How Bad Can It Get?
By Ron Page
Among those of an age to worry about grandchildren and future generations, I hear concerns about the direction of our country and our world. I share those concerns but in my attempt to contrast a grim future to the good times past, I discovered that by view of the past may be much more idealized than my view of the future.
Last night, I attended an event where a panel and the audience interacted in a most intellectual discussion as they expressed opinions about what other people think and what other people need at specific points in history. In this little piece I choose not to speculate on the thoughts or needs of others nor will I comment on politics. I simply would like to share my personal first-hand experiences that contradict my otherwise happy memories of growing up on a farm in northern Illinois in a normal, happy family during a post-World War II time when grain and livestock prices were nearly as high as today while the cost of production was a fraction of today’s – prosperity on the rich, flat, black farmland for several years.
Now for the bad news: My earliest memories go back to about 1943 when seemingly everything was rationed and I remember Mom managing her ration stamps. New cars, trucks, and machinery were totally unavailable as virtually all manufacturing was dedicated to the war. I remember recycling just about everything. Even out in the country, we knew about brown-outs, black-outs, and air-raid drills. Dad worked nights as part of 3,000 carpenters and 2,000 laborers building a defense plant near Amboy, Illinois. I remember the roar of a sky being filled with airplanes in route to the war. I remember shell-shocked men who returned home and the sorrow of those whose sons did not return. I remember Mom running out into the lawn to announce the end of the war.
We had storms back then, too, and, in 1947 a hailstorm knocked out all the windows on the north side of our house as well as the beautiful stained glass north windows of our country church. Our crops were totally flattened.
Not many years later, letters stopped coming from our live-in hired man who was fighting in Korea. He was a machine gunner – dead two weeks after entering combat
The Polio epidemic was terrifying. The boy living on the farm immediately south of us was stricken. Cars and machinery were more dangerous then and injuries and death were commonplace. A boy living in the next farm north of us was killed in a farm accident at age 14.
I remember the Cold War and how we all prepared for an impending nuclear holocaust. Russian refugees spoke at our church about the horrors inflicted by the communist regime.
We traveled through every single one of the 48 states on our summer auto trips and saw with our own eyes the symptoms of segregation and poverty.
In 1958, a terrorist bomb exploded atop the Eiffel Tower exactly one week after I stood there.
How many are old enough to experience the wage and price controls around 1970 when raw materials were in very short supply – What about when interest rates going to 21% – the rich got richer, everyone else suffered.
Well this gets us up to the point with which most of our club members can identify. I’m thinking maybe the future isn’t so grim after all – maybe our descendants will simply take it in the face as we have and figure out how to deal with it.