March 1st, 2013

Looking back: the long reach of time

My mother’s very first memory was of being frightened by booming noises—guns? cannon? fireworks?—while being held aloft above a crowd to view a New York harbor filled with ships. She wept and her parents comforted her. The year was 1918, and she was four years old, and they told her there was no reason to cry because it was a happy occasion: the end of the Great War.

They didn’t yet realize that someday it would be known as the First.

That was a long time ago. But it really wasn’t all that long ago, since my very own mother remembered it. She grew up in an extended family shaped like an inverted pyramid, the only child of an only child. Her father had become chronically ill around the time she was born, and so her parents had to move in with her mother’s parents. They never moved out again until both grandparents had died and the house was sold, around the time of my birth.

So that’s how it happened that my mother was raised by four people, two of whom had been born during the early 1850s. All four of them had held and reassured my mother when those booming noises had announced the end of the Great War in that scene that constituted her first memory. So, although my mother became a modern woman who smoked cigarettes, drove a car, went to college, and voted as soon as she turned twenty-one (in that order, I believe), two of the people closest to her in her youth remembered the Civil War vividly.

This story illustrates how easy it is to reach back in time, at least in a “six degrees of separation” sort of way. All it takes is a family with a series of long-lived people who have children relatively late in life.

For example, with the proper connections, my mother could easily have known someone who knew someone who lived in the 1700s—and in the early 1700s, at that. That’s how we get the phenomenon of those Civil War widows who died as late as the early years of the twenty-first century. The recipe for that requires a very elderly woman who had gotten married very young to a veteran husband who was very old.

I’ve already described my mother’s family. But my father’s family also had an exceptionally long reach back in time. My paternal grandfather was born around 1860 and died in the 1920s. But he was the youngest of twelve children, the eldest of whom was a sister of his born in the year 1838.

Please let that sink in for a moment: my own grandfather’s sister was born in 1838. Not only that, but she lived to be over 100 years old and dance at my parents’ wedding. She appears in photos of the occasion, a small figure wearing a black headscarf, almost impossibly old and wrinkled but smiling.

I never met her; she died some years before I was born. But what tales she might have told! One of the difficulties of reaching back in time by talking to the elderly is that the young rarely have the inclination to do it before it’s too late. Old people—who cares what they have to say?

The answer might be: people who collect oral histories, that’s who. And while it’s true that there’s a growing industry of recording the memories of the elderly while they are still around to tell them, I wonder how many people will be listening in the future. It’s in the nature of the young these days to dismiss what used to known as the wisdom of the ages, or the thought that the experience of the past has any relevance to the present or the future. It’s one of the reasons why we fail to learn all that much from history.

61 Responses to “Looking back: the long reach of time”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    There is a similar transition moment in martial arts tradition and chronology. When there is a break in the lineage, knowledge is lost. But even if there is no break in the lineage, knowledge can be diluted since the students are not always learning or asking the right things from their instructors (who are not the old masters themselves).

    Thus often times people who study the tradition of martial arts must go back several centuries, to the original work of the authors and progenitors. But they, now being dead, cannot really say their piece.

    Also, even if they were alive, they may understand something, but lack the capability to communicate it to a new generation. The best they may do is to say “figure it out for yourselves”.

    That’s much better than saying “avoid the mistakes I’ve made by never trying this new and fancy risk you want to do”. But it doesn’t solve the issue in the end. The Young take risks and attempt to seek new things in order to “figure things out for themselves” because they do not get it.

    So how can one generation guide the new, without stifling the creative drive, while steering them free of old mistakes? It seems a mutual contradiction.

    A martial arts student that avoids all the same mistakes as the old masters, has learned nothing but be a copy cat and free loader. A student that is told to go out and learn for themselves, might as well not have any old ancient masters to begin with.

    The method they used in the past was pretty simple though. The student would mimic a fixed and inflexible form, visually speaking, from their instructors. Sort of a monkey see, monkey do paradigm. And later on, when they have memorized the forms and conditioned themselves to it, can they then start asking the right questions, getting the right answers, and learning on their own.

    Given modern day temptations, I’m not sure how well the first part works any more. The most likely “inflexible form” people will learn is evil brainwashing and indoctrination. At best, they will get diluted info, a form of invincible ignorance. They won’t be getting out of those mental shackles any time soon.

  2. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    I know this doesn’t have strong female appeal, but I’d encourage kids to watch old movies, specifically the older “Three Stooges” and “Little Rascals”. The Stooges were three Jewish Vaudevillians and their early films have itinerant pedlars, sleeping cars on trains, boarding houses, early telephones, sleeping three to a bed etc. The early Rascals films show one room schoolhouses, neighborhoods with goats and chickens, orphanages and more.

    The schticks are still funny and kids still can get a kick out of them (my Daughter now 22 still watches “The Kid from Borneo” every year).

  3. LAG Says:

    Neo, we may be losing the ability “to reach back in time,” as you say. I teach history to freshmen, and there are very few of them who have any sense of history or curiosity about even their own family connections. A “family with a series of long-lived people” is not sufficient, I’m afraid. I would like to say history courses are the answer, but I don’t believe that is sufficient either. A new narrative that engages then might be helpful, but I don’t know what would fan a spark of interest.

  4. vanderleun Says:

    If you ask my mother, now 98, about her first memory she too will tell you that it is of being held on her father’s shoulders in the street in 1918 in Fargo North Dakota watching the men march home from the First World War.

