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Ozark RDF:


I’ve heard enough about the “good ol’ days” of a half a century or more ago. I’ve stewed about it for awhile, but what finally brought the cream to the top was a newspaper article I read last week about air conditioning in public schools.

As I expected they would, some old-timers in Ozarks communities brushed off air conditioning as frivolous and unnecessary, because none of them had air conditioning when they were in school, and they got by just fine.

Well, that’s a matter for debate, itself. Some old timers will freely admit that they love their air conditioning and life was miserable without it, even when they were kids. Some folks would say we’ve gone soft, especially our kids. They toughed it out, so should we. Part of that I can agree with. As a rule, kids today have experienced few of the privations common to Depression-era youngsters. They’re used to more creature comforts than even my generation enjoyed, the same comforts most of us now take for granted.

If air conditioning is out of the question in public schools, I wonder if we ought to do away with some of the other modern amenities, too. I wonder if the critics of air conditioning would also advocate a return to toilets out behind the schoolhouse, a wood stove for heat and a rope, pulley and well bucket for hauling up water? Should we again light our schools with kerosene lamps, expect Mom to scrub our clothes on a washboard, carry fruit jars of breaded tomatoes to school for lunch or walk a mile down dusty roads to get to school? I doubt any of the advocates of the good old days--- and, thus, critics of air conditioning--- would want to see a wholesale return to the way things were before rural electrification.

As an early “Baby Boomer,” I can’t personally recall those days. I just remember my Dad talking about them. He still talks about them. My school days were in the 1950s and early 1960s, in modern buildings with indoor plumbing and electric lights. No, we didn’t have air conditioning at school or at home. I didn’t know anyone who did. It’s true, we were tough. We got along without it. But, it wasn’t much fun. We were uncomfortable, sticky and smelly in hot weather. Our classrooms were hot. We endured because we knew nothing better.

Memories of the “good ol’ days” (and I’ve shared more than a few) tend always to be selective. If the whole truth were told, the best thing about them is simply that we were all younger.

The fact is that most of us are a lot better off today than our parents or grandparents were. Our lives are easier, we’re healthier and more affluent. And I often think, when folks speak so fondly of yesteryears that many of them are lucky to be living today, rather than in those cherished days gone by.

In the “good ol’ days” we didn’t do coronary bypass surgery or kidney transplants. Common infections were often lethal and emergency medical care was little more than first aid. Kids were crippled by polio and their parents coughed their lungs out from tuberculosis.

Maybe those who survived childhood were tougher. Maybe they did just fine without air conditioning.

Maybe the old days really were good.

We can remember them any way we choose. Let’s just not return to them.

RFD “Favorites” are previously published columns selected by author Jim Hamilton while he takes a break from the weekly routine. Read more of his works in “Ozarks RFD 2010-2015,” available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or from the author. Copyright 2023, James E. Hamilton.


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