“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.
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.
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.