  5. vanderleun Says:

    Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine who has married a woman a good deal younger than he was. They’d just come back from a long road trip on the Interstate freeways.

    “At one point,” he said, ” we were just cursing along on the main freeway east of Vegas and I said, ‘You know, all of this came about because of Eisenhower.’ We drove on in silence for a couple of minutes and then she said, ‘OK, I’ll bite. Who’s Eisenhower?”

  6. George Pal Says:

    This was a wonderful post engendering a wonder by which I am easily beguiled. Show me old black ‘n’ whites and tintypes, especially of ordinary folk, and I can get lost in them for hours.

    If the children of the nuclear family are ever more detached from an intimate history of their parents, grand and great grandparents, even if only by being without pictures in albums and stories to stoke their wonder about the past then imagine the plight of the children of no ‘families’. How could it be any other way than that they should be able to call attention to only themselves as the only thing that matters – there’s nothing else to suggest otherwise.

  7. artfldgr Says:

    They didn’t yet realize that someday it would be known as the First.

    ah… they knew it was the first.
    what they didnt know was that there would be a second..

    ie. how could they not know it was first? it happened, and nothing came before it… and first does not require a second to be first… duh

    kind of silly…

    anyway,,, she may have actually been experiencing Veterans day, not armistice day

    The day on which we celebrate Veterans Day traces its roots to the moment fighting ended in Europe after the armistice that went into effect on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in 1918. The next year President Woodrow Wilson adopted November 11 as Armistice Day— a day to commemorate the cessation of what was then known as the Great War, and to honor those who had sacrificed their lives.

    armistice day was not a holiday until much later…

    the things you can see related to this are

    Abingdon Square Doughboy
    The Abingdon Square Doughboy sculpture honors servicemen from the neighborhood of Greenwich Village who died serving in World War I. The dramatic bronze statue on a granite pedestal, dedicated in 1921, is by Philip Martiny (1858-1927)

    Dawn of Glory
    A departure in imagery, the allegorical Dawn of Glory in Highland Park was sculpted by Italian immigrant sculptor Pietro Montana (1890-1978), who also sculpted the Freedom Square Memorial (1921) and Bushwick-Ridgewood Memorial (1921), both in Brooklyn. Montana was reported to have used as his model the famous body-builder Charles Atlas (1894-1972).

    as a child i played around this one

    Bronx Victory Memorial, Pelham Bay Park
    Suitable for a major plaza in the more densely built center city but situated in a bucolic naturalistic setting at the south end of New York City’s largest park, the Bronx Victory Memorial was designed by architect and landscape architect John J. Sheridan (1888 -1954 ) and sculptors Belle Kinney(1887-1959) and Leopold Scholz (1877-1946).

    Pleasant Plains Memorial
    The bronze victory figure created by sculptor and Tottenville resident George Thomas Brewster (1862-1943) was originally dedicated on June 9, 1923.
    [edited for length n-n]

  8. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    I’m 50 this year, my father would be 100, his father 140, his father (my great grand father) 178, which brings us back to 1835. And the great grand’s wife was older than him, born in 1832 as I recall.

    Don’t know about the next step back specifically, but they probably knew of Blucher, Napoleon and Duke of Wellington. Had they been on this side of the pond, it would have been Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. And maybe some character named Jackson.

  9. artfldgr Says:

    armstice day is the day the war ended
    NOT the day the ships came home…

    ie. the ships and such were not around yet they were still in theater of operations… and fireworks were not readily available as no one was making them (yes, lets make fireworks rather than bombs, i know there is a war going on, and we ration metal, and paper, and clothing, why restrict explosives to the war only? (yes that was sarcasm))

    this is why the memorials and things celebrating the end and all that came mostly years after the year the war ended… once everyone came home…

    i should point out your mom was lucky too
    as 1918 was the flu epidemic

    By June 1917, 14,000 U.S. soldiers had already arrived in France, and by May 1918 over one million U.S. troops were stationed in France, half of them being on the front lines.[2] Since the transport ships needed to bring American troops to Europe were scarce at the beginning, the army pressed into service cruise ships, seized German ships, and borrowed Allied ships to transport American soldiers from New York, New Jersey, and Newport News, Virginia. The mobilization effort taxed the American military to the limit and required new organizational strategies and command structures to transport great numbers of troops and supplies quickly and efficiently.
    Armistice Day On Wall Street – 1918–1918_p_4040.html

    and we forget this
    American Expeditionary Force Siberia

    where wilson sends troops into other countries AFTER WWI has ended…

    most people have no idea that the US has invaded russia and china before!
    [edited for length n-n]

  10. Dan D Says:

    My family has lived in the same valley for over two hundred years. As a child I spent a lot of time around relatives and neighbors who were very old, and listened to their stories of life and times, some of them recalling the late 1800’s in some detail, as well as many stories old people they had known in their own youth. Their homesteads were filled with many quite old household objects and handed down items.

    My siblings had no interest in such older folks and their tales, and their children in turn have no interest in even our generation, much less our departed parents and grandparents. Each generation derives its own history, but it seems to me that by lacking a personal connection with such a past we lose a great deal.

    Of course so many families today have no continuity of any kind, geographic or family. Being stuck in the past or too deeply rooted can be a trap, but so is a rootlessness that doesn’t even recognize what it is missing.

  11. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    History, our records of the past, without context is Non Sequitur, empty of meaning.

    Can we appreciate the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution without the lessons history provides?

