Editorial: Sitting up to take notice
In the Internet age, you come across the occasional mass-email that, at the very least, offers some amusing reading; if not real insight. In a tip of our hats to those waning days of summer where we imagine ourselves horizontal in our hammocks reading stuff of relative irrelevance (those were the days!), here are some interesting comparisons of how life was in this country in 1911 — 100 years ago:
• The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.
• Fuel for the Model T car was sold in drug stores only.
• Only 14 percent of homes in the country had a bathtub.
• Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
• There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.
• The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
• The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.
• The average U.S. wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour; which, at a 40-week, equals roughly $450 annually.
• More than 95 percent of all births took place at home.
• Sugar cost four cents a pound; eggs were fourteen cents a dozen; coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
• Most women only washed their hair once a month,and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo. (Now, we won’t swear to the veracity of that statement, but it does heighten the “Hey Maude” factor.)
• Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people fromentering into their country for any reason. (Ditto, above.)
• The five leading causes of death were: 1) pneumonia and influenza; 2) tuberculosis; 3) diarrhea; 4) heart disease; 5) stroke.
• The American flag had 45 stars.
• Las Vegas , Nevada had a population of just 30. (Should have bought land then.)
• Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn’t been invented yet.
• There was neither a Mother’s Day nor a Father’s Day.
• Two out of every 10 adults couldn’t read or write and only 6 percentof all Americans had graduated from high school.
• Marijuana, heroin and morphine were all available over the counterat the local corner drugstores.Back then some pharmacists extolled the virtues of heroin, saying: “Heroin clears the complexion,gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health!”
• Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.
• There were about 230 reported murders in the entire country.
The email then ends by saying the person who originated the message was going to forward it to others who, without typing a word, would spread its information around the world in a matter of seconds; then the email adds, “Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years.”
It’s fun stuff, worthy of a lazy day reading on the hammock; and it does pack the afore-mentioned “Hey Maude” factor — defined as that moment when one person (let’s call him Joe) yells from his hammock into the garden (to let’s say his wife, Maude) in the following fashion about something he has just read: “Hey Maude, get a load of this!”
Let us stress, again, that we don’t stand behind the veracity of any of these statements presented as facts; but that’s not really the point. The message is that life changes more rapidly than we might imagine and that comparison comes into sharper focus by comparing it to specific things as they were a century ago. Moreover, the message asks readers to imagine what life will be like 100 years from now. We’ll go a step further and ask, too, how we — as residents of Vermont and citizens of this country — can make the right decisions to ensure that we make the transition (think of environmental challenges, world relations, economic fairness) to the next century with wisdom and grace.
And, on that note, we’d better sit up and take notice.