Sometimes it’s easy to think that I was born into the wrong era. I read books about the 40s and 50s and listen to people who lived then talk about the time they lived in and I’m awestruck. Sure, every decade has its virtues and vices, but looking at photos taken in the 40s takes my breath away. The way people dressed. The way people treated each other. The respect for life, liberty, country. It blows me away.
Then I come back to the present and find myself disappointed at what I see.
Of course, then I’ll look at pictures from more recent decades, and I’m suddenly glad I’m a 20-something in the twenty-teens.
Immediately after the WWII era, we hit the 60s and 70s—years which are a big happy Technicolor tye-dye question mark to me and just about everyone who was a teenager at the time. There was a lot of long hair involved. Thankfully, wrap skirts and ethnic jewelry, and Beatles albums remain.
Along came the awkward 80’s, that decade when most current high school teachers were teenagers. The big hair of the 80’s is gone for a reason. The obsession with windbreakers is finally over. Glasses the size of saucers are no longer a necessity. Earrings as big as eggs are thankfully not as big a deal these days. And mullets. Thank heavens there aren’t many of those running around anymore.
The 90’s didn’t know what to do with themselves. Pastels were a thing, as were matchy-matchy family photo shoots. Preferably while wearing pastels. And bowl-cut hairstyles for small children and either really greasy hair for adults or bouffants left over from the 80’s. And over-the-top makeup. And Britney Spears. Ew.
But one thing I have to remind myself is that in every decade, regardless of the fads of the time, people were people. Average, every-day Joes and Janes got up in the morning, made coffee, went to work, played with their kids, had worries and responsibilities. Regardless of how ridiculous the external factors may seem from our 2013 perspective, the people of the past are, at core, no different from us. Once upon a time, that lady in the wheelchair was the girl with the sparkling eyes in the black-and-white photo taken in 1947. She’s still the same person. She just looks different.
As an illustration of this, I have included one of my favorite photographs. It dates way back beyond the 40s, or even the 30s or 20s. It’s from that time when pictures could only be gotten by hours of exposure, not the click of a button—hence why everyone is so serious in pictures that old. You try smiling for an hour, and see how well that works for you. But because everyone from this time period was photographed unsmiling, people assume that it must not have been a happy time in the world—until you see a picture like this:
Don’t know about you, but I see some pretty happy people in this picture.