Now, In Our Day: Part 5

Dan, the leader of a book discussion group, e-mailed this Will Rogers quote, “Things aren’t what they used to be and probably never were.” Nephew John sent a cartoon. A little boy says, “Grandpa, do you remember the good old days?” “I sure do, but we didn’t call them the good old days back then. We called them ‘these trying times.’”
I wrote last week that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. I assumed that the expression was probably defunct. I discovered that I was wrong when I looked it up on the Internet. No one knows its origin, but a word sleuth discovered that it has been used over three hundred times in news reports etc. Also, I heard it last week during a TV show. A handbasket is a small basket with a handle. Perhaps that was the kind that Ella Fitzgerald sang about. “A tisket, a tasket, I’ve lost my little basket.”
Thinking of that song brings back a memory of when Bill, Vicki and I heard the incomparable Ella sing it during a concert at the Clay Courts Tennis Complex. That’s the way an old mind works, you know. (I prefer “mature.”) One thing leads to many others. I loved it when Hal Holbrook, performing as Mark Twain, enacted “The Ram Story.” An old man sets out to tell how a sheep butted him in the rear. He digresses so much, chuckling and slapping his thighs, that he never gets to the end of the story.
Rambling on, the exchanges between the Supreme Court nominee and the Senate Judiciary Committee members made me think about how much times have changed. For example, the use of contraceptives even by married couples in the privacy of their own homes was illegal. When I was a teenager the word “pregnant” was a no-no. Instead, people said “She’s expecting . . . She’s got somethin’ cookin’ in the oven . . . She’s nine months . . . “
The Nominee related how his mother was asked during a job interview if she might become pregnant. Helen Ernstes, a Franklin Twp. teaching colleague, told me that when she taught at Frankfort she kept her marriage a secret for a year. “They had a strict policy of not employing married women.”
Many changes have been beneficial. However, I think that today’s extreme political correctness and protectiveness are going to transform the many-hued rainbow of American diversity that I greatly relish to dull gray or beige. “Greige,” I call it.
A couple of years ago I heard a news report about a grade-school boy who showed up for his class Christmas party, dressed in a Santa Claus costume. Eek! It might frighten the children, so he was sent home. Catholic priests and nuns dress in black, and Muslim women wear head coverings. Eek! Perhaps we should outlaw those overt symbols of religious belief lest they upset someone.
I believe that we’re in danger of raising a generation of fearful wimps. For example, in John’s and my day, at the intersection of two diagonal sidewalks in front of the old Knightstown Academy building, there was a large boulder upon which we played King of the Hill. A few kids would stand on it and fight off others who tried to push them off. Several years ago, I noticed that the boulder was gone. I called Sarah Ward. “What happened to our King-of-the-Hill rock. “Oh,” she said disgustedly, “Some bureaucrat decided it was dangerous and had it hauled away.”
Recently, I heard about a school district that was forbidding teeter-totters as dangerous. When we were first graders Sheila Jones and I loved to teeter-totter, and we never fell off. I don’t remember anyone falling from the schoolyard trapezes, either.
I do not gladly suffer fools. It strikes me that we are becoming a nation of overly protective, touchy-feely twits while accomplishing little about more serious dangers such as heroin addiction.