John Brock: How does everyday life compare between today and pre-1950?

  • Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Those of us who were alive during the 1940s would have little problem adapting to that era once again. But it wouldn’t be as much fun as it was then. We enjoy talking about how it “used to be” but in reality we probably don’t want to revert to those days — at least not permanently.

A graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, who was born in 1974, wrote her graduate school thesis about life before mid-century when technology did not reign supreme. In order to speak with authority, she spent a month forgoing any modern convenience that did not exist before 1950. She found it interesting and enlightening concerning the ease with which we face everyday life in the 21st century. Indeed, we expect life to be convenient today but that, of course, has not always been the way it was.

The graduate student remarked after only a couple of weeks into her experiment: “It’s amazing. I literally feel like I have 40 hours in a day. I realize now how much time was sucked up with TV and more specifically the Internet and E-mail.”

She also discovered that much is missing in life because of our preoccupation with things that did not exist before 1950. For instance there was no Internet, E-mail, Twitter, Tweet or television. Television was around but for very few folks in 1950. So were washing machines, dishwashers and clothes dryers but not many families could afford them. No microwaves, fast-food franchises, frozen dinners, Teflon, coated aspirin, touch-tone phones, debit cards, disposable diapers, paper towels, garbage disposals, voice mail, Botox, body enhancements, digital cameras, amplified musical instruments, etc.

Antibiotics were just appearing on the scene but in limited forms. Air conditioners were as sparse as honest politicians (some things never change) in either auto or home. Only the theaters and some department stores were “cooled.”

Stop for a moment and consider all of the other everyday things that were not readily available until after 1950. Compact discs, computers, ATMs, DVDs, bar codes, transistors were not available as consumer products — eliminating most of the modern electronic toys we enjoy today such as calculators, computers, electronic games, cell phones, iPods, MP-3 instruments, and so on. We could continue but you get the picture.

What did we do then?

Well, we enjoyed reading, conversation and familial involvement. We ate meals at a table in front of family instead of the television. We spoke of the day’s activities — work, school, friends, etc. We enjoyed further conversation as we washed and dried the dishes — by hand! Then, we went out on the porch in warm weather; enjoyed the cool breezes and chatted. Sometimes, we would even sing together.

We spent more time outdoors enjoying the wonders of nature rather than manmade things. We went to church more and to frequent public gatherings. We visited the library and each other more. And we enjoyed it all! We thought our lives were full! And they were.

Folks born and raised after 1950 don’t realize how much life has changed and how easy we have it today compared to our grandparents.

If I were a college professor again, I would consider a social history experiment engaging my students to live just one week without conveniences not known until the second half of the 20th century. They would each be required to write a report at the end of the week about their experience. I think the students would evolve much more appreciation of their modern existence.

The world was kinder and gentler in those days. I miss it! But life moves on.

Pistol blowback

In a recent column I suggested that US Veterans should be allowed to get a concealed gun permit without the expensive and time-consuming process presently required. The easier road to a concealed permit would be based on commonsense and their vast experience in the use of multiple weapons. I think it makes sense and would make this world a safer place.

One reader pointed out a reasonable exception. He suggested that military experience did not include instruction of current laws regarding possession and use of a concealed weapon. He is absolutely right. I noted that an honorable discharge and background checks should also be a requirement.

Therefore, I propose an easy path for veterans but only after they have been provided with a manual involving current laws and then tested on their knowledge. Getting a CWP permit for qualified veterans should no be harder and more expensive than getting a driver’s license.


John Brock lives in Georgetown County and can be reached by mail at this newspaper or via E-mail: brock@johnbrock.com. His Website can be found at www.SouthernObserver.com.

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.


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