By: Stephen Harris
October 27, 2012
The lady of the house one time got a bee in her bonnet about some place way up in Michigan, and she just had to go see for herself.
“They have no cars there,” Lady said excitedly. A friend had told her about Mackinac Island, near the conjunction of lakes Michigan and Huron.
Lady envisioned a peaceful, nostalgic paradise on the four-square-mile island. A Nicolas Sparks-inspired chick flick that Lady adored had been filmed there to boot.
So here we go up I-77 toward Michigan. Upon arriving at the island we got off the ferry and walked only about a block up from the pier toward the village before reality slapped us in the face.
Yes, we found no cars. But there were horse-drawn buggies. And while there were diligent clean-up crews of college-age young people on street duty, the crews with their shovels could not quite scrape up all of the many presents left in the streets by the horses. The crew needed a power washer.
The island was indeed nice, quiet and peaceful. But that odor of horse manure burned in our nostrils for days. Simulating life in the 1890s turned out to be not so pleasant after all.
Nostalgia rarely reflects the reality. We may think another place is so much better, or a fun time in the past was so much better than now. But it rarely is.
For instance, I can remember Esso gas at the late Reba Money’s country store in North Elkin sold for 39 cents a gallon.
We’d love to have that price again today, but the reality is folks back then struggled to pay even the 39 cents. More often than not folks then didn’t fill up. They’d only buy a few gallons with cash money (no plastic cards then) to get by until payday because money was so much more scarce.
So would I prefer to have Ms. Money’s store back at the corner of North Bridge Street and the Highway 268 Bypass? (There was no bypass back then, though.)
Reba had her little store packed out with goods, but let’s face it. It didn’t compare with the store Sheetz tentatively is going to put at that location.
Of course we’d prefer the new, modern store with all of its many bells and whistles, from the multiple gas islands to the sandwich, pastry, juice and expresso bars to all those coolers lining the walls. Reba could not have dreamt of running such an operation.
Dream of 39-cent gas all you want, but sooner or later the smell of the horses – reality – will slap you in the face.
We now have two over-the-air TV stations beaming from the Triad nothing but old TV shows. I get a kick out of some of them.
Some of those old shows I can remember watching as a kid, and I’ve discovered a few others that I didn’t watch as a kid but am enjoying now for the first time.
But keep in mind those old shows were the cream of the crop, the very best of the time.
Most of the old shows from back then are not rebroadcast on today’s nostalgia TV. And for good reason.
Would anybody REALLY want to replace what we have today with the TV lineups from the late 1950s and early 1960s? Oh, no. Most of those old shows were duds.
You will not see again on nostalgia TV, for example, shows like “My Mother The Car” which had actor Jerry Van Dyke talking to his car every week. His dead mother had reincarnated as a car, as the 1965-66 show’s plot asserted. They put a light in the radiator that blinked on and off when “mother” talked back. A stupid idea, and a stupid show.
Ditto for the program “When Things Were Rotten,” a spoof of the Robin Hood story. Rotten was an apt name. You could really smell the horses while watching that one.
So before you start waxing too nostalgic about how good things used to be, first nose around and see if you can smell the horses.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.