    The Battle of Thermopylae with its ‘300 Spartans’ is not important because 7000+ Greeks died bravely defending their emerging civilization. It is important because it saved Democracy, Greek logic and Reason from being stillborn. It is important because without that battle and those brave men’s sacrifice, “that last full measure of devotion”… Western civilization would not exist.

    “A generation which ignores history has no past— and no future.” Robert Heinlein

    “When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.” Alexis de Tocqueville

    “Study the past if you would define the future.” Confucius

  12. vanderleun Says:

    You know, artfldgr, some days…. and they are more and more frequent these days…. you natter on like somebody’s whacked out old aunt in the attic. You are just far, far too eager to niggle, niggle, niggle, and share your oh so unimpressive collection of factoids from the trash pit of your brain.

    Take a hint from Archie Bunker and “Stifle yourself, Edith.”

  13. vanderleun Says:

    Or, to put it another way:

    “Dr. Richard Kimble: [Holding Gerard at gunpoint] I didn’t kill my wife!

    Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard: I don’t care!”

  14. srsr555 Says:

    This reminds me a bit of my own family. My father was 49 when I was born. He fought in WWII and his father in WWI.

  15. Kyndyll Says:

    My age puts me right in the middle of Gen X and while I wouldn’t pretend that my peers and I eagerly spent our waking hours poring through the corridors of history, I don’t really recall the abject, unstifled dismissal and outright hatred of all things old or from the past that seems to be the current trend. Did I not notice this when I was a teen or 20-something in the 80s/90s, simply because most teens and 20-somethings of all times and all generations have the intellectual depth of a gnat? Or is it really worse today and why?

    Of course I am aware of the stereotype of my boomer parents’ “Don’t trust anyone over 30” mindset, but that’s different than assuming all things old are irrelevant at best and should be discarded because they are old.

  16. Gringo Says:

    My first memory is also around four years old. I was told stories about me before I was four, but these are memories I was told, not ones I remembered.

    Three decades ago I recorded my maternal grandmother- then 86- talking about the past. How to prepare meat for preserving. Etc.There was a passed down story about my grandmother’s grandmother encountering Union soldiers during the Civil War. Didna’ like the Yankees. In reviewing the tapes in recent years, I was impressed by how good a speaker my grandmother was: slow and deliberate, with very few verbal tics [ums, ahs…]. But no one ever said my grandmother was at a loss for words… :)

    I never met my paternal great-grandfather, who died several years before I was born. My uncle by marriage later told me that when my great-grandfather was a child- he was born in 1859- he had heard first-hand reports from several men who had participated in the 1844 riots which drove the Mormons out of Nauvoo IL – and was the spur for the Mormons moving to Utah. Ironically, my current employer is a Mormon, descended from some of those Mormons who were driven from Nauvoo.

    My paternal grandmother compiled a family history, which included some Civil War stories.

  17. Geoffrey Britain Says:


    I long ago decided to mostly ignore artfldgr. I just skip over his comments when I see they are long. Clearly he’s in love ‘with the sound of his own voice’.

    I realize I miss out on some useful info but the cost is just too high, as his disjointed commentary confuses more than it clarifies. Many have tried, myself included to advise him that less can be more. That if you can’t explain something in a clear and concise manner, then you don’t understand it as well.

    Disjointed commentary is evidence of a disjointed mind but out of I believe a basic insecurity, he rails from his superior position that we just don’t get it.

    Let him natter on, he like all of us is his own worst enemy.

  18. Paul in Boston Says:

    My father was born in Russia/Poland on the eve of WWI. His first memory as a small boy was of being at the family dacha one summer when the horse cavalry rode up to the front porch and told them to leave. There was going to be a battle nearby in one of the interminable civil wars of the day. Loud noises indeed.

  19. Ymarsakar Says:

    vanderleun, makes a neat criticism, since it was about the content, rather than the external form.

    I also think it’s a true criticism, although that should not matter much.

    “Many have tried, myself included to advise him that less can be more.”

    That criticism is one of style and format, which is external, and thus meaningless in the end.

    In the old words, brevity is the soul of wit. But apathy is brevity, especially on the internet. One should not accept apathy in preference to a certain style, because the content is the issue of critical import. Even if a person shortened their material, it doesn’t change anything of significance given their lack of content.

    At the end of it all, one cannot force a person to do certain things they refuse to do. That is as true of others here as it is true of one person. A few years is chance enough I say.

  20. Stretch Says:

    Three of my grandparents were born in the 19th Century. Possibly a 4th but she lied about her age so much I’m not sure.
    I’m 3 handshakes removed from General Lee. I met and shook hands with Adm. Coleman, grandson of Col. Mosby. Mosby served under and shook hands with Lee. No small thing to a Virginian.

  21. artfldgr Says:

    how bout putting a sock in your collectivist equal mentality
    and put the napoleon complex aside?

    if your too short, live with it..
    i will not be ashamed because i learned and invested in myself
    and you didnt think you were worth it

  22. artfldgr Says:

    Dan D
    the lack of continuity is why africans in the US are the way they are as a group… (the successful ones, have families… )

  23. roc scssrs Says:

    Read this in a Bible commentary once: Jesus lived 2000 years ago; figuring 20 years a generation, going back just 100 generations brings you back to the time of Jesus. So just 100 people, one telling the next, passed the story of Jesus on down to you. One hundred people isn’t a lot when you think about it. Human memory and communication can go back a long way.

