Monday, October 28, 2013

Doing The Best You Can

There are times when I tire of ragging on politicians or discussing economics issues. These are important, and I do devote most of the time I spend writing in that arena. Besides, ragging on politicians suits my temperament. But let's go on to another area for a change.

I have titled this little essay, "Doing The Best You Can". Back, through the early part of my life, that was the way most Americans lived. People did the best they could. It was a far more Spartan time. At least it was in the northeast where we lived. You see, like most of the young people I knew, I never left New England until I was in college. Most people did not own their own homes. They mostly lived in"flats" in two and three decker houses and paid rent to the landlord. In poorer areas some of these houses were four or even five floors. No elevators and possibly no hot water.

Since most families had only one car, if they had any at all, people crowded into the cities where they had access to public transportation. The cars were a true joy in those days. You had to change the oil every thousand miles or the engine wouldn't last. The cars required new plugs and points about every five thousand miles. At about forty thousand there would be rust showing through the paint. The heaters wouldn't keep you warm if the outside temperature got down to fifty and there was no such thing as air conditioning.

World War Two came along and all the young men went to Europe or the Pacific to fight for freedom. The women went to work in the factories because somebody had to. There were food shortages. But we survived. You couldn't buy tires or gasoline. But there was no place to go anyway. The movies were not only the best source of entertainment but also the best source of news. Most people don't know but the old Movietone Company, the people that made Movietone News, was the pioneer company that brought sound to movies with the audio track on the film. Their Movietone news was how the people in the US saw the war. To civilians who had never seen war, the images were frightening and compelling. It wasn't until the fifties that Timex brought John Cameron Swayze into the country's living rooms nightly to show and explain the Korean War on that little ten inch black and white TV.

When WWII was over the returning GIs wanted to own their own homes and live a life that their parents couldn't conceive. The plat was born. Rows of small houses on equally small lots. Hock your future to the bank and you could be a property owner. They did. By the thousands. And they discovered what a smart move they had made. The value of those little houses went up faster than anyone could have foreseen. That gave these families a leg up on a better future. My wife and I brought up three daughters in one of these houses. Fourteen hundred square feet, one bathroom, three bedrooms. Small, crowded, but ours and we were happy to have it.

You see, back in those days, you didn't have MacMansions. People mostly bought used cars. A trip to a restaurant was a rarity for a special occasion. Only the rich and business people flew in airplanes. Common folk took the train or drove. And there was no Disneyland. But we did well doing good. We coped because we were doing the best we could.

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