Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. In a Century

 

An old country girl now in her 80s reflected the other day on how much life has changed since she was a kid. It wasn’t the usual story of colorless television and walking to school with a lunch pail. There was no TV in her small town.

Baths were on Saturdays. They filled “the number 3 bathtub” with water heated on a fire stove. They stitched their own clothes together from feed sacks. “Burlap?” I asked. No, the sacks were softer cotton then. So many Americans made their own clothes from feed sacks that feed makers produced the sacks in a variety of colors and patterns. Attractive patterns improved sales.

Her family had two horses and two mules. When they visited the nearest significant market 18 miles away, her dad hauled the kids in a wagon behind the horses. The mules he used to plow.

They had no electricity and no running water. The latter was drawn from a well. Of course, air conditioning was non-existent.

Today, average American children bathe every day in endlessly flowing water heated or cooled to need. They relax and frolic within five degrees of a controlled temperature. They play on handheld supercomputers with other kids literally on the other side of the world. Their parents drive them 18 miles on a whim to retail playgrounds, like Chuck E. Cheese. A small pizza stain might prompt a mother to fetch one of a little girl’s dozen other soft outfits.

We live in an advanced stage of history. Like a living cell divides into two, then four, then eight, then 16 — until the body contains billions of cells, so technologies and discoveries exponentially offshoot from each other until the rate of change rockets to a thrilling, alarming pace.

We do not live in the end stage, God willing. The scale of difference my octogenarian neighbor recalls is likely to be repeated in the next century.

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  1. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It would be interesting if one could experiment harmlessly in time travel without messing up the proverbial space-time continuum: Who would have it harder? If you took a teenager from 2020 and plopped him down into 1920 or if you took a 1920 teenager and injected him into today’s society?

    • #1
    • January 24, 2020, at 7:13 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  2. PHCheese Member

    My daughter asked my Mom ( born 1911) if she learned to drive with a stick shift or automatic. My Mom got a strange look and answered “reins”.

    • #2
    • January 24, 2020, at 7:29 AM PST
    • 20 likes
  3. Seawriter Contributor

    Today I got an e-mail at work that IATA is running out of codes for airlines and flight numbers and is evaluating new schemes for flight identifiers.

    Think about it. 117 years ago we had trouble keeping one aircraft in the air for 120 seconds. In the whole world. Today we have so many flights we are running out of numbers to keep track of them.

    • #3
    • January 24, 2020, at 7:43 AM PST
    • 12 likes
  4. Jim Beck Member

    Morning Aaron,

    My mom was born in 1921 and lasted until 2018, her first memory was cleaning the glass chimneys for the kerosene lamps. Like your friend they did not have electricity or running water. Her parents had just installed indoor plumbing when I was 6, they still had the outhouse out the back door. Like many families at that time they were a large family 13 live births, 11 lived until adulthood. I think the children of this earlier age did needed family work from very early age, 3 to 4 years old, like the Amish children now. There was an almost endless number of chores, from the fields, caring for animals, getting water, getting fire wood or coal, making clothes, plus all the cleaning and food prep. Today there are fewer chores which children do which are needed, I think our current luxury has not been beneficial to modern families. We learn about obligations and build character by being essential parts of cooperative teams, families and communities, in the modern world we have created a world of atomized independence.

    • #4
    • January 24, 2020, at 7:48 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  5. Addiction Is A Choice Member

    Aaron Miller: The scale of difference my octogenarian neighbor recalls is likely to be repeated in the next century.

    Not if the Left has its way!

    THE HUMAN RACE IS EARTH’S DISEASE!”

    HUMANS ARE A PLAGUE ON EARTH!

    HUMANS ARE A CANCER ON THIS PLANET!

    • #5
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:01 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    In the late 1990s we took our children to visit their great grandmother (who was then 98 years old, she lived to 101 and her mental faculties were very good right to the end) and they asked her what invention made the biggest change in her life. She lived in the Nebraska Panhandle all her life and until the 1920s grew up on a farm miles from the nearest small town. She said it was the telephone because it ended the loneliness.