  24. Tesh Says:

    My grandfather has done family history work, connecting our line to a fellow in England in the 1400s. I still haven’t traced a lot of the branches. The older I get, the more interested in history I am, though, so it’s neat to investigate things my family might have seen.

    I don’t keep a journal, though. I write in journals to my children, but that’s as close as it gets. It seems like there’s something important there as a teaching method, but I can’t make myself just natter away in a Dear Diary mode to my own little book. *shrug*

  25. DNW Says:

    Stretch Says:
    March 1st, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Three of my grandparents were born in the 19th Century. Possibly a 4th but she lied about her age so much I’m not sure.
    I’m 3 handshakes removed from General Lee. I met and shook hands with Adm. Coleman, grandson of Col. Mosby. Mosby served under and shook hands with Lee. No small thing to a Virginian.”


    Gringo Says:
    March 1st, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    My first memory is also around four years old. I was told stories about me before I was four, but these are memories I was told, not ones I remembered.

    Three decades ago I recorded my maternal grandmother- then 86- talking about the past. How to prepare meat for preserving. Etc.There was a passed down story about my grandmother’s grandmother encountering Union soldiers during the Civil War. Didna’ like the Yankees. In reviewing the tapes in recent years, I was impressed by how good a speaker my grandmother was …”

    I think that the comments these two have left are more likely to appear than any “my Great Grandpa fought at Chamberlain’s side” kind of remark.

    For whatever reason, and the editors of The Civil War Archive (originally begun by Commager) did seem to have some opinions as to why, family memory and sense of ongoing identity seem to be much better preserved among Southern families.

  26. artfldgr Says:

    Many have tried, myself included to advise him that less can be more. That if you can’t explain something in a clear and concise manner, then you don’t understand it as well.

    yes… and telling a man in a wheel chair he can walk will make him walk, and your justified in hurting him if he don’t get up and dance just for you…


    ie. aspergers…

    Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s syndrome or Asperger disorder, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical (peculiar, odd) use of language are frequently reported

    got it MORON…
    you can advise all you want
    and you can hurt me by doing so

    want to know why?

    because i am in a wheel chair, and i know if i can get up and dance, i would have a better life! but i have a long parade of helpful morons who seem to think that i am just not being cooperative, and that because i dont do what they say, dont take their suggestion, that gives them some justification to hurt me. like you and vanderluen does.

    in fact. people like you make the world miserable. because you want a collective of you. you cant tolerate a person in a wheel chair. a smart person who cant write well (and i cant write well because socialists took away my money and my schooling, and i have no teachers. just myself.)
    [edited for length n-n]

  27. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    During WWII I spent many an hour listening to my maternal grandfather tell stories of his childhood. His father, my great grandfather, had married a half-breed Pawnee woman in Kansas in 1878. He was a wanderer. He was an expert carpenter with a complete kit of carpentry tools. In those days in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas he could easily find work anywhere he went. And travel they did – by wagon, no less. They lived in Dodge City, Kansas for a time when the Dalton Gang was active in those parts. They were in Oklahoma for the opening of the Cherokee Strip. They lived in Pierre, South Dakota when the Sioux Indians were restive and he worked for a time in the mines in Lead, South Dakota. Oh, how I wish I had been able to record those stories. They chronicled much of the opening of the Great Plains in the late 1800s.

    Because I missed getting those stories where they could be preserved, I have written an autobiography, so my daughter will have a record of my story. It covers from the Depression, when I was born, to the end of my working days. Sadly, our son died when he was 20 and our daughter has never married. So, there will be no grandchildren to pore over this history, but I’m not sorry I wrote it. It has given me an opportunity to reflect on my past and to understand many of my mistakes. As well as a sense of gratitude that I managed to survive a few times when survival was in doubt. It has also helped me come to terms with all the changes that have occurred along the way. For those who are getting long in the tooth, I recommend it as a way to preserve some history and review your life.

  28. T Says:

    This is why the arts can exert such a profound influence on the soul. They are time machines no less than oral histories. When we hear a Bach Fugue we are not only hearing what Bach wrote, we are hearing the same sounds that Bach, himself, heard 300 years ago. Stand under the center of the dome of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul; you are occupying the exact same space occupied by the Emperor Justinian 1500 years ago. And when one re-vivifies the choreography of a Balanchine or a Fosse, one is moving (and feeling) as those creators intended.

    When we pause to actually consider this, this is heady stuff.

  29. Greg Says:

    My Dad, still sharp at 89, heard first-person accounts from several relatives who fought in – or saw – the Civil War. Born and raised in rural North Carolina, he never lamented the Lost Cause, or otherwise suggested that the Civil War was wrongly decided or a “bad war.” But he taught me “Dixie” right after “Jingle Bells”, and made sure I knew that North Carolina troops were “First at Bethel, Farthest at Gettysburg, Last at Appomattox.” He also taught me the rebel yell, claiming his old relatives taught him.

  30. DNW Says:

    Neo may have already done this, but re-mentioning it fits in with her reconsideration of historical perspective.

