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The American people. [music]. Riverside radio WRVR the FM station of the Riverside Church in the city of New York presents the American people. Probing contemporary issues in the context of our American heritage and traditions, our values and goals. Tonight the good old days. A study in nostalgia. A tapestry of remembrances, sweet and bitter sweet, from times that are no more. Recalled by the people themselves. The 71 year old Texas writer - "In the little town where I was born the soda water
factory, I passed it when went down to the town square, and the court house and the barber shop stores, whatever. They had a Pepsin soda which I don't think I've ever tasted anything to equal in my life. Ah, there was such a sorghum molasses for example. I used to drive out with an elder statesman named Max Jones in a buggy and good horse, to a farm with a Sorghum mill to fill the back of a buggy or a spring wagon as it was called with, gallon pottery jugs of sorghum in the fall. Eat it on pancakes on cold mornings all winter. I never been able to find any sorghum molasses that tasted like that Tasted." Housewife in Fairbanks Alaska. "I I think we've lost, this ah, togetherness this being able to entertain each other, to just enjoy each other's company and be truly good friends to care about the other fellow. This type of thing I think has been lost to a great extent."
The operator of a small restaurant in Muncie Indiana. "To be thought of as square used to be a real compliment. Now square is used as a derogatory remark. You hear people saying well he's just a square. Back years ago to be considered square was as high a compliment as you could get. Nowadays it's just the opposite". A retired Air Force colonel, "There... were no good old days except in someone's nostalgic recollection of imagined ghosts". Tonight you will hear the voices of these and other Americans discussing the good old days. Among them a veteran actor now living in Ann Arbor Michigan. A domestic worker in New York City, a woman in Pacific Beach California, a college professor in South Dakota, a Midwestern farmer, and a housewife in Lexington, Kentucky. The American people. [music]. I
think in my own mind of when you ask me about the good old days I think of a time in which I was most secure. And those times obviously we...when...when...when had a nice childhood and the perimeters of his consciousness were outlined it was mom and dad and brothers and sisters in the house and the mailbox had always been there in the street, if there was a street it was always there, the road and the cows, and the old horse that was always named the same thing and that everything had been touched by you. Everything
had been found very real by you. Everything had been committed as if it had been preordained the same yesterday today and forever. Almost I in the biblical notation. These were the good old days, the days of security, the days of rosiness, the days of self contemplation where suddenly one's own feelings then could celebrate self. It's the days of romance, the day when one can celebrate I'm alive and I can sing and feel and walk and talk and yet have all the luxury of human celebration with no problem of getting any comeuppance. These were the good old days. And of course I think the problem becomes that if we cling to these then there is a danger of genuine sickness, because then what we are trying to do is to keep this romantic celebration of youth. Alive Long after we reached maturity we began to know the way things are. [music]. I
personally have such nostalgic recollections of... of the old days and I've... when I say the old days I'm not referring to my childhood. I'm...I'm talking of my adult life. And, ah, I don't know I...I.... I think that the, the speed with which everything is done today, ah necessitates more, more, ah, obligations on our part to see that, uh things are done quickly. And of course as Shakespeare says, "'Twere well to have done, 'twere well to have quickly done." But even so there are some things that I think could be done more slowly and with better results. In the, in the buggy days if one was going on a trip for 30 miles one talked about it for a week ahead and planned everything. That's just
an instance of planning and one did plan trips. Today one [in audible] gets in ones car and pushes off for 60 or 100 miles without thinking anything of it and come back the same day. That has made a colossal impact I think on...on...on everything we have lost the treasure when to be patient. [music]. I've thought a great deal about these old days not just because I was a young girl then, but, um, because I do believe, that um, those days were in many ways, ah, what shall I say better, ah than they are today. I think
it''s a pity that, ah people these days have come to depend on all these conveniences. We had just as good food, we had good beds. We had enough.... um...conveniences in order that we could keep our houses clean. And all this and that and ah... I think other families were closer than they are today. They, they ate together, they spent their evenings together, they went to church together and, ah...I...I certainly do feel that, ah, it would be well if of course we can't but it would be well if we...we could go back to some of these good days. Not good old days but good days. [music]. Life when I was a young woman wasn't quite as hurried as it is now. I don't know if it was, ah because I was young
