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MailTribune.com
  • Futures of the past revisited

    Predicting the future seems to go hand-in-hand with a new year
  • When the new year comes around, there's a tradition of looking back at the past. It's pretty easy to remember what happened back then, although occasionally the details seem a bit fuzzy.
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  • When the new year comes around, there's a tradition of looking back at the past. It's pretty easy to remember what happened back then, although occasionally the details seem a bit fuzzy.
    Not so frequent, and rarely as accurate, are predictions of what may come in our futures. For as long as there has been the written word, prognosticators have been practicing this imperfect art, revealing the world our children will live in — be it in wondrous ease or an inferno of tribulation on Earth.
    Sometimes predictions are terrifying in their accuracy. "What Will Happen When Criminals Use Planes?" wrote a columnist for the Medford Daily News in 1929. "There is not a useful invention that has not been turned to destructive use. "… What of the airplane? When will outlaws adopt it as a weapon?"
    While some predictions hit the mark, others go just a little bit too far.
    When Warren Dodge in 1893 predicted that Medford and Central Point would sometime in the future become "one great city," he wasn't physically far off. But those predicted electric street cars connecting the towns never materialized, and his optimistic view that "out of chaos will come peace evermore" seems to have fallen through that crack in the space-time continuum we hear of so often in science fiction movies these days.
    The year 1893 — perhaps inspired by the World's Columbian Exposition, or World's Fair, held in Chicago — was filled with national and local predictions. The Ashland Tidings ran several issues featuring the syndicated views of "eminent people of America." Ed Robison, editor of the Talent News, thought those predictions relied too heavily on the big cities at the expense of his neighbors.
    "Ye editor of the NEWS is, of course, most interested in his own town," Robison wrote.
    Noting he had no astrologers to consult, he decided to ask the "spooks;" those beings, he said, were "always available." Although they were shy and would only talk with someone who was sleeping.
    "Having taken lessons in the art of going to sleep at will," Robison said, "we resolved by this means to woo the sprites of the air and note the result."
    The question: "What will our city of Talent be in 1993?"
    "I see spread out before me a mighty city," the spirit said. "It extendeth from beyond Ashland on the south to Medford on the north. But lo! The name is changed. The three cities unite, their names are blended, and the great city is called TALASHFORD."
    When the spook informed Robison that his newspaper building would be eight stories tall with a sign over the entrance that said "One Million Readers," Robison knew he was dreaming and instantly woke up.
    Old Albert Bliton, owner of the Medford Mail newspaper, perhaps with tongue in cheek, predicted the end of war.
    "The introduction of bulletproof clothing, smokeless powder and improved two-mile guns will make the art of war one of pleasurable exhilaration, with very little danger," Bliton wrote. "The only people who will be injured by a war in the 20th century will be overworked tailors and machinists."
    Albert Sturgis, 72, offered no predictions in 1907, but told a Mail reporter he only wished he could live another 50 years to "see what the progress of the world will be.
    —… When I was a youngster, it was in the 'good old days' some people say they regret, but I don't. "… Fifty years from now I figure the people will be farther ahead of us in conveniences as we are ahead of the people of fifty years ago. "… They will read the history of this age with pity for our benighted ignorance and lack of knowledge of higher civilization, even as we read the history of the Middle Ages."
    That's a prediction that seems to work year after year.
    Ever wonder what they'll be thinking about us on New Year's Day 2112?
    Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.
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