    “A few days ago, the website Mental Floss posted an amazing, seemingly impossible piece of American trivia, which then quickly spread around the web, to Yahoo, the Huffington Post, ABC News, Fox News, Politico, Kottke, the Daily Mail, and others: Two grandsons of President John Tyler — who was born in 1790 and served as tenth president of the United States — are still alive today. – See more at:

  31. artfldgr Says:

    the young rarely have the inclination to do it before it’s too late. Old people—who cares what they have to say?

    thats the young of today.. after feminism, and liberation and being taight to not trust anyone over 30

    prior to that the elderly were respected and so could turn that information over.

    the progressives knew that through feminism they would destroy the family, which would destroy the patriarchal custom of grooming your children for a future.

    you can read their work and boosk talking about it. its why eugenics and all that is big too.

    breeding people…

    well, you cant change society into a new one if dads get to pass on family history (women care less about that, as you can see, they ran to destroying family and not having dad pass family histrory down)

    i was raised by several generations at once
    so i am very capable. and knowlegeable.
    not just books, but experience

    my family is long lived…
    so i knew my great grandparents.
    grandad was born 1900… died at 82
    i knew my great grandmothers on both sides
    but dads side better…

    i was born in the mid 60s…

    one of the more interesting photos is my grandfather, my father, myself, and my son…

    over 150 years of living history in one place

    but.. thanks to feminism and law changes and such.. my son has no idea of his family history, does not care, and has no attachments to me… his mother was a pip (took him with her when she robbed the bank, and i still could not get custody thanks to the lady judge who said, i have no rights… she went into the jurrorship for the purpse of social justice like that, and was well known for things)

    so, he has no idea.
    in fact, no help either. and since the state was his key educator, the information that would help him have a life, he wont listen to.

    so, he graduatd with honors in genetics
    and now, waits on table as he cant get a place in a college as they only want women and foregn

    though you can read articles that are now showing they want to try to keep the foreingers who are taking the tech back home. the women are ending careers early (once they get what they want), and the guys like me from bronx science, we are barren, not in the fields, and some on welfare.

    my family is dead…

  32. George Pal Says:

    artfldgr @ 3:45 PM

    Good for you. You have made a sterling defense for yourself and a proper prosecution of small c collectivism. I cannot fathom how it is that some cannot just skip over your comments if they choose. But that would deprive them of a lecture on conformity.

  33. Don Carlos Says:

    I too stand with artfldgr and George Pal. This is a blog, not something edited by Strunk & White for style. There are posters here that I have learned to ignore, but unless there is an issue of digital overload, which our host can determine, freedom requires openness.

  34. George Pal Says:


    How long does it take to scroll past an artfldgr comment – 8-10 seconds? (I jest not because I love but because I’m a wise ass.)

    Artfldgr is certainly quantitatively comprehensive but I believe you miss the gist of his comments. They are in greater part citations and references not with the intention of making fully a point but to point to where they are more fully made. I appreciate them when I like, skip over them when I don’t; and if he does not offer them in more discreet chunks, well, you can’t always get what you want. There may be something stuck in your craw but it’s not artfldgr. Fess up or admit: no harm, no foul.

  35. parker Says:

    Thanks for sharing neo. You paint a picture of what you are made of. On my father’s side we can trace back to arriving in the new world in 1768. On my mother’s side we can trace back to the Shawnee and the French fur traders.

    We all have unique and precious backgrounds. The past is what keeps our feet on the ground. This is a significant source of our current cultural-political turmoil; too many have forgotten or never learned who we were at the founding.

  36. Armchair pessimist Says:

    It’s no great stretch of time, but this piece of family history might get a chuckle. Great Uncle Bill served under Patton and came home a war hero, at least in the eyes of the small town Republican family. The story goes that when he heard that FDR had died, he comandeered a jeep and drove roaring around the encampment shouting “The old Bastard’s dead!The old Bastard’s dead! ” Of course they were also partying in Hitler’s bunker, and Uncle Bill was dishonorably discharged, which feat made everybody proud. When we were little we’d visit and he’d re tell it for the 500th time. It never got stale.

  37. xxx Says:

    you are all like squabbling family. artdgr ruins topics and seems to enjoy it. i see him going into action – and leave the site. i have suggested he be edited or blocked to no avail. for some reason many of you regulars find wisdom in his ravings. i have no clue why you “stick up for him.” he’s an egomaniac and blog killer.

  38. vanderleun Says:

    No, pal, sorry but Artfldgr’s a drag. A clear drag. A drag on all around him and a drag on this site. He’s the proverbial floater in the punch bowl and he’s compulsive and mentally diseased. That’s just the facts, Jack.

    No he may run on and on like a babbling brook or a babbling bozo but, every so often, I have to insist on my right to note his disease. I don’t like seeing him waving his bloody shirt. He’s done it too often.

  39. DNW Says:

    My vote is that Neo continue to police her own blog.

    A few years ago I was dealing with someone from another company who had certain responsibilities, and who I thought was only marginally qualified for her work at best.

    Quite short, middle aged looking, oddly made up, I nonetheless deliberately treated her with a casual friendliness I didn’t feel, and I feigned some modicum of interest in her well-being and personal life. A life apparently, centered around church involvement and attendance. I wasn’t really listening when she talked. It’s called being civil.

    Well, even though she was not my employee, she was having some persistent problems in performing her tasks which began to impinge on me personally, and after awhile I totally lost patience.

    A series of events culminated in a situation wherein though stone-faced, I was only a second or so from remarking to her face on her incredible lack of competence – and that is putting it very euphemistically – when I caught myself for some reason.

    Having been brought up to think such behavior was wrong, I had never verbally upbraided a woman in my life, much less one for merely inconveniencing me through her incompetence. Probably that was all it was … a habituated inhibition.

    Anyway, profuse apologies issued from her. A nodding forced smile and insincere reassurances returned by me, and disgusted, I dropped it and went about my business.

