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About time for the world to go to the dogs

When one looks at the world after living in it for over 90 years, it is not too difficult to deduce that it is changing.

How we live, where we live, how we dress, how we think — everything has changed.

Some of the most significant changes began during my early years. As children we were frequently identified by the neighborhoods we lived in. These neighborhoods were frequently named after a certain school, street or pioneer. Usually the houses we lived in were given names referring to the family first living there. For example, the old McDougal house was built be Dr. McDougal, who was my grandmother’s dentist.

Most likely several generations lived in these houses for many years. Most of these folks had dogs that became part of the family and part of the neighborhood. Everybody knew the names of the dogs. They would frequently come to your house for a visit. When you became tired of the dog, you told him to go home ... and he did. The McDougals had collies.

If Fido strayed over to the school playground, some good soul would bring him home. Sometimes that good shepherd was the ice man on his way to bring your block of ice for the ice box. Maybe the milkman who delivered your milk bottles to your front porch would come across your dog and bring him back. Even the boy who delivered your Saturday Evening Post magazine might come across your dog chasing cats during his “bicycle route” and bring the exhausted pet home.

At school you were somewhat dismayed to learn your teacher had taught all of your siblings and even your parents! Many families traditionally purchased the same brand of automobile. It was easy to notice a car passing on the street and observe, “There go the McDougals.” Chances were that at one point in time someone driving the McDougal car stopped to give you a ride home on your way back from the grocery store. (In those days there was no difficulty in distinguishing between a Packard and a Ford.) You could always count on the McDougal family sitting in the same place in church every Sunday. They sat in the “McDougal Pew” purchased by their great grandfather. And when members of the family died, they were buried in the family plot.

The boy bagging your groceries you had known all his life. You probably played sports with his grandfather.

Much has changed in the last 90 years, including how men shave. In my youth, my father’s straight-edge razor was good enough for me. One had a shaving cup with shaving soap and a shaving brush with which you made your own shaving lather. And when the blade became dull, you sharpened it with a shaving strap that could be used to spank the bottoms of misbehaving children. Sometimes a yard stick was a suitable substitute.

Some of the more serious indiscretions included poaching fruit from the neighbor’s orchard. Sometime you were forgiven, but if the neighbor was a grouch you would be sure to soap his windows on Halloween eve. Pushing over his outhouse might occur if provoked.

The McDougals were members of the same political party for generations. They always voted the straight ticket, meaning voting only for members of one party.

Certain family possessions seemed to stay around for a long time, The Parker pen you were given on graduation day you probably took to college and eventually gave it to one of your kids. So too with the dependable pocket watch. Your family IBM Selectric typewriter with its bouncing ball would eventually end up in a college dormitory.

The way we judged people in the old days seems to have changed. The yardstick for evaluating a person was based on what they did rather than what they said or how they looked. We were taught, “actions speak louder than words.” And “sticks and stones will break my bones” meant that name-calling never works.

Finally, to the question that sometimes is asked of us old codgers, “What is going to happen to this old world?” I have to admit we seem to be skating on thin ice. However, I prefer to put my money on the wise words of Mark Twain who said:

“My ancestors in the old marsh bogs said, ‘Man is going to the dogs.’ My great-grandfather in his coonskin cap said, ‘Man is going to the dogs.’ My father in his silk hat and fancy togs said, ‘Man is going to the dogs.’ At this point, I say, ‘The dogs have had a good long wait!’”

Stewart McCollom lives in Ashland.

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