UP NOLAN CREEK: Presidential slogans over the ages
Friday, 19 October 2012 by Wayne Carpenter
I've always loved history. In addition to listening to family tales of "the good old days," I read most of the history books at the old Carnegie Library. I grew up reading the newspaper, and I always enjoyed reading the section of stories relating events that occurred 10 or 20 years ago on this date in Belton since many members of my family had been here for generations. As Berneta Peeples once said when discussing my family, "Of course, I know your family. Those Carpenter boys have been here longer than dirt!" Well, maybe not quite that long, but it sometimes seems that way. Some days I can remember more details from those columns than I can remember what happened last Thursday! In a way, remembering history I personally lived through is one great thing about getting old. I'm convinced, however, there is a relatively short list of advantages to this getting old business.
It seems when we reach a certain age we start to remember certain time periods in our life with great affection, regardless of the reality of the times. What I recall my parents and grandparents discussing as "their good old days" is to me ancient history, and from my vantage point, the good old days all occurred when I was young. Maybe this is the pattern each generation must experience: the realization that the things we no longer have, and often remember most fondly, are the very things that make us who we are today. I'm convinced it isn't "things" we miss from our past, as almost all of us have many more "things" than we ever dreamed about. What I believe we really miss is the youthful innocence of experiencing those events with family and friends who are no longer among us. Sometimes I question where one draws the line between actual events, history as we remember living through it, and nostalgia. At some point nostalgia, the yearning for the "good old days," has to intersect with the reality of history.
Looking backwards 50 years ago is a great example for me. From my perspective, as a student at Belton Junior High, September 1962 was a wonderful time to be young and alive. Our family had its share of problems, but I had great friends, school was fun, and the world generally seemed a wondrous place. With less than a third of today's population, Belton was a very safe, peaceful, and stable community. Front doors of homes were rarely locked, and drivers often left their keys in the car when they stopped to buy a loaf of bread. Perhaps Belton was a bit bland, but having traveled very little in my youth, I had no comparison. We ate almost all our meals at home or at family member's homes. Even if we had been affluent, Belton offered very few restaurants. When people traveled, they drove American cars purchased at Tomecek Ford, Steakley Chevrolet or used car dealers like Mack Digby. Down at The Belton Journal, editor Jim Russell wrote weekly tidbits called "Russeling Around" where he discussed a bit of everything from the court house to the White House with a warm but sly sense of humor. The Journal advertised local specials such as a set of four whitewall tires for $49.49 at Jones Firestone, and service stations like Bradford's Texaco would still check your oil and tires while pumping inexpensive gasoline for you. Ladies could buy two pair of the latest nylon hose at Max Neuman's Department store for $1.00, and Hugh Taggart's Grocery and Market offered a pound of Maryland Club coffee for 59 cents, and would deliver it to your door. The Tigers had started strong in class AAA football, and BISD was building a brand new elementary school in Miller Heights. Many of us listened to the all-American sounds of the Beach Boys on our new AM transistor radios after doing our homework, of course. Our country's handsome young president, John F. Kennedy, inspired many of us, bringing a new level of optimism for many and setting the nation on course to place a man on the moon. It seemed an idyllic time, but youthful innocence was about to come to an end, starting with events on a Caribbean island a thousand miles away.
To be continued...