    The next time I saw her I got the story, and some perspective into a number of her peculiarities I had long noticed; the result of her life long struggle of living with Turner’s syndrome.

    Apparently the only reason she was even alive and there to annoy me, was because she was an exceptionally “normal” appearing, long lived, and high functioning case.

    I am not in general – comparatively speaking – a very feeling or particularly sympathetic man. The notion of Chavez frying in hell just makes me want to shrug.

    But I became grateful that something or someone, chance, childhood training, whatever, had shut my trap at just that moment.

    Frustration makes us want to be blunt, or even cruel. Especially toward those who seem to deserve it.

    My recommendation, based on personal experience and my own missteps, is that we resist it as a matter of principle and prudence, if not feeling.

    Know what you are actually shooting before you pull the trigger.

  40. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    artfldgr @ 3:45,

    My intention was not to hurt your feelings, though your complaining about them when you frequently demonstrate having no trouble in denigrating others is more than just a bit hypocritical.

    Nor do I remember hearing of your Asperger syndrome. In the future, I’ll try to remember and take that into account.

    Responding by calling others “Moron”, asserting that we “want a collective” of others like ourselves, of having an inability to “tolerate a person in a wheel chair” or “a smart person who cant write well”, of being “a big manipulative liar whose advice is disingenuous”, that we ‘resent, attack, cut down and criticize’ “people of genuine merit” presumably out of small mindedness…is simply emotionally lashing out in a disproportionate manner to the offense given. Nor do our comments indicate that motivation, that you assign those motives says far more about yourself.

    Here’s another bit of advice that you are of course free to ignore and may well disparage. When people offer constructive criticism, which many have done before, including myself, reacting in a hostile manner only hurts yourself because it keeps you locked within the cage of your own emotional prison.

  41. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Don Carlos,

    Mild criticism of long, disjointed comments does not equate with insistence on a “Strunk & White” style. That I have never mentioned those criticisms to any other commenter demonstrates that.

    Nor do I have any personal animosity toward artflgdr. He’s merely tiresome. The criticism that I have offered him was in hopes that if he might better clarify what information he has that we might find of value. Instead he attacks and gets defensive. Very well, that’s his burden. I have enough with mine.

  42. George Pal Says:

    So the compulsiveness of artfldgr is met with a compulsive urge to account his compulsion. There’s more of this disorder than I had been aware of. Artfldgr’s limitations aren’t your own; if they are, fight the urge – just scroll down.

  43. DonS Says:

    I was born in 1963, my father in 1915, and my grandfather in 1868.

    My great grandfather was a Civil War vet. His grandfather and great grandfather served in the American Revolution.

  44. RandomThoughts Says:

    I am reminded of a dinner party with a particularly boorish guest, one who makes rude comments about every dish set before him. My initial reaction is to suggest he shut up. When he repeats the behavior, I have the urge to toss a beverage in his face, yet I realize that would make me nearly as unpleasant as he, and solve nothing.

    So I don’t toss the beverage. I also do not offer to pay for the meal, and I kind of resent being asked to do so (though at one point I considered chipping in as I do enjoy the hostesses cooking; my pleasure in the meal is being overshadowed by the unpleasantness of the company).

    The topic being discussed at this particular party, especially:
    One of the difficulties of reaching back in time by talking to the elderly is that the young rarely have the inclination to do it before it’s too late.
    really intrigued me before, well, before the usual happened. But it’s not my dinner party after all, I’m only another guest at the table, and I suppose I could just reconsider where I dine. Or at least not involve myself in the dinner table conversation at all, though lack of conversation lessens the pleasure of the entire experience.

    By the way, my adult daughter is also considerably disabled. I’d be profoundly ashamed of her if she ever dared use it as an excuse for anything whatsoever, much less public rudeness. She knows better than that. She knew better than that at age 4. And that’s undoubtedly why she’s living a happy, very fulfilling life today. Her disability has never, ever defined her.

  45. Charles Says:

    my mouse has a scroll wheel – I often use it; but, on this thread the “flame wars” have actually been a bit of an enjoyable side show from Neo’s original (and also quite interesting) post.

    Thanks all!

    As for the original post by neo; here’s my 2 cents worth (feel free to scroll past, I really don’t care) I often heard stories from my own grandparents (born in 1900 and a couple of years after) about WWI and, of course, WWII.

    I do remember my grandmother (who was raised on a farm) telling me that she was certain that a lot of the “beef” sold during WWII was horse meat instead. As she told me, they considered themselves lucky to get any meat at all, so they really didn’t complain. I guess strugglling through the Great Depression helped them realize that.

    Maybe 8 years of Obamanation will make the next generation also stronger?

  46. waltj Says:

    My grandparents were born in the late 1880s and early 1890s in the “old country” in eastern Europe. Two of them, both on one side of the family, died before I was born in the mid-1950s, but the other two survived long enough for me to know them quite well. The grandfather I knew was a very intelligent, self-educated skilled tradesman who picked up languages quickly (probably where I get that same talent), and had had more than one brush with the czar’s secret police. He was a “liberal” in the classic sense, who detested both the repressive occupiers of his country and the extreme radicals (later known as communists) who sought to overthrow them. Seeing America as a better alternative, he voted with his feet and came over while still a teenager. He met and married my grandmother in the States, and as a family man in his 30s, missed out on the WW1 draft (being familiar with the regimes of both the czar and the kaiser, he hated the one, but merely disliked the other, and never felt any animosity towards the “Prussians”; had the war been against the Russians, he might have regretted not serving). He died in the mid-1960s, but not before both my cousins and I had learned some of our family history (my older sister never had any interest in that sort of thing). My grandmother, his wife, lived until the early 1980s. A much less worldly person than her husband, her life revolved around family, neighborhood, and church, and she seemed content with that.

