The Perils of Progress
Fanny Flagg was a somewhat regular on a game show I used to watch back in the seventies, called “Match Game”. I thought she was dumb because she spoke with an Alabama accent, exhibit number one for the prosecution, and she had a very dry wit that took a second to sink in. Slowly I learned that she was no dummy.
By the mid-nineties I had moved to Alabama myself and learned that I had been the dumb one for not figuring out how to move there earlier in my life. By then, Fannie Flagg’s best selling book, Fried Green Tomatoes, had been made into an Academy Award nominated movie and I was able to see the humor in her comment, “Y’all have these funny accents.” – addressing the crowd at Franklin Pierce College’s 1997 graduate convocation in New Hampshire.
Fannie Flagg has a new book out, “The Whole Town’s Talking”, currently number twelve on the New York Times’ Best Sellers, Fiction. No, I haven’t finished “Up From the Rubble”, about the Mennonites’ struggles after WWII. But that’s a paperback – a physical book. In a situation that belies the entire premise of this discourse, I needed an eBook, something that I could load onto my phone to read while working alone in the office here at Lake Harmony.
Both books are similar in that they are written about a time long before babies were being born with an X-Box controller in their hands as they came out the womb. “The Whole Town’s Talking” begins in the late 1800’s when a group of hard-working Swedish immigrants form a farming community in very rural Missouri. Their leader, Lardor Nordstrom, was single but wanted to change that. The only solution was to advertise in the Swedish-American newspaper in Chicago.
After an agonizingly long period of time, Lardor receives a letter…
A 24-year-old Swedish lady of the Lutheran faith with skills of cooking, sewing, and gardening and a good nature is answering your advertisement. Enclosed is my photograph. If you are so inclined and not already taken, please send your photograph.
With great reluctance, Lardor mails a letter with a picture, after chiding himself for his too-big ears and for letting Mrs. Larsen use a bowl to aid in his haircut.
“He was sure he would never hear from Miss Olsen again. He had tried not to get his hopes up, but in spite of himself, he had started dreaming about having someone to spoil, to work for, to come home to at night. But he knew it had been just a pipe dream. Miss Olsen would look at his picture and wonder how he’d ever had the nerve to think she would consider him for a husband.”
My Dear Miss Olsen,
I was so happy to hear from you again. My neighbors say they heard my loud “Whoop!” five miles away. I do hope your sweet reply means that I have jumped the first of the many hurdles yet to come and passed. I am most relieved you did not find my looks too repellent, at least not enough to refrain from writing again.
As you can see, I am not much in the looks department, but you make it up for the both of us. I was most taken with the information you sent along about yourself and find it to be compatible in every way possible.
And yes, I will answer what you ask with pleasure. I have never been married. I have no children, and I do not smoke or drink, except on a special occasion. I am not a card gambler, but I have been known to place a wager on a game of horseshoes. No more than a quarter. I progressed to fifth grade, but not beyond, and as a result, I know all there is to know about cows, but am short on vocabulary. Luckily for me, cows have only a one-word vocabulary and don’t care much.
I, too, believe that cleanliness is next to Godliness and appreciate a clean home, but being a man, often fail in that department.
I am mostly Lutheran, but have dabbled in the Methodist church from time to time. However, in that matter, and on the subject of progressive education, I am more than willing to be led anywhere you see fit.
Your devoted servant,
Despite his worries, Miss Olsen, a house-sevant in Chicago who prefers the more rural ways of her Swedish upbringing, decides to take a chance on him.
My Dearest Miss Olsen,
We are pleased you will be staying with us. We have a nice upstairs bedroom, light and airy, with a mirror and a chest of drawers. You have my word that your privacy will be respected while you are here. My children have been instructed to never, under any circumstances, enter your room. My oldest girl has seen your photograph and does not believe that someone so pretty is coming to our home.
Miss Olsen, I hope I am not taking liberties, but I have heard that in Chicago, they are putting herrings in a tin can. If this is true and it is not too much of an inconvenience, could you please bring us one? I have enclosed one dollar to cover the cost, and I hope it is sufficient. We are inland here, and my husband and I miss our herring. But if there is no such thing as herring in a tin can, please use the dollar for a box of face powder or maybe a fashion magazine. I am looking so forward to having another lady to talk to. My closest neighbor, Mrs. Knott, is very nice, but is German and very brief in conversation.
Mrs. Birdie Swensen
I realize that I am none-to-slowly becoming a dinosaur. I am not suggesting that we return to near-Victorian times, but there is a sweetness – an innocence – in those times that has been lost, sadly.
Gloria Steinham and Women’s Liberation righted a wrong but completely altered society. You’ll get no argument that women are equally as capable and had the right to do a job in a traditionally male field. Today, I seek out female doctors and dentists because I find them way more compassionate. Women lawyers, accountants, or bank managers… absolutely. But did the pendulum swing back too far? Women firefighters and infantryman? Just because they can doesn’t mean they should.
Women in the workplace created the two-income family. Two cars, plus the 1,000 square foot house that raised generations of two and three-children families are now too small and need to be bull-dozed to erect a 3,500 square foot castle with a theater room and an only child. In Canada, the parents can split a year off work while collecting Unemployment Benefits. Day Care is becoming expensive, so the push is on to get the taxpayer to somehow subsidize the expense.
In a way, we did it to ourselves. Recently, I was opining about the clueless ‘Snowflakes’ protesting about Trump’s election. We imagine coddled college-aged kids who have the menus memorized from every restaurant in town but can’t pass a Civics exam. But who created them?
Our parents were educated in a one-room, dirt-floored schoolhouse. They made it better for us. We trudged through six feet of snow in the blowing snow to get to a grade school, uphill both ways. We made it better for out children, they rode a bus to school. Our grandchildren drive their own cars.
Making things more convenient for the next generation is noble, as long as the same values are retained.
The woman who taught me the computer graphic program, “Adobe Illustrator” was a very talented artist, and a crafts person. She had made a very time-consuming craft for her brother-in-law. She complained to me how this object had been complete for some time but he hadn’t come by to pick it up. I asked if the brother-in-law had requested her to make it? “No,” she replied, “but that shouldn’t matter.”
Well, it DOES matter. He didn’t ask for it and was getting it for free. He had to go out of his way to pick up something unsolicited. Her craft had no value… to him. I learned that the intrinsic value of an object is directly related to the amount of effort expended to acquire that object.
Here at the RV Park, we pump propane. Perhaps more than 50% is not sold to RVers, but to nearby low-income residents who use it to fuel space heaters. A grill-size propane tank fill-up costs $14.79. It’s easy to tell those who are on Public Assistance of some sort because they tell us to keep the 21¢. Those who had to work for their $14.79 wait for their change.
My mother, at age 93, claims that she lived during the best of times. Maybe she’s right. As much as I enjoy being able to use my phone to read a book, maybe we would all be better off if progress had stopped during Leave It to Beaver.