Were the good old days really so good?

As a somewhat compulsive reader, a weekly tradition of mine is to read the Winnipeg Real Estate News. In addition to taking a glance at a historical piece about the violent 1906 streetcar strike of a century ago, and marvelling at how a condo on William Avenue near the Health Sciences Centre costs more today than a condo in far more desirable River Heights or Charleswood cost a decade ago, my eye happened to wander across Allen Willoughby’s column.

This week, Allen took readers down Memory Lane with tidbits about life in the “olden days”.

  • All your male teachers wore neckties and female teachers had their hair done every day and wore high heels
  • You always got your windshield cleaned, oil checked and gas pumped
  • It was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at a real restaurant with your parents
  • They threatened to keep kids back a grade if they failed — and they did
  • No one ever asked where the car keys were because they were always in the ignition and the car doors were never locked

Willoughby’s article was, of course, for entertainment value and was in no way meant to be a comprehensive look back at the old days.

Were the “good old days” really all that great, though?

I can’t speak to that personally, not having lived through that era. There is reason to believe, however, that in many ways we’re better off today.




  • Remember when travelling overseas was only for the rich, or a once-in-a-lifetime excursion? In October 1956, Trans-Canada Air Lines (the forerunner of Air Canada) advertised a seat sale that, if you booked quickly, allowed you to fly Montreal-London round trip for the rock-bottom price of $416 — the equivalent of $3,410 in 2010 dollars. Today’s best price for a non-stop Montreal-London round trip, departing July 3 and returning July 17: $1,176 rising to $1,583 after taxes, fees and surcharges. Or you can make the round-trip today in Executive Class for $3,225 after taxes, fees and surcharges — $185 less than TCA’s lowest inflation-adjusted 1956 price.


  • Remember when the only choice you had on television was “on” or “off”? The CBC held a monopoly on television in Winnipeg until 1960. Cable television didn’t arrive with its bounty of seven channels to watch — yes, only seven! — until the late ’60s.


If you were born in the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, it’s not likely that you would remember any of these things — or even heard of them until now.

Let’s face it: every decade and every era had its problems. It will be interesting to be alive in 40 years time and to see how people look back on our times.

Certainly, our times are not perfect. Our standard of living, however, is still generally very, very good compared to the past.

Let’s hear it for life in the year 2010!

About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

11 Responses to Were the good old days really so good?

  1. Christian says:

    Heh… I remember the expense of flying.

    My parents are from the old country and we would go back every few years. The result was scrimping and saving and foregoing ‘the usual’ trips kids had to Banff, Disney world etc. to be able to afford to go back for a visit.

  2. james geddes M.D. says:

    Perdition looms for “View from Seven” bloggers. Are you guys like those headless horsemen from Lord of the Rings? Can you identify yourselves? Thanks, James Geddes M.D. Texas

  3. james geddes M.D. says:

    Sorry, I just read “about” Kevin Mcdougald.
    Also, did you censor out my earlier response from this morning?

  4. theviewfromseven says:


    Your first comment was declined for publication on account that comments like “you’re full of crap” are not appropriate for this blog.

  5. Fat Arse says:

    Well one things for sure, I am not going to assert that you are “full of crap”; nevertheless, I might note that the advances in gender equality are ongoing, Cable TV options are hardly a barometer of progress, and that driving fatalities in Japan are a red-herring. Otherwise, a very interesting post… flawless? No. But certainly not one that is … err… “crappy”! (insert banal smiley face here) 🙂

  6. theviewfromseven says:

    Thanks, Fat Arse! Good points, well taken.

  7. kid zubaz says:

    LOL @ the angry doctor

    Great post… you have an insightful perspective on things.

  8. theviewfromseven says:

    Thanks, Kid!

  9. Benson Bear says:

    seven: everyone can give all sorts of anecdotes about good old days, bad old days, or at least many people can. How are we to say, all things considered, however? Just pile everything up and see which pile looks bigger? Or maybe are there principles we can use?

  10. theviewfromseven says:

    Quality of life is ultimately subjective. Perhaps it would be possible for someone to compile data going back 100 years and create an index similar to the UN’s Human Development Index, but even that index leaves out some important factors.

    Just out of curiosity, I went into the World Values Survey’s online database and checked out the percentage of Canadians who said they were “very happy” with their lives in the past four waves. The results:

    1982 – 35%
    1990 – 30%
    2000 – 44%
    2006 – 46%

    Too bad there wasn’t annual tracking of this question going further back.

  11. Benson Bear says:

    I think it is debatable to what degree quality of life is subjective (it certainly is in philosophy). People can be misled and even brainwashed. Also I am sceptical that we can rely on self-reports consisting of the answer at one particular point in time to one question on a survey, when not everyone (in the same survey or in surveys in different years and thus different cultural conditions) may have the same understanding of the question or the same thoughtfulness or the same propensity to answer honestly. At the very least one has to correct for demographics of age and ethnicity.

    HDI though is even worse, it wasn’t intended for use by highly developed countries so they all score near perfect. And it is only a small set of objective measures that may not correlate too strongly with individual personal subjective feelings of well being.

    Usually different ideological sides don’t use subjective well-being but instead allude to different objective measures, casually suggesting a connection to what they call “happiness”. (perhaps closely related to SWB). Witness Crowley’s use of “work ethic” and “standard of living” (measured crudely as an economic quantity such as GDP per capita).

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