  47. neo-neocon Says:

    Well, I do police my own blog, but sometimes I have a very busy day.

    Like today. I just now got around to looking at this.

    I don’t have time to do all that much policing, but I have several tools at my disposal. One, of course, is banning, which I tend to use only as a last resort. Another is cutting posts that are too long and making them shorter. That’s easy enough to do, but I can’t do it when I’m away from a computer all day and most of the evening, as I was today.

    So I’ll just let this one stand, now that I’ve done a bit of editing for length. It’s a bit late to intervene, anyway, and I tend to believe that most people can take care of themselves. I prefer civil discourse, however.

  48. neo-neocon Says:

    Artfldgr: to respond to a couple of substantive issues you raised here—

    Yes, I know when the Armistice was and what it was. I am relating my mother’s story here, as she remembered it. Of course it might have been 1919 and she might have been five years old instead of four. I did not mention the Armistice, by the way; I said the end of the Great War.

    But your comments did get me to wondering what it was that my mother and her parents and grandparents were watching, and when exactly it might have occurred. The only thing I could find was this painting, entitled “World War I Battle Fleet Returning to New York Harbor,” by Henry Reuterdahl. I am pretty sure this is exactly the event my mother was remembering, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find a date for the celebration it depicts.

    But whenever that one occurred, there certainly were other celebrations in New York on Armistice Day in 1918. Not all of them were delayed, by any means. Here’s a photo of one of them, with the following caption: “New Yorkers celebrates the end of WWI on the streets of NYC on November 11, 1918. Photo by Wide World Photos.”

    As far as my writing “They didn’t yet realize that someday it would be known as the First,” and your comment on that:

    what they didnt know was that there would be a second.. ie. how could they not know it was first? it happened, and nothing came before it… and first does not require a second to be first… duh kind of silly…

    Of course it was first—what they didn’t know know that it was The First (that’s why I capitalized “First”). In other words, if there had been a series of world wars, of course that one would end up having been first of the series. But they didn’t know that in such very short order, a second one would start, and that they would very quickly have to rename the Great War and call it the First World War or World War I. In fact, they had also called it The War To End All Wars, which tells you something about their hopes and expectations (that there never would be a second one).

    I’m well aware of the significance of the flu pandemic at the end of WWI. Although small children such as my mother were not typical victims, young adults the age of her parents were (although actually, her father was not all that young). Here’s a rather lengthy post I wrote about that 1918-1919 flu pandemic.

  49. chuck Says:

    My own paternal grandfather was born in 1868 and died around age 89. It is remarkable how much the world changed during his lifetime, from farming, horses and oil lamps to cars, planes, movies, electricity, and radio. The only thing in my own life time that I think compares is the computer/communications revolution. And if I live long enough, perhaps bioengineering.

  50. expat Says:

    I think the experience that most changed the way I look at time occurred as Junior Red Cross volunteer in a veterans hospital. I was assigned to a ward on which most patients were WWI nurses, and most were very quiet or suffered from dementia. But one woman was able to talk about her wartime experiences, and she told me, among other things, about handsome doctors and flirting with them. Her tales were more about the experiences of a very young woman and not so much about the historical significance of the war.

    I was able to relate to her experiences, and I never again saw a person as merely old.

  51. Charles Says:

    Neo: “I am relating my mother’s story here, as she remembered it.”

    My 2 cents worth – that was VERY obvious, Neo.

    As for “banning” or otherwise policing your blog – it is, of course, your blog and you are free to do as you wish. But, as I’ve said, my mouse has a scroll wheel and I use it often. This time, I must say that the “free-for-all” was rather entertaining.

    Here’s another “family history” story. This is actually a piece of history. My mother has a necklace, which she got from her mother; this necklace is made of several French centimes connected by small brass links.

    My grandmother was the youngest of several children, it was one of her older brothers who served in France during WWI and brought back the coins as “souvenirs” for his little sister. It was another of her brothers that made the necklace using the coins and some brass links. Most likely, not worth very much; but, it is a rather interesting piece of history.

  52. G Joubert Says:

    I don’t know what is being taught in the public school system these days, but clearly one thing that isn’t being taught is history, or at least not history as we know it.

    I teach at a small private college, and one course I teach is a 400 level poly sci class in constitutional government. I throw out questions for discussion, wrongly assuming a common grasp of basic history. They don’t know –no one in a class of 34 students– when WWI was, who was president when the 1929 crash happened, who won and lost the 1932 presidential election, who was president throughout the great depression, when WWII was, who was the president who authorized bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc., to single out a few of the voids in their knowledge. It goes much further.

    Me, I find myself wondering if graduating such ignorance is by accident or design.

  53. Don Carlos Says:

    How quite coincidental: DNW’s moving post about dealing with a Turner’s syndrome follows hard on the heels of someone self-labelled “xxx”.

  54. Roy Says:

    Me, I don’t find the discord very entertaining. But that’s just me. As to artfl, I do NOT wish him banned, I just can’t stomach his rambling comments-to-nowhere with all of the bad grammar, misspellings, poor punctuation, and smarter-than-all-of-us attitude. It’s too much. So I scroll past – sometimes as many as 14 to 15 pages worth. The scroll wheel is fast wearing out. Oh well, I needed a new mouse anyway.