um, and had more energy. But life seemed to be much easier easier...easier going. You could work all day then you'd be able to go places at night and it just seemed easier and simpler. Then you don't have to spend as much money. In doing the things that you wanted to do, that you have to spend now. We don't get simple pleasures any more. [music] [train whistle/sounds]. One of the things I remember from back in the 1890s, when I was a boy under 10. Is the railroad. That has gone from us and I miss it very much. I lived in a small
town in Missouri, a county seat town, that was 14 miles from the Mississippi river. We had a little, at that time, narrow gauge railroad called the Chester Perryville and St. Genevieve railroad. The local joke was that the name was longer than the track. It was only 14 miles long at that time. And it ran just behind our house, maybe a quarter of a mile over an open field. And I saw the train go down to the river in the morning and come back in the evening, winter and summer. And the little shrill whistle. Great big smokestack caught the sparks of the wood burner. Those things come back to me. Down on the old family farm in the summertime we used to be sent to bed before 8 o'clock, my small cousin and I, but we would always stay awake to listen for the whistle of the 8 o'clock evening train from Memphis coming down the river. You
could hear the whistle way up yonder and then you could see the headlight for a few, oh a minute perhaps, until it, until the river and the track bent. And then you could hear the woo-woo, woo-woo where it was crossing the river of ? . I think I have listened to that in my memory more than any one single thing in my life. [train sounds] [train sounds]. In approximately the, ah 20 years during the time that I was growing up I think we had one murder in the city of Fairbanks and this was of course something terrific, we had never heard of such a thing, we didn't lock our doors. We didn't have to lock our doors, we never had any such thing as a robbery in the whole town. Ah, we didn't have to worry about it. And actually in town you often left a coffee pot on the stove because of course we didn't have electric stoves, we had a wood type
stove or coal and left it going with the coffee pot on the back and, and someone would come in and you'd feel perfectly free to help yourself to a cup of coffee and would be expected to in fact, fact everyone would like for you to because this, this was a way of life and this was wonderful. If there was a tragedy in your family why everybody was there to take over for you. Ah, If for example, ah I know of younger, young married people and if they had problems and their children were sick, then two or three friends would come in and do their washing and ironing and get it up for them which I doubt very much that you see done today. On occasion perhaps but it wouldn't occur to someone else for fear he, ah, would be imposing, so they say. But they'd come in and help do your mending and get your washing and ironing up and, and ah, you turn around and do the same thing for the other fellow. [music]. Ah, When I think of the good old days I'd, ah go back to the time, ah when the, the time I would
from the time I was 20 until I was 30. Them days we had the great Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Ah,We had the great Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Harry Grant in the fighting game. And we some tremendous athletes all around. We were striving hard to get somebody to break the four minute mile which, uh, I came very close to, and well I didn't. And ah, along tha....along about that time when sports started to boom in this country. Ya- Yankee stadium was built. The house that Ruth built. There were million dollar fights out in, between Dempsey and Tunney around 1927 in Chicago. The, ah, Jones' Beach was starting to be built at that time and ah, while there a, a lot of wonderful things happening, there were a lot of handicaps. I remember trying to go to ah, Rockaway from New York City which was only a very short distance by automobile in
the 20s and I would take it three or four hours. We didn't have the roads, we didn't have too many cars but we didn't have any, ah, roads to travel on. I might, you might sit in a car for two or three hours in them times. But of course, ah things have changed a lot since then. And I'd still, if I were to want, if I had a period I'd like to live over again this is a period that I would like to live most. The first year I was married I lived on my husband's farm, and my mother came to visit me one day, bring me some eggs. And she said now if you don't want to use all these we, we could sell some of them. So, ah the Little city of Albion, was only about four miles, so I had my own driving horse. So we hitched up the horse and buggy and went to Albion with the eggs. At least we started. But the eggs in the back you know how the buggies were in the back, little cover you lifted up, and there's a space in there to set things.
