What if?

by John Armstrong

Since today was my birthday, my wife and I decided to take a small day vacation from the bump and grind of our typical daily affairs. So we went for a small country drive to a rib joint on the outskirts of Kilgore, TX for the best tastin’ bar-b-que ribs; ever. Oh my…..they just melt in your mouth; top that off with a nice cold brew or glass of ice tea and you’re in heaven.

After our lunch we decided to take an alternative route home through the back country roads. As we went from small town to small town that popped up during the 1930s oil boom, I began to wonder what America would be like if those communities were still filled with the hustle and bustle of the times.

I wonder “what if” those communities in the mid west long departed by millions of folks were still filled with tons of activity. What would the face of America look like today if small communities were busy like they were back then?

My wife and I talked about this question and thought how nice it would be just to get back to the basics of life; no cell phone, no texting, no computers, no TV. All that existed was an easy going way of life; where folks sat on the front porch during the summer evenings watching the kids play kick the can on the street.

And if any of those kids misbehaved, we’d hear an adult’s voice yell out “I saw what you did and I’m going to tell your folks”. Sure enough when the kid got home, mom and dad were waiting for him to provide an explanation for misbehavior. Maybe the kid was sent to his room or even received a little applied learning to the back side to catch his attention.

Either way, a little humility and correction never hurt and certainly provided some valuable learning experience that wrongs don’t always go unpunished; something that seems to be lacking in today’s society.

Then my attention began to wander on another “what if” question. “What if” President Eisenhower had never got the Interstate Highway Act passed back in the 1950s. What would American society look like today? I can only imagine what the nation would look like since the interstates have been around for most of my life. They were built for a national security purposes. But were the purposes a leading cause for the decay in this nation’s values and communities? It makes me wonder.

I can envision stretches of roads like Route 66 would still be around with many unique restaurants and motels scattered along its entire length. I can envision small towns not bypassed by the interstate highway system and still being busy places of regional commerce; where life was much slower and more relaxed.

They would be places were a community helped raise the kids; where neighbors were not afraid to spank someone else child when he messed up. Often times the kid got another dose of this when he got home. They were places where neighbors knew each others business and people learned to be nice because of societal pressures and because it was the right thing to do.

It's a place and time where there wasn't modern technology to get into the way of relationships with people; you know..where people really knew how to communicate with each other. Now it's a lost art.

I also wonder “what if” the majority of the population in the United States was still in the rural areas and the urban areas were only visited for brief times for a small vacation. What would the fabric of America look like as it did during the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s?

I can’t say for certain what it would look like and can only guess. The following would be nice food for thought; “what if” America still embraced mom, dad, apple pie, Roy Rogers, Superman, a belief in God, baseball games in the sand lot, a sense of community, hand written letters sprinkled with your wife’s or girl friend's perfume and that good always prevailed over evil. That’s how I’d like to answer “what if”.

Comments for What if?

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by: EvaT.

I'm sorry I made a mistake in my age, I was born in 1948, not 1938.Sorry. It might make a difference.

All we had was radio, and my Mom washed our clothes on a scrub board. We had electricity when I was 10. But life was so simple and laid back. Farming is almost gone,too. Boy what a difference!

Thank God for the early days.

What if
by: John A

Eva, Barbara and Sharyn - Thank you ladies for your comments. I do appreciate the time and effort you took to respond to some thoughts of mine about days gone by.

It seems as though you share some or most of my sentiments about the those times. And as one of you indicated, there is a sense of community that is now gone from our society.

I sometimes hear people say they don't even know their next door neighbor. To me that is a sad statement. I see younger people who are wrapped up in the small package of electronics they carry around in their pockets. That piece of electronics is more important than direct interaction with people; ya know the fact to face stuff.

I recall all the wonderful times I had going to the drive in movies and playing hide and seek. I miss talking with Mr. Sanchez, the milk man, and riding on the back of his delivery truck as he drove around the neighborhood while eating a Popsicle.

I miss seeing Mr. Lin, the vegetable vendor, selling his produce out of the back of his pickup truck. His vegetables were so fresh, delicious and refreshing. He was a kind and generous Chinese gentleman who ALWAYS had a smile and a warm hug for all the kids and parents. He looked out after all of us. And if someone in the neighborhood was sick, his wife would drop by with a prepared meal.

There was Mrs. Waddell, a charming English lady, who use to make the best chocolate chip cookies and gave them to the kids in the neighborhood. She would tell us about her life growing up in England and we loved hearing her British accent. Oh...what a wonderful lady who shared so many stories and her life.

It's those things that gave a tremendous sense of community to me. If that's looking at life through rose colored glasses, I'll gladly take that any day over what we have now. There is something positive to be said about the good old says.

Again, thanks ladies for sharing!!!!!!

John A

Rose Colored Glass or Not
by: John A


An observation regarding the internet - The anonymity of the internet seems to allow folks to really lambast and say things to others they wouldn't have the courage to say while in another person's presence.

We see this in just about every forum on the internet. Civility has gone out the window. That is one of those "What ifs" that has certainly left our society whether we look at things through rose colored glasses or not.

One intent of writing is to elicit an emotion, thought and/or response from the reader. Apparently my piece achieved the desired result and struck a sour note with you.

Thanks for your time and comments.

John A.

What if
by: Brenda

What if people were still paralyzed by polio, there was no 911 to call for emergencies, child and spousal abuse was still hidden behind closed doors?

What if Blacks and other minorities were still denied their civil rights, that women were still second class citizens, and that couples could not limit the number of children they had with any reliability?

It may be fun to indulge in the 'What if' game for an afternoon, but when the negative aspects of those times are compared with the medical, educational, and lifestyle improvements that have come with the advancement of society, I will not waste my time looking at the 'good old days' with rose colored glasses.

How true.
by: Eva T.

I have a friend and we often wonder why people and things have changed so much.She and I both are baby boomers, I was born in 38 and she was born in 43.

I mean neighbors used to be almost as close as family, when the visited each other, even went to Church together. My own kids played with the neighbors kids,and even swapped spending nights together, nothing out of the ordinary, just friends. That was in the 70's.

And I still to this day hang my clothes out. It was so nice then!!

What has happened,I still wonder?

A Book For You and Others
by: Barbara Y.

A book you and others of like mind might enjoy greatly is Wendell Berry's What Are People For?: Essays

It addresses the nation's vast, unwept-for losses of community, devotion to land and neighbor, and much more.

Thanks for reminding me of how I loved a trip across the country on Route 66, just before it fell into disfavor and disuse. I'll never forget it!

Best regards--

John~~ Yes? What If ?
by: Sharyn~~~CANADA

What a great story. I agree with all that u wrote!

I too, wish that the situation in all our lives could go back to a simpler time when life was fun, friendly, tin-can cricket, swimming in the clear clean river, drive-in movies with the kids, the milk man, the bread man delivering fresh bread etc., & bring back those tv shows that made us laugh, not all that reality crap that is on tv now!

l am sure many of us seniors wish for all those great times to be repeated just so that the kids of today COULD see what they missed and will never be able to experience because the kids of today only have 1 HAND free! (eg) cell phones-tablets-ipods-whatever? And a stiff neck from looking down, never looking up to see what is in front of them and THAT IS their whole world~~~~ good luck to the future ???

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