Were “The Good Old Days” Really THAT Good?

So as I’m here thinking of how to kick this segment off, I spot Enid Donaldson’s The Real Taste of Jamaica catch my eye in the nearby bookcase. I smile and start to flashback to her 10 minute “Creative Cooking” segment on JBC TV at 6:50pm weeknights. Other memorable hit local shows such as “Royal Palm Estate”, “Lime Tree Lane” and “Traxx” also popped into mind.

Such nostalgia triggered another flashback to a debate I had with a classmate in my UWI days on this question: were the “good old days” that we (now) and some of the elders (back then) speak so fondly of really that good?

Whenever I reminisce on my own youth I tend to be as selective as most people – romanticizing the highs, and obscuring out the lows. My own high school years had a few crazy stories: from skipping classes for a half day in the 9th grad to piling in a friend’s car for lunch at Wendy’s after a summer school class, only to throw out our garbage into a trash can that didn’t have the trash inside and running out like we stole a free lunch. I also recall climbing onto my roof at home, enjoying a cloudy spring while eating grapefruit from an overhanging tree. As I watched the rain clouds sweeping over rolling hills in the distance, all I could think of is how much of a paradise this little isle is.

But how can one truly sweep away the unsightly episodes during a trip down memory lane? The spikes in the crime rate growing up could not be ignored. Being at home one day and hearing the hollow echo and knowing that a life was taken in my neighbor’s yard across the street is something that always stands out. What about climbing over the campus walls to get home because the gate was locked one, only to hit the ground and start walking in time to avoid the implicit dangers of a squad car hurtling around the corner at 12:30am? How should one handle a delivery person or cab driver saying “we don’t go THERE” when you tell them where you live – no matter how much extra tip you plan to give out? How about hesitating to put your real address in fear of the stigma attached to your neighborhood’s “reputation”? It leaves a sour taste in the mouth, to say the least.

But what stood out to me the most as a youngster growing up was looking at the “state of the country” and hearing the elders romanticize the mid 20th century. I remember vividly trying to argue with the few who would listen that the same issues forcing the “country down the drain” were issues that they themselves should be held accountable for – only to see such points being easily dismissed with the wave of a hand. “Yuh a young bwoy…weh yuh know?”

In hindsight, I don’t know if I could do it over again by growing up now instead of back then. Yet the irony is that for those coming up now, when they get to be adults they might consider the times we’re living in now as their “good old days”.

It looks like the good old days were never as good as they seemed or as good as they should have been. No matter what era you may have been raised in, that’s one common take we might agree on.

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2 thoughts on “Were “The Good Old Days” Really THAT Good?”

  1. I agree with your conclusion, and I too also hear older folks lamenting about the good old days. I would often hear stories from my Dad about the good old days for him. My Granddad would also tell me about the good old days, and it would be a completely different story and era from my Dad’s. It seems that “the good old days” may just be subject to one’s life experiences and the times in which one lives, I guess.

    1. That’s a fair reminder comment – everyone looking back at their childhood has the right to be nostalgic and very subjective about it. But I am taking that comment one step further. When some of the elders look at the generations after mine (and even my own too) with a certain level of “disapproval” on the new “societal direction”, I would try to remind them that some of their own actions contributed to the “disconnect” and the same “disapproval” in the first place. It’s just not fair to complain how much better your days were (by your standards) when you helped “ruin” the current days for everyone else by some of the choices you made.

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