but women still wear hats, although less and less, and not as fancy as before. Now we’re lucky to find any hats, for we must wear many hats in life, and so we wear none. As for dad’s hats, they’re gone; they’re all old hat now.

Peter gazed across the river at the place he worked at:

It was the view that the Indians had. The river cliffs were behind the corporation parking lot, just beyond the trees, and offered a stunning view of the Hudson River from on high; it felt like you were floating in the air, and so you’d look and look, for you could hardly take it all in at once; however, the workers didn’t go there much; they were all too busy! Plus, there is a fence blocking the path.

Simple pleasures today are as free as ever, like the sights, sounds, and scents of nature, the giving one’s self, riding a bike, going on a picnic, the starry night sky, playing cards on the porch, writing a letter, reading a book, rowing a boat, walking with your sweetheart…

Hard to ever get bored, isn’t it?
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Re: When I was a lad ...

Postby genemachine on September 12th, 2012, 7:12 pm 

Nostalgia is not what it used to be.

Re: When I was a lad ...

Postby BadgerJelly on September 12th, 2012, 7:18 pm 

Dump - I have realised I didn't make it clear ... I meant abundant NOT in the sense of population size but the abundance of natural resources and space to expand into.

The effects of Danau Toba going off drastically reduced the population too. After this fallout though I am not sure how longit was before the ecology settled again.

I guess what I am asking is if there was ever a point in human history where we had leisure time due to natural abundance then when would this time have been in prehistory?
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Re: When I was a lad ...

Postby Ecurb on September 12th, 2012, 7:33 pm 

Anthropologists think that small groups of hunters and gatherers had ample leisure time. In addition, they were healthier and more robust than the farmers who followed (and dramatically healthier than the civilized humans of Egypt and Mesopotamia).

The population pressures that led to civilization (note that civilizations arose in fertile river valleys surrounded by deserts, so migration was difficult) led to increased work load, disease, and a far worse diet (at least for most people). I read one study that stated that hunters and gatherers "worked" about 3 hours a day (I can't remember the reference). Of course, they also had far fewer luxuries than we do. If we were willing to live outdoors with few possessions, we could cut down on our work load, too.

Re: When I was a lad ...

Postby BadgerJelly on September 12th, 2012, 8:48 pm 

By luxuries I guess you mean pointless BS that we don't need? :P

I would very much appreciate it if you could direct me to these studies PLEASE!!

That said I have seen a few documentaries about hunter gatherers today and they seem pretty happy ... until the "civilized world" sticks its finger in.

The population pressures that led to civilization (note that civilizations arose in fertile river valleys surrounded by deserts, so migration was difficult)

This is something I am not sure about (I do know my ancient history btw) because I see no reason for large communities not to live more in mainland Europe. I have seen a few fascinating references to what appears to be a clay model of a building complete with HUGE head "chimney"? and an alter in it. Stone Age.

I am not suggesting huge cities but more of a nomad clan mentality with structures built for storage, ceremonies, shelter etc. Lack of physical evidence would be expected because of the terrain and climate.
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