    • #6
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:01 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  7. Juliana Member

    I remember musing about this when my grandmother died in the late 1980’s. She came to this country as a small girl ‘on the boat’ and through Ellis Island around 1897. Twenty years before she died, we had landed on the moon. Imagine the changes she saw. Dirt streets to asphalt. Horse & buggy to sports cars. Steam engines to diesel (my grandfather worked on the railroad). The Great War, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War. The H bomb and the Cold War which prevented her from openly corresponding with relatives in the “Old Country.” Prohibition (she made beer for her family). A gas stove vs the woodfired one that was in the basement kitchen of her home (along with the pump for water at the sink). Electric lights. Gas heat instead of coal. Women’s right to vote. Sixteen different presidents, two presidential assassinations, several assassination attempts, a presidential resignation and an un-elected president. Nine different Popes, and from Latin to English in the Catholic Church. One could go on and on. I don’t know how much formal education she had, but she could converse, read and write in English and Slovak, managed her large family’s finances, and always had the radio tuned in for news.

    Technology increases daily – but I wonder if we will experience the same rate of new inventions that she did, or if we will just continue to make more powerful the ones we already have.

    • #7
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:13 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  8. Arahant Member

    She was growing up in a backwater. My parents were/are about that age and had many amenities already. That’s not to say they didn’t have relatives out in the country with more primitive circumstances. A big difference today is that the technology and improvements are more ubiquitous. The only people who don’t have the technology are those who have religious objections to them.

    • #8
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:29 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Lilly B Coolidge

    Jim Beck (View Comment):

    Morning Aaron,

    My mom was born in 1921 and lasted until 2018, her first memory was cleaning the glass chimneys for the kerosene lamps. Like your friend they did not have electricity or running water. Her parents had just installed indoor plumbing when I was 6, they still had the outhouse out the back door. Like many families at that time they were a large family 13 live births, 11 lived until adulthood. I think the children of this earlier age did needed family work from very early age, 3 to 4 years old, like the Amish children now. There was an almost endless number of chores, from the fields, caring for animals, getting water, getting fire wood or coal, making clothes, plus all the cleaning and food prep. Today there are fewer chores which children do which are needed, I think our current luxury has not been beneficial to modern families. We learn about obligations and build character by being essential parts of cooperative teams, families and communities, in the modern world we have created a world of atomized independence.

    I do worry sometimes that my children have too much leisure time, but what they do with that time is generally directed toward the good. Your comment made me think of this John Adams quote:

    The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take place of, indeed to exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

    Instead of hauling firewood, my kids are often writing stories, reading, and making art and music. I’ll spare you the videos, but it’s pretty great actually. We are grateful for all the hard work that others have done so that we can live the way we do. 

    • #9
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:30 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  10. Richard Easton Member

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    My daughter asked my Mom ( born 1911) if she learned to drive with a stick shift or automatic. My Mom got a strange look and answered “reins”.

    I asked my father (born in 1921) if they were aware of how unsafe automobiles were. He said that horses were worse since they spooked easily.

    • #10
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:33 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  11. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Juliana (View Comment):
    Technology increases daily – but I wonder if we will experience the same rate of new inventions that she did, or if we will just continue to make more powerful the ones we already have.

    Smartphones — which combine computers, cameras, GPS tracking, and almost constant connection to the bottomless database we call the Internet — are one paradigm shift technology. 

    Bionics (from electronic hearing aids to artificial organs and limbs) are another immense change of recent generations. I expect we will see more aesthetic and non-replacement bionics in the next 20 years; equivalent to jewelry, but more practical and animated like smart-watches. 

    It’s tempting to focus on hardware, but software and content also change societies. We have “free” platforms for sharing thoughts, images, and audio instantly and globally. The past century has seen an explosion of artistic forms and markets. 

    Manufacturing and transportation machinery has greatly improved. But we also now have consumer-grade power tools that enable people of modest incomes to perform work in hours that once required days. The change is not only what we can do, but how quickly and well we can do it. 

     

    • #11
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:43 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    The change is not only what we can do, but how quickly and well we can do it.

    And the penetration throughout the country and the world of those technologies.

    • #12
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:57 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Juliana (View Comment):
    I remember musing about this when my grandmother died in the late 1980’s. She came to this country as a small girl ‘on the boat’ and through Ellis Island around 1897.