So we started out and my driving horse was quite high-life, quite frisky, one had to keep a tight reign on her. And we hadn't gone but about a mile or so and down the road came a little red automobile. It belonged to a doctor. The first automobile in the town. And I immediately froze and so did the horse. Because I knew that she would be frightened to death and didn't know what she would do. Well all the automobiles in those days would stop when they saw a horse and buggy coming and wait very quietly, as quietly as they could until the horse went by. So he turned out the side of the road and stopped. And, so I clipped up my horse and tried to get her to go by but she wouldn't. She began to back. And she backed and she backed and she backed just down in a ditch. But fortunately we didn't tip over and the eggs
were not broken, and...and he finally got by while he was waiting for us, and raced along, and it was a long time before that horse quieted down. But we finally got to Albion and sold our eggs. [music]. Life was simpler and less complicated than in this day. I was in a... member of a large family and we were always very close and used to romp and what we used to call fool around a lot and my mother was a very remarkable woman, too. She always seemed to find things to make our Christmases and birthdays very happy. Sometimes I wonder now how she ever accomplished it. She certainly was
a wonderful woman. Nowadays women [chuckle], women think that with all their automatic appliances and so on, the....the conveniences that my mother didn't have and she used to; I had 5 sisters and she used to make all of our clothing. And ah, did a phenomenal amount of lot of baking and canning and stuff like that. And where she found the time I just don't know. Nowadays women just don't seem to find the time for things like that. One of the things being, ah....raised in Hoosier land that I miss the most are the interurbans. We no longer have these. There was a time that...when there was no place in the state that you couldn't get to on these things. They passed out of existence, I think around 1935 or '36 at which time I was around 10 yrs old and 10 years old. But I do remember with...ah... ... a lot of enjoyment the trips
that we used to make from [???] to Louisville on the Dixie Flyer that...ah...made a hundred and seven miles in a hundred and seven minutes. I remember one time in particular when my brother and my mother and I went down on a weekend, and....ah they hadn't, what they called trailer cars that had no power that they pull behind the...the car that...ah... the lead car. And there just not...ah... enough seats to go around for two small boys in addition to mommy. So mommy got to sit down and...ah... brother Frank and I went back to the baggage section and sat on top of a coffin. All the way from Indianapolis to...ah... Louisville. But they were...they were quite a...ah... thing. They really made time and I think around the state that remembers them, remembers them with a great fondness because a....they ran great frequency and ran at very high speed. Even the locals that stopped at every farm and every way station....ah....made pretty doggone good time. And was pretty economical transportation and was certainly....ah...
a pleasant transportation. Although I can remember some of the gripes at the time; once in a while the trolley pull would come off and get wrapped around the wires and the motorman would have to get off and climb up and put a new pole on. n But...we....ah....I certainly enjoyed them.... and relished the memory of those things. It was quite a interesting way to travel. [music]. [music]. Sometimes when we go to another family to would have a candy pulling. Don't know if you know anything about that. make candy out of... molasses and then...that you pour it and after you let it get a, not cold but just warm. And then cut a piece off and then you can pull it, and you pull it just backwards and forth and you just keep pulling it
and you know, make all kinds of design. Any kind of design that you would like to make out of it. And...ah... it's real nice. Tastes real good and you had to on your hands in order to keep it from sticking. And then we would have these candy pullings. And sometimes if we get a large enough piece, the two of us, one would get on each end of this piece and we would just pull back and forth and just slack it over. And....ah... it was very good to eat. I don't know how clean it was after our hands were all on it. it was very good. [music] [music]. Was it fun to go to the theater in those days? Well I should say it was. First of all there....there....there was a sort of...there was more dignity to the theater I thought in those days then there is today. In the first place one invariably dressed for the theater. Ah...
