Monday, July 22, 2013

Are We Better Off?

(c) Finntann

Are we better off today?

The house above was my grandfather's house, he was a Stationary Engineer and a union member.  He lived in that house with my grandmother, a housewife, and ten kids.  He had steady work through the depression, earning twenty-five dollars a week (that's five dollars a day... or less) working on the steam plant at the YMCA.

FT made two interesting observations in yesterday's thread:

It was INDIVIDUAL VISION, INGENUITY, INITIATIVE, CREATIVITY and AMBITION that developed the PRIVATE INDUSTRIES that BUILT this country and made it as great as it was -- "The Envy of the World" -- as it was called in my youth.
My grandpa, who never earned more than twenty bucks a WEEK, raised EIGHT CHILDREN, and was able to save enough to build a three-storey house with a wraparound porch on ACREAGE in New Jersey with an apple and peach orchard and room for a large vegetable garden.

I easily make more than fifty times what he did, and yet could not afford a house like that (unless apparently given yesterday's post I am willing to move to Detroit!).

So are we better off?

Medically we are mostly better off,  the ten children he lived with were out of 13 that survived childhood, two died in infancy and one at 3 years old.  Although my grandfather did live to 68,  an age today that one wouldn't be overly surprised to hear that one died at.  His father made it to 70, his mother to 76,  and his wife made it to the then ripe old age of 84. He was one of eight children, six of whom lived into adulthood, although he did have a sister who died of tuberculosis at the young age of 28.

Physically, one has to wonder.  An Australian study of 19th century lifestyle habits revealed that the average person then spent three times more calories going about their daily business than we do today.  The study also points out that these were normal everyday townsfolk, merchants and the like, not lumberjacks or ditch diggers who would spend five times the energy we do today.  In other words, these weren't couch potatoes.

But what about quality of life, you may ask.  I don't know for certain, but I have plenty of old family photos going back to the start of the 20th century depicting picnics, baseball games in parks, trips to the shore (beach for those of you not east coasters), etc.  All normal run of the mill things we do today (or not if we are too busy). I do notice one thing though,  there are far more people gathered together in the old photographs than I find in mine today.


There is an organization here in Colorado known as the Stapleton Foundation and on the grounds of the old Denver airport they are constructing a series of new and innovative Stapleton communities.  Communities with parks and open space,  front porches, designed for pedestrians where you can walk to the local grocery store and local shops and tied to public transportation.  They call it "walkable design" and they call it innovative.  Funny, sounds like the neighborhood I grew up in.

Are we that much different?

I leave you with this,  a road trip in 1921... have things really changed all that much?

(c) Finntann

I was a little bit skeptical about the date when I saw the "I'd walk a mile for a camel" ad but did a little research and it does jive with the date.


No comments: