Digging up the past with Haley

Thank you to all who have expressed their enjoyment with my articles thus far. I am delighted to be writing! I need to announce that my January plans are going to spill over just a little into February due to my work life being disrupted in perhaps one of the most splendid ways, if such a way can exist. My mother and I have been sharing the honored duty of babysitting my grandson since my daughter went back to work full time at the end of December. Recently, my Daddy-o tested positive for COVID then my mommy followed suit a few days later. So, I have been on full time Amma/grandmother duty and will continue to be until my parents are back 100%. Now, on to the blabbing.

As I was gathering information to help me with fulfilling my January plans to  continue “outlining interesting similarities and stark differences between the elements shaping the world on New Year’s 2022, compared to the components of life and humanity from 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago,” as  mentioned in my last column, I first realized that our archives aren’t quite complete and going back precisely 25, 50, 75, and 100 years while sticking to the realm of the archives-which were my inalterable plans since the start, was going to be impossible. 

So, while dealing with the deep psychological human tendency to prefer round numbers over others and working with what was available, I was able to stick with some roundish numbers, but this week and next you’ll also be reading about events from assorted past eras, including news from 96 and 121 years ago.

The second fact that materialized during this museum-like expedition was the realization that spending time in the archives room is heaven for me. Being amongst these old newspapers, and the life stories that they tell through the real time documentation of days gone by, made yesteryear feel more authentic and sparked a wide array of emotions within me. I am sure the folks in the office heard me giggle with each mystifying discovery or instance of my finding evidence that further suggested that I do indeed live in the cultural past and only exist in the present day, or as I often say, born into the wrong generation. I am also sure my friends quickly got tired of me sending snaps. 

One of my snaps

Although I love genealogy, the stories and the way life really was way back when, is the source of my passion. Why is that? I have always wondered this, really. I’ve been labeled weird a time or two for one thing or another and although I wave my eccentric flag high and will always be just who I am, I am often perplexed as to why I am drawn to bygone times. 

As my exploration in the archives room continued, and my desire to live in another time grew, I think I may have unraveled just a small bit of this mystery. 

You know there has always been good and bad in the world, and always will be until thy Kingdom comes. As society has advanced, and equality and the understanding of why we need equality has begun to bloom, evil happenings have morphed with the times but the frequency and depth have widely expanded. 

 Is the slightly old-fashioned, more tender demeanor really that long gone? Can’t we grab a few of the primitive and more favorable characteristics of the past and drag them into the rest of 2022 and beyond? 

We have a choice on what tomorrow will be. We can leave the less desirable baggage behind. There is a lot of stuff I need to leave there myself.  

Although the steady increase in corruption does not fully explain my love for the, sometimes more virtuous, days of old, maybe my yearning for humanity to turn back to some of the old and more compassionate ways provides a clue. Something I am sure of is that as a only “30 something” year old woman, the elements of life have changed dramatically in my short years. Now, although thinking about the time span of 100 years ago seems like a world away, in the grand scheme of things 30 something is still young.

When I first heard the news that I was to be a grandmother, as appalling as it may sound, my first feeling was not that of extreme joy, although pure delight did come to me immediately after. My initial reaction was fueled by fear. Fear of my precious grandson, who is laying on a pallet staring and cooing at me while I type this, growing up in a world that is so different from even just a few decades ago. 

The concerned thoughts that immediately went into play for me were how the world will be for him and my three children, my nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephew  in 10 more years, 25 years, 50 years, etc. 

From my viewpoint, it seems that the way people treat each other is really the source of all this contemporary conflict. Are we moving backwards? Or, are we just rolling with the punches of this new day and age? 

I say we are certainly going backwards! When did it become such commonplace to loathe someone only because of varying opinions or one’s disagreement on certain subjects?

The viewpoints that my late soul-sister, Reba, and I shared often varied greatly. We enjoyed a loving debate. Letting the other know why we thought what, even if our deliberations brought up something we bumped heads on, was always a great source of amusement for us both. 

On occasion, one would sway the other in the end simply through cordial and factual conversation and our chatting regarding any deviation in opinions certainly always resulted in a positive experience that provided a learning opportunity for both of us. The friendship between Reba and I was one in a million, and I fear our nature of debating is too. 

Perfect isn’t even on my radar and, oh, how I do wish I would listen better to my own advice. However, I must say that I am unregrettably seeing an unplanned theme here in my columns. I say again, we do not live in a one size fits all world and I wish the idea of there often being no right or wrong opinion or solution were heavier on our minds. 

We have to get closer to that point or all is lost. We must only take actions and speak words that improve all situations and enhance all elements of existence regardless of any circumstances. Lift others up, and never contribute to bringing anyone down. It is only then, we will progress as humans.

The third thing to surface on my radar was the blunt contrast between today’s fast-paced living and yesterday’s unhurried tempo. 

Fifty years ago, in 1972, the headlines were mainly happy and laidback. The newspaper pages were filled with cheerful social blurbs and announcements like this tidbit in the Jan. 6, 1972, issue of The Greenville Advocate: “A. G. and Orell Grant really enjoyed the Christmas and New Year’s holidays for their little granddaughter Nichole Grant from Atlanta was their guest. During this time Nichole’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Rod Grant enjoyed a visit to New Orleans and attended the Sugar Bowl game. There were quite a few disappointed people glued to the tube Saturday watching bowl games and we hope they enjoyed their black-eyed peas and hog jowl more than the ballgames.”

We are blessed that our small-town newspaper is most often headlined with more positive things when compared to breaking news from other areas. Nonetheless, if reading “a joyful time was had by all,” as often put in the old southern society section of newspapers, was once again common I think we might see some improvement. 

“a good time had by all”

I’d like to think that if joyful announcements, once regularly seen in newspapers all across America decades ago and the societal demeanor they represent, were a commonly found component of modern day life and a regular occurrence in all parts of the world, blissfulness and peace would be found more often and in more people. 

Next week you will read about more factual comparisons and of views from others in or from the community. I will toss in a few more newspaper excerpts from many moons ago, like when in 1901, 121 years ago, “Mrs Moore of Talladega, better known as Betsy Hamilton, gave a pleasant and laughable entertainment at City Hall Wednesday evening.” and “Max Autrey has returned to Auburn to complete college work begun before he went Into the service. Other veterans either returning to college or entering the Freshman Class include Clay Stabler Jrj., Van Williams and Billy McCrory who have entered Birmingham-Southern.”

So, stay tuned for some more organized reminiscing about things like how one could buy a “ready ice-cold” Coke for five cents in 1926 and watch “The Elephant Who Adopted that Born Free Couple” at The Ritz for 40 cents in 1972. Keep an eye out for Where are They Now highlights, including a few words from 1999 McKenzie High School graduate, Yolanda Mitchell Beverly.