Oregon History Portland History

The good old days

“Nostalgia – it’s delicate, but potent. Nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. It goes backwards, and forwards… it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” – Don Draper

So, what years do you consider the good old days? What era do you long to travel back to? Me? It used to be some mythical place between 1870 and 1920. Small towns. Simple living. Sure, you’d work hard during the week but come Sunday you’d stroll down the lane to the bandstand for the local brass band and lemonade. Children playing. A faraway train whistling. The occasional dog bark. The warm summer sun. The perfect life.

Then the realist in me comes out. Smelly dirt roads. No electricity [for the most part in many smaller towns up until the 20s] and raw sewage. Wool clothes in the summertime. Dentists. Brrrrr…..Have you seen dental equipment from the late 1800s?

Not to mention the occasional disease, fever or cholera that would wipe out half a town- daughters, sons, mothers, fathers. Your kid. Your wife. Your best friend.

The slums of New York, 1800s - quick some page Robert Preston and his marching band outfits.
The slums of New York, 1800s. Quick! Someone page Robert Preston and his marching band outfits.

A few years ago I was waxing nostalgic about 1968 to a co-worker who clearly remembered 1968. I’m not old enough to remember 1968 so my romanticism of it was limited to siblings Beatles records, innocence, and gentle hippies.

My co-worker thought I was a bit daft and then proceeded to rattle off what she remembered about 1968: RFK’s assassination, MLK’s assassination, the Democratic Convention riots, rioting in the cities, and the escalation of the US involvement in Vietnam.

You know, the good old days.

Market in Salem, Oregon, circa 1962. Smiles people! Smiles!
McKay Erickson Market in Salem, Oregon, circa 1962. Smiles people! Smiles!

Finding postcards, scanning them, and then adding the occasional snarky comment sometimes feels like cheating. Half the time I have no idea what I’m scanning. I have no historical connection or personal connection to a place.

Postcards are themselves marketing tools – touched up, color corrected, and glamour shots, many taken at dusk or at night. There’s a whole craft to taking a miserable looking hotel and making it look attractive. Take the shot at night, add some sizzle, color collection and you’ve got a nice shot.

I need to set aside my postcards, get out and start exploring more so I can connect better to the past.

14 replies on “The good old days”

Wow. Look at that cigarette rack in the background. Do I smoke? No. Do I believe that cigarettes should be placed within reach of children? No. Do I remember HATING riding inside the smoky cab of a pickup with the windows up? Yes.

But I still love that cigarette rack from back when you could leave your kids in the car.

Please don’t lock up the nostalgia.

Cigarettes…! I remember smoking was allowed in the department and grocery stores. There were ashtrays located by each counter. As I remember, the only places where smoking was not allowed was basically church and movie theaters. I smoked for a number of years beginning in 1965. I could buy a carton of cigarettes for about $1.85!!

most nostalgic for 1900.
clever children books i am sure.

agreed, nostolgia is like an oasis, the closer you get the less you see.

Shootings at a church funeral, school shootings, gangsta rap, Lindsay Lohan, Brittney Spears, “A Double Shot At Love”, George Bush/Nancy Pelosi……need I say more?

Give me 1960 any day of the week. Or 1945, 1955, etc. I would much rather wait in line while some grocery clerk pounded out the price on the register than worry about some deranged fool opening up fire within the store or some guy with road rage shooting you in the parking lot because you took “his space”. Call me funny that way.

I thought of Willoughby, too. I always wanted to see what Sellwood looked like at its height – not the pictures the Hysterical Societies show off but to actually walk down the streets or sit at the waterfront. Not permanently, just as a visitor.

It’d be nice to see Celilo Falls, too. My parents remember them; I wasn’t born when they were drowned.

My Dad worked at this store when it first opened. Before that he worked at the Eriksons on Portland Road in Salem.

What do I remember from 1968? I was five, and excited about the prospect of first grade next year.

I remember seeing hippies at the park in Silverton. They smelled funny, and made me feel weird.

I remember being very careful not to get near animals or smoky fires because my asthma would kick in and I’d spend the night wheezing and waking up because I wasn’t breathing. Inhalers for children weren’t prescribed yet. If it got bad enough, my parents could take me to the hospital.

I now work at one of the four remaining Ericksons in the state. Founded in 1915, was recently reminded how long we have been part of this state when I found out Orville Roth began his career at the store you included. Props!

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