The Olden Days

There are a few blogs I try to follow on a regular basis. Their lives or stories or life stories are compelling and some people can make anything interesting. In an earlier post, called, interestingly enough, A Few Sites I Frequent, I showed you a few of the morning sites I visit. I also visit several blogs, as well. One of these I follow is a gentleman in England who calls himself BeetlyPete. His post today, called, McDonald’s: The Last Bastion Falls, about how the last little county in England has granted permission to the chain to build a restaurant there.

I grew up in a small town in central Wisconsin, called Shawano. It was the county seat and four main highways and two railroads ran through it and overall it was a popular tourist destination, thanks to Shawano Lake and the Wolf River. The population was 6,438. My family moved there in 1971 or 1972. I think I was 12 when we moved there, so, 1972.

When I was a teenager, The McDonald’s went up. We no longer had to drive thirty-five or more miles to get a Big Mac. Oh, sure, there were restaurants and truck stops in town but nothing like this. This McDonalds was where my wife and I had our “wedding reception” June 5th, 1980. We were married in the courthouse downtown and then we walked about a mile and a half out to the far outskirts of town where I had a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, large fries and a large Coke and Margaret had a Big Mac, fries and, I think, a Coke also because Diet Coke had not been introduced, yet. I don’t remember what Mike had but when it was done, he stomped on the paper cup and said, “Mazel Tov!”

Then, not long after, a competitor built a Hardee’s across the street.

I worked in retail at the time and pretty soon all the merchants were talking about it. The evil giant corporation of that day (now defunct), Kmart, wanted to come to town and build in the empty field on the outskirts, way past the McDonalds. People used to have to drive all the way to Green Bay, thirty-five miles away, to go to Kmart before and that was bad enough, but now this? It was gloom and doom and despair and misery. All of the businesses were going to close and Shawano would become a ghost town and we’d all have to move to Green Bay anyway. A couple of stores, part of small chains that spanned Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, did go down, but they were on their way down before.

Then there was talk about building a bypass without Arthur Dent to lie down in front of the bulldozers. Oh, gloom, despair and wringing of hands! This was it for sure. The of life as we know it.

Or progress. Depending on who you listened to.

That was almost forty years ago. Since then the population of the town has grown to 8,000 plus. The downtown tourist traps are still as quaint and charming and touristy-trappy-pricey as they ever were. Now another evil corporation has supplanted the Kmart and Walmart is there instead. McDonalds and Hardees have been joined by quite a few others now. There’s no doubt about it, the town has changed in the last forty-eight years.

One thing has not changed. The people. The nice, shirt-off-their-back folks are still the nice, shirt-off-their-back folks. And their kids and grandkids are nice, too. The same condescending jerks are still the same condescending jerks who never grew up. When I went to visit, the people were all still the same. I don’t know. It does kind of make me sad, but it is the slow, inexorable movement of time against which there is no defense. The young people there can’t imagine the town not having any of those things and when those things are finally replaced by something else, these young people will likely wax nostalgic for the days they could get a quick hamburger for a dollar. What’s even funnier is that they will probably join me in saying, “Nostalgia just ain’t what it used to be.” And remember, the Good Book says:

“Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.”

Ecclesiastes 7:10

4 Replies to “The Olden Days”

  1. Herb, thanks for the mention.
    Here is an update.
    That town council approved the construction of the MacDonald’s at 7 pm tonight.
    There is no longer ANY county in England that does not have one of their burger restaurants.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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