    One lady I knew came to America alone, with nothing, when she was only 15 or so. The daring of some people who begin with nothing is amazing.

    Such stories are common. It’s tempting to believe, as many do, that poverty naturally fosters strength of character. But we recall such biographies as we recall great works of art, forgetting the greater number of failures and mediocrity that accompanied examples of success.

    As Thomas Sowell argues, poverty does not need explanation because it is the natural state of Man. Do nothing and you will be poor. It should be a beginning, rather than an ideal.

    When Christ calls us to poverty, it is not because poverty is the ideal outcome — or else God would not promise rewards for faithfulness. Rather, poverty offers a simplicity and clarity that keep true riches better in view. Wealth and abundance are full of distraction, confusion, and addiction. Wealth is good, but complicated.

    Poverty is like hunger. It is an emptiness which invites activity. But it cannot be satisfied by just anything and over-indulgence often leads to pains.

    • #13
    • January 24, 2020, at 9:04 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  14. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Another example from a friend who, as a child, asked an elderly relative, born in the 1870s, what invention had the greatest impact in his lifetime. Expecting to hear something like autos, planes, telephone, electricity or TV he was startled when his uncle replied “pavement” and then explained that before pavement road travel was difficult and slow; dusty, rutted roads in the summer or muddy, snowbound and impassable the rest of the year.

    • #14
    • January 24, 2020, at 10:17 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  15. Randy Webster Member

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    Aaron Miller: The scale of difference my octogenarian neighbor recalls is likely to be repeated in the next century.

    Not if the Left has its way!

    THE HUMAN RACE IS EARTH’S DISEASE!”

    HUMANS ARE A PLAGUE ON EARTH!

    HUMANS ARE A CANCER ON THIS PLANET!

    I thought we had like a dozen years left.

    • #15
    • January 24, 2020, at 12:19 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  16. cirby Member

    Let’s see…

    My grandfather on my father’s side delivered ice. For iceboxes.

    My grandfather on my mother’s side was a telegraph operator.

     

    • #16
    • January 24, 2020, at 3:17 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    My mother was born in 1898 and died in 2001. She lived in three centuries and lived well in spite of poverty as a child. Her father was a railroad engineer, a nice career analogous to an airline pilot today, but he died in 1899 when she was 18 months old. He, in turn was born in 1849, so my grandfather could have served in the Civil War as he was 16 when it ended.

     

    This is a Daguerrotype of her father and his sister at about age 5. That would be 1854, before the Civil War.

    This is her father as a young man, probably age 20 or so, which would be soon after the Civil War ended. He is on the right and looks exactly like her nephew.

     

    Here she is in California as a flapper about 1927. She lived there three years and her highlight was dancing with Victor McLaughlan. I took her to see Titanic when the movie came out. She was 14 when it sank and remembered it well. My kids, when they were teens, used to fly to Chicago to spend a week with her. She would check into a downtown hotel so they could shop and go to shows.

    • #17
    • January 24, 2020, at 3:22 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  18. Cow Girl Thatcher

    Richard Easton:  I asked my father (born in 1921) if they were aware of how unsafe automobiles were. He said that horses were worse since they spooked easily.

    My dad, born in 1923, was a farmer all of his life, except for during WWII when he was a radioman in the U.S. Navy. He spent most of his time on Mindanoa, “listening” to the war he said. Then, he came home, married my mom and settled into farming for the rest of his life. He loved it.

    He had many stories from his childhood about horse troubles, and how much work it was to harness them, and use them. And they get sick and die rather easily for such big animals.

    He told me that moving on from using horses to tractors was really good. One reason: when you aren’t using the tractor, it can just sit there, and you don’t have to do anything with it. Horses, on the contrary, must be fed and cared for whether you are getting any benefit from them or not. And there is a tremendous difference in how much work you can get from the tractor versus the horses (or mules, which are much tougher and better suited for hard work).

    He loved horses, and we had two beautiful mares that he’d get foals from every year, and a couple of geldings. But when I was a farmer’s daughter, those horses were mostly a hobby. We’d use them to move cattle, or he’d take them up in the mountains for elk hunting season. We’d ride them every day for fun when we weren’t hauling hay or milking cows.

