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Monday, May 30, 2016

Gray Matters: The good old days

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Living as I do, surrounded by "oldsters," it is not surprising that the subject of the good old days comes up frequently.

As these accounts, and the attitudes of their tellers, vary so widely, I have arrived at an interesting conclusion.Just as our views of things that happen to us each day depend on our perspective, I expect the same applies to times gone by. I am reminded of a piece I wrote many years ago on this very subject.

I had been asked what things were like on Main Street there in our little western Cherokee County town fifty years before. I pointed out that, though cars and trucks were coming into their own, the regular arrivals and departures of "passengers" and "freights" still surged like a second heartbeat.

The chuffing of the steam engines and their clear, sharp whistle formed a backdrop for all activity.Kids seldom had watches.They didn't need them.The whistle of the 5:30 p.m. "local" gave a lad ample time to get home from the sandlot ball game in time for supper.

When I wrote that, I looked back at papers published fifty years earlier and found mention of several other matters. The class play, which had been held the previous week, was given a fine review. The issue just before that had featured an ad sponsored by 26 local merchants urging everyone to see the play. Now this was to be the week of Public School Commencement. (Holy Name exercises were to be held a week later).

Class colors were emerald and canary and the flower was the yellow rose. The class motto was "Rowing, Not Drifting," and Guy M. Gillette who later became the only U.S. Senator from Cherokee County, was the featured speaker.

Sharing front-page honors with Commencement was the account of Memorial Day plans.The observations would be enlivened by the presence of the two remaining Civil War Veterans, N.T. Wells and Ed Rose.The latter, Marcus township's first homesteader, had just celebrated his 90th birthday.

Two deaths were reported, and it was told that a twister had done minor damage on a farm south of town. Club women from Marcus had attended the IFWC Biennium held in Sioux City. It was also noted on the front page that Norma Anderson had won third in statewide poster competition for the Humane Society and Mary Zembsch, Margaret Collins, Loren Means and Nicholas Alesch had taken honors in the Poppy Poster Contest.

But back to the matter of whose view we should acceptÖEd Rose would probably have told you thatit was a totally unremarkable year compared with the adventure and excitement of sixty years earlier when the area was just opening up for newcomers like himself.

In that May of 1929, unbeknownst to all, economic disaster lay just ahead with the Depression, slight recovery and then war. But to those students whose lives were filled with parties, the class play and graduation, those recollections were bound to be recalled to the end of their days through an aura of golden memory.

Now, as you see the dilemma we meet in describing the good old days, I expect you will agree with me that it must always remain a matter of perspective.