I’m in the process of scanning old photos, slides, and negatives. The sheer number makes the whole process daunting! One of the unexpected outcomes of my project is that many of the photos jog my memory of times now long gone.
Here’e an example
My grandmother, born in 1903, was a very progressive woman in her day. She was far a head of her time. And, despite numerous tragedies during her childhood1, she went on to attain things that generally were not afforded women of her generation.
But, inconceivable to me now, my grandmother never drove a car. I just can’t get my head around that fact—to live one’s entire life never having driven a car. And when I scanned this photograph of her (top and below), I remembered a conversation we had when I was a young man driving her from her house to ours.
Mamaw told me that when she was a little girl, there were no roads where they lived, only what she called “pig paths.” They lived “out in the country.”
There were no roads because there were no cars. She said the first time she saw a car it terrified her. The car was terribly noisy and frightened all of the animals, sending them running down the pig path toward her in a panicked state.
People had horses and wagons back in the day. In “downtown” Prichard, people tied up their horses to posts down the center of the dirt street. Later, a cable car was added, replacing the posts for the horses.
This photo shows the old pig path up to the house. Fancy atire aside, this scene looks so impoverished because there are simply no roads.
Today, Prichard, AL, is impoverished. All of the industry is gone2. Downtown is basically boarded up. Only the poorest of the poor remain. Crime, unemployment, and drugs are rampant. By all measures Prichard is among the very worst places to live in the whole state of Alabama. But downtown sits close to a huge interstate that passes over (literally on top of) main street—no on/off ramps needed there! People whiz to and from Mobile on it.
I’m not so sure things have gotten any better in this country over the past 100 years. But we have roads. We have cars. We have gridlock. We have high density living and glutted life styles. Frankly, we just have too many people. But that’s the price we have to pay to keep this Ponzi scheme we call capitalism afloat.
What will people say of today 100 years from now? The transportation infrastructure is in a ruinous state. Whole municipalities are collapsing. Towns are being poisoned with lead-laden or fracking chemical-laden water supplies. Young people graduate from college with no hope of ever paying off the cost of college, let alone finding gainful employment in an actual career. And the wealth divide is the worst it’s been in my entire lifetime.
Where’s my smartphone? I need to take another selfie of me smiling and posed. Life is good, yeah?! Should I get the new model?