Wednesday | September 20, 2017
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These are the Good Old Days


New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES — Among the more popular Internet offerings for those who dwell in half-formed memories are a large number of videos aimed at that portion of the population who can’t get over The Good Old Days.

It is a time in their lives pictured in the kind of soft amber light that illuminates dreams and fairy tales. Everything was more fun and safer too in the fuzzy recollections of those looking back over their shoulders at yesteryear.

The streams of photographs offered by the Internet depict kids in overalls playing with tops or marbles during long summer twilights or racing back and forth across virtually traffic-free streets playing tag, hide and seek, kick the can and one foot off the gutter.

They were scenes out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

We see a Ford Model-A and a 1934 Plymouth with a rumble seat, and a horse-drawn wagon invariably ridden by an old man hollering “Rags, bottles, sacks” as he rolls past an ice delivery truck and a house for rent at $20 a month.

Food prices were lower back then, gasoline sold for pennies a gallon, tickets for a movie were a nickel and music possessed lyrics with the tempos of poetry.

Those days, those Good Old Days, predated the shattering thump of rock ‘n’ roll, scary streets, terrifying traffic, the annoyance of cellphones and the escalation of gangs, drive-by shootings and home-invasion robberies.

But, hey, wait a minute. Weren’t they also the Good Old Days of the Great Depression and World War II when kids died of polio and wars killed young men still in their teens on battlegrounds 10,000 miles away?

Wasn’t there pain back then and sorrow beyond tears?

I grew up through those years of terrible need and fear, when hunger was a mass reality, jobs were nonexistent and homelessness for entire families was just a month’s rent away. Parents eased their frustrations with alcohol and directed free-floating outbursts of rage toward their children.

The rise of wartime industries ended the Depression but brought agony to the Gold Star Mothers of sons killed in war, their screams of grief trailing down the streets where we played hopscotch and kickball. I can remember their names and I never have stopped seeing their faces.

The past was sepia toned, not golden, and the rhythms were the bass drums of bombs.

When you think about it, we’re living in the Good Old Days of tomorrow right now, and they’ll look back in the year 3000 to a time when we flew into space in search of new worlds, when drugs and surgical procedures saved lives, when compassion to all living creatures was a mantra, when global awareness was born, when thinkers and artists were among our heroes and war was less than glorious.

One can only hope the Good Old Days of generations hence live up to their billing and become the Better Old Days in the futures beyond time.

Al Martinez writes for the Los Angeles Daily News. He can be reached at


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