I can remember when my grandfather retired. For years, he had worked beyond the time permitted by his employer but the courthouse in his home town had burnt down and with it all the records were lost. His employer, Budd Wheel, had to accept his verbal authorization as to his age. He worked until almost age 80.
When he did officially retire, life was simple and relaxing for him. He sat on his porch in a rocker that he had from his days back on the farm. There was no State tax at that time and no City tax and my dad did his Federal tax return which consisted of two pages. He did not own a car or a TV and used the local streetcar to get around. The cost was a dime including a one-time transfer. When I think about it, life was really simple back then. I think the year was 1947.
In thinking about my early childhood, life really was simpler. No Internet, no cable, limited television if you had one, no iPads, just radio. Cars were more abundant after the War with AM radios, manual transmissions, no power steering or power brakes or power windows – at least for a car buying public that had a limited budget. I remember the ads for the new Airfoil Desoto.
You could get a new house for about $4,000 dollars and a new car cost about $850 dollars. A movie ticket was 30 cents and gasoline was 12 cents a gallon. Postage stamps were 3 cents. But in the mid-60s, things began to change. State and local taxes started along with the advent of technology. And the dreaded inflation began. I can remember brochures for houses that stated “consider buying now as prices are slated to go up soon.” And they did go up. My first home in 1969 cost $30,500 with a 2 car attached garage. The same home 10 years later was up to over $73,000 dollars.
I think the first biggest change that occurred was the fragmenting of our society. Television drew people inside; houses were on larger lots and people seemed to become more mobile, staying home less and less. In 1950, it took nearly 8 hours of driving to go from the City of Detroit to Ruth, Michigan where my Mother was born. Today, that drive is less than 2 hours via the expressway.
Everything seemed so much simpler back then. And it was. The selection of food was less than today but it also contained fewer preservatives and people were on less medication. People attended church on a regular basis and it seemed as if a great majority of my neighborhood kids, at that time, attended the local Catholic school.
I think the second biggest change was a breakdown in morality that occurred slowly over time. I can never remember theft being as much of a problem 70 years ago as it is today. People didn’t lock their doors and cars as they do today. Now we have car-jackings, home invasions, shop-lifting, even crash-and-grab or deliberate collisions into stores. Drugs have changed our society permanently. With drugs comes violence, much of it senseless as things like drive-by shootings. Also, sex was not as prevalent back then. Now sex sells cars, clothes, movies, and we have the “new morality” that says there should be no limit to sexual activity.
As people live longer, many older folks question their quality of life. These days, many are jammed into nursing homes called “assisted living residences.” There, over-medicated people walk around taking a dozen or more pills a day. Even our advertising says, “if you have a pain, a soreness, a difficulty with any activity or illness, we have a pill that will cure it.”
I sadly realize that those simpler times will never return. Somehow, though, we have to make an attempt to slow down the collision course we are on. People work 12 hour days on a regular basis; carry their cell phones and claim to be in “constant communication” with the rest of the world; never seem to eat together as families; and don’t even know the ages of their children.
I still think of my grandfather who worked more than 60 years but knew how to relax and enjoy his rocker. At the time of his death, he had been married to my grandmother for over 68 years and was laid to rest in a church that he visited every Sunday. He was no stranger to the God that he would spend an eternity with in a more simple time.