    • #18
    • January 24, 2020, at 3:59 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  19. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Aaron Miller: We do not live in the end stage, God willing. The scale of difference my octogenarian neighbor recalls is likely to be repeated in the next century.

    There will certainly be changes over the next century but they may not be pleasant. Technology has enabled the surveillance state and this trend will continue apace. Privacy and freedom of speech are under attack directly by the state and through its proxies, the major tech companies (Alphabet, Facebook, etc.). 

    It is not a given that progress will continue at the same pace, or even that the movement will be forward, however one conceives it. Continuous progress is the Hegelian/Marxist/Progressive view of the world. History is riddled with counterexamples. The Greek, Persian, Roman, Spanish, and Ottoman empires all fell. The 20th century was the most violent in human history with hundreds of millions of corpses to its credit. There’s evidence that humans are becoming more stupid.

    There’s plenty of evidence that we are in the late stages of empire, from the trivial to the grand: drag queen story hour and massive corruption in the imperial capital. Things could turn around but the trend is not our friend. The saddest words uttered in situations like this are “this time it will be different.”

    Human development has gone in fits and starts over the millennia: two steps forward and one step back. The long-term trend may be up (whatever that means) but there have been plenty of reversals along the way.

    • #19
    • January 24, 2020, at 4:00 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  20. Cow Girl Thatcher

    My engaged grandparents, on my mom’s side, traveled from their farms via horse and buggy along with his brother and her sister, to get married in 1915. Both couples wanted to be married in the Mormon temple in a city that was a two day trip in 1915. By going together, they didn’t need extra chaperones. The camping on the way back was the honeymoon. 

    Then, their youngest son grew up to become an Air Force pilot who was accepted to astronaut training. Sadly, my uncle was killed in a test flight about eight months before the moon landing–but that was his ultimate goal: the moon. If my uncle could have used a cell phone, he would have loved it!!

    • #20
    • January 24, 2020, at 4:16 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  21. Petty Boozswha Inactive

    My grandma used to tell us stories about when she was young. She said the first time she and her brother saw an automobile they hid in a ditch, they had heard it before seeing it, spitting and chugging coming up a hill and thought it was the devil coming to get them. She lived to see the Wright brothers and the Apollo landings as well.

    • #21
    • January 24, 2020, at 4:20 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  22. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    She was growing up in a backwater. My parents were/are about that age and had many amenities already. That’s not to say they didn’t have relatives out in the country with more primitive circumstances. A big difference today is that the technology and improvements are more ubiquitous. The only people who don’t have the technology are those who have religious objections to them.

    As I’ve said elsewhere my grandparents didn’t have indoor plumbing until the 1990s because (I think) they wouldn’t pay for it, finally their kids got together and paid for it as a Christmas present.

    • #22
    • January 24, 2020, at 4:31 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    cirby (View Comment):

    Let’s see…

    My grandfather on my father’s side delivered ice. For iceboxes.

    My grandfather on my mother’s side was a telegraph operator.

    Mine on my mother’s side cut the ice, the other one was (I am told) a hobo then served in the Army in WWII.

     

    • #23
    • January 24, 2020, at 4:33 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  24. Arahant Member

    Well, if we’re getting into grandparent stories, my grandmother was once stolen by Gypsies.

    • #24
    • January 24, 2020, at 4:46 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  25. Seawriter Contributor

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Well, if we’re getting into grandparent stories, my grandmother was once stolen by Gypsies.

    If she was anything like you, it was the inspiration for “The Ransom of Red Chief.” (Edited because the wrong quote was made.)

    • #25
    • January 24, 2020, at 4:50 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  26. Bruce Caward Thatcher
    Bruce Caward Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill (View Comment):

    It would be interesting if one could experiment harmlessly in time travel without messing up the proverbial space-time continuum: Who would have it harder? If you took a teenager from 2020 and plopped him down into 1920 or if you took a 1920 teenager and injected him into today’s society?

    We may all find out if Greta gets her way.

    • #26
    • January 25, 2020, at 4:33 AM PST
    • 4 likes