    Now, on to the topic at hand…

    My father’s father’s mother’s father – my great great grandfather – was one Patrick Rooney. He was born in the 1830’s in Ireland. In his late teens, he got himself involved in one of the many revolts against English rule. (He would be called an insurgent today.) He was captured by British troops in some small engagement and was sent to do time at one of the penal colonies in Australia (the Gitmo of the time). He was there for ten years. When he was released, he immigrated to the USA and settled in central Kentucky. Why there? Because Patrick was a Catholic, and central Kentucky was home to a large, rural, settlement of mostly Catholics who avoided the violence and discrimination that was being directed against Catholics by the “Know Nothing” party in the cities at the time.

    Patrick apprenticed to a builder, and later on became a pretty good builder in his own right.

    However, the Civil War intervened and Patrick joined the 14th, (and later the 15th), Kentucky regiment of the Union army. He was at every engagement that those regiments were involved in from Perryville right up to Johnston’s surrender at Durham Station in 1865.

    After the war was over, he returned home and took up his trade. He died long before I was born, but I knew his daughter, Ann Rooney, my great grandmother, who was born in 1880. She died in 1968, when I was 14.

    I remember her well and I am so glad we were able to talk to each other, though I dearly wish I could talk to her now.

    Right before she died, I asked her what she thought was the greatest advancement she had seen in her lifetime. I thought she would say, electricity, roads, or aviation. No, to her the greatest advancement in her lifetime was the indoor flush toilet.

    And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that she was probably right.

  55. parker Says:

    Catching up at the wagging tail of this particular thread, I wish to note that the brouhaha over Artfldgr is pointless. Those who speak negatively add fuel to the fire that consumes him. I work with children in the Asperger/autism syndrome 6 hours a day 5 days a week at the neighborhood elementary school. I have the time because I am retired.

    The first thing you need to recognize is those on the spectrum have not a single, solitary clue about how the rest of us interact. They are lost inside their own world. If they are assisted at a very early age to learn the tools of how to recognize how society at large interacts it is possible to (herding chickens) direct them towards becoming eccentric, but functional individuals.

    Ignore his posts, or treat his posts as containing flakes of gold to harvest. Let the blog mistress decide what is to be done or not done. This is her turf, not your’s or mine. Here we tread per her leniency.

  56. parker Says:


    I throughly enjoyed your post. I was born in Kentucky, near the Cumberland Valley, and every summer as a child I was shipped back for 2 weeks to be with my grandparents and assorted cousins. I remember asking my paternal grandfather about the Civil War and his response still sticks with me. He told me that the family fought in 2 wars. Namely the war of independence because it was a chance to kill the English and WW2 because it was necessary. As far as the Civil War was concerned, he told me his father didn’t fight because the war wasn’t the family’s business.

    I was raised to automatically distrust DC. The message still sticks.

  57. George Pinckney Says:

    A valuable perspective.

    I’m not too old, 61, but it continually astounds me that my grandmother, whom I knew very well, was born (1886) closer in time to George III as head of state than George W Bush.

  58. T Pitman Says:

    Thinking of my own grandparents born in the early 1890’s and both living until the 1980’s, living long enough to witness both man’s first powered flight and men walking on the moon and returning safely. Technological leaps these days that are far more rapid now, but I can’t think of any that encompass as broad a jump to witness in a single lifetime.

  59. T Says:

    T Pitman,

    My grandparents, too, were born in the 1890’s and I have often thought of that life span as you mention it. The amazing thing is that the first flight-moon landing bookends are just the tip of the iceberg.

    Born when automobiles were just becoming rich men’s toys they lived to see them as ubiquitous and affordable. Movies, sound recording, the electric grid all came of age during their lifetime. Think of all the diseases to which their generation was prey before they were 10 years of age. TB, cholera, scarlet fever smallpox—my birth grandmother died in 1930 of Bright’s disease. Outside of the medical profession, very few today have even heard of it.

    Someone once wrote that the world of an American citizen in George Washington’s time was essentially the same as the world of people who had lived 500 years before them. The world of our grandparents at their deaths was, by contrast, remarkably and incredibly different from the world into which they were born.

  60. NewEnglandDevil Says:

    I appreciate your recollection of this. My father was born in ’39 on a rural farm in Ohio. He was the proverbial (and literal) ‘runt’ of the litter, last to be born. He had six brothers and a sister that survived infancy; one of his brothers was killed in a farming accident at the age of 10, and his sister, her husband and one of their (two) children was killed when a train struck their buggy. I was born when my father was 33. One of my father’s brothers put together a geneology and I was struck by this solitary fact: nearly half of my father’s siblings (an additional four siblings, at least, from memory) were stillborn or died in infancy. That was normal. How much the world has changed in just that single generation. Many people in my generation and subsequent generations have very little perspective of what life was like prior to WWII.

  61. AesopFan Says:

    I came here via one of neo’s posts today regarding an early memory of her own, and don’t really have much on this topic, except that my Grandad was a cowboy who wrassled a chuckwagon across France in WW1 and lived to see men walk on the moon. This story is my mother’s —
    She was a school teacher and eventually went back to get her MA for advancement reasons. One class she had to take was History, which covered the Depression and WW2. As the class was preparing for a test one time, a sweet young thing asked her why she never seemed to worry about the material or take notes in class. “Honey,” she said, “I don’t need to study this stuff: I was there.”

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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