unless one was sitting in the gallery. Ah...and then of course one never went to dinner. I remember one restaurant, Churchill's, opened up many many years ago and one of the come ons was that one may come...uh, in ordinary dress, street dress. Which is quite a thing and uh, sometimes, um people felt ....that they they shouldn't even take advantage of that offer(? - awful?), and many people did arrive dressed but. But [chuckle], but that's the sort of thing. I do miss I think, I do miss the, the...the dignity, and um... the savoir faire that seemed to exist in those days that doesn't [music] today. [music] [music]. It may seem kinda silly, and you might think it's not very entertaining but even going for a hike, just a hike and a walk,
evenings, daytime, ah in the wintertime, in the summertime. This we enjoyed and looked forward to. We, ah, went swimming as they do today. Course now we have a beautiful swimming pool here. In those days we went in the old gravel pit and and enjoyed it. But we found a place to do it. Ah, now I've noticed even with the youngsters being able to use a beautiful new swimming pool and they're a bit impatient with it and don't want to walk down to go swimming for example and we'd walk two or three miles to go in an old gravel pit and the mosquitos were bad. Now they expect the adults to provide the pool, to provide the skating rink and this sort of thing. And this is true, this is fine but I think that if, if the young people were involved in the planning and the doing of this more today we'd have probably a little less delinquency as such because there's, they just have too much time on their hands. At night my mother and, ah, father
would sit around and, ah, they would talk. And of course while they were talking all you could do was just listen because you weren't supposed to join in and say anything. But then my father he liked to sing and then he would sing a lot and then he would let us all join in and then we all would, ah, all sing all kinds of songs. You know, a song my father used to sing, ah, it was about the Titanic and we used to sing that. He taught us how to sing, ah, this song of the Titanic. [woman sings] [woman singing - Monday morning [woman singing - ....just about one o'clock. When the great...] [woman singing...Titanic began to reel and rock. And the people been screaming and .....] [woman singing - ....crying and said Lord I'm going to die. It was....] [woman singing - ...said when that great ship went down. It was said when that...] [woman singing - ...great ship went down...] [singing fade out, music fade in]. I think of popcorn making time in the middle of winter. I think of such things as
a great big heaping bowl in a dish pan for a whole gathering of people. I think of times of skating, brothers, sisters on a great big patch of ice. I think of, um... I think of coming together of cousins, and cousins, and more cousins on Sunday dinners, and the excitement in the family of the visitation for the afternoon. Because it would be the meal and then the wonders of the imagination and the assorted bedrooms and various places in the house where you would create your magical atmosphere of playing, you see. I think of, a kind of sound one hears in the night sometimes. Ah, I get a feeling too, a sense of, ah, far away places. Because this would be associated in my own mind with a romantic celebration of youth
and you know, that is (?).., that thing I hear in the night would carry me places. Unfamiliar places, far off exciting unknown places, I think people. One can remember that uncle, or maybe that cousin. But very often it seemed to be the uncle who would come in on visitation sometimes from that outside world with stories. Stories of unheard of magnitude that you would listen with, you know, fantastic awe. And I know when I sit down to think of the past, I think of particular occasions of seeing an uncle or a cousin sitting in a particular chair, drinking a particular cup of coffee, and having them say a particular thing that excited me. Gave me a new awareness of, of, of a huge world outside of my security that was beckoning to me. And it was
calling to me. Ah, that was coming in like a almost a kind of, um, Uncle Ben in Arthur Millers "Death of a Salesman", and the echoing to Willy Loman of Ben, 'come into the jungle Willy, you see I went into the jungle at the age of 17 and I was 21 when I came out rich'. Ah, and it was always identifying with a person. Because I think to a youthfulness persons become the symbols. When we grow older we can abstract for the sake of abstraction and our symbols can become symbols devoid of people. But at 17, 16, or 18 we're totally human and our symbols, I think, must be human symbols. [music]. You are listening to the American people. Produced by Riverside radio WRVR in New York City, for National
Educational Radio.
The American people
The good old days: A study in nostalgia, part one
Producing Organization
WRVR (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of two parts, uses interviews with various Americans to explore American nostalgia in the middle part of the twentieth century.
Series Description
This series examines contemporary American issues through interviews and personal essays.
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Social Issues
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Producing Organization: WRVR (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)
Reporter: Gerson, Thomas I.
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 64-Sp.17A-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:28
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Chicago: “The American people; The good old days: A study in nostalgia, part one,” 1964-07-14, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 2, 2024,
MLA: “The American people; The good old days: A study in nostalgia, part one.” 1964-07-14. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 2, 2024. <>.
APA: The American people; The good old days: A study in nostalgia, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from