These past two years, out of personal interest, I joined two local groups whose membership is thriving: Histoire Photos Hawkesbury (5000+ members) and Vintage Vankleek Hill (+1000 members) and have been pleasantly surprised by members’ contributions and the richness of the material shared. I eventually joined two more similar groups: as I lived my kid and teen years in Montreal, I enjoy the Montreal Historical Photos (+56,000 members) and the Yesteryears Memories (+110,000 members) groups; wherever you are from or wherever you now live, there is probably such a group dedicating itself to ‘local nostalgia’.
They are known as ‘nostalgia’ social media groups and they are trending. Through quarantines, confinements, restrictions and NO-NO-NOS! of all kind, it was a normal reflex for us to imagine better times and happier situations, either by projecting into our future or by rolling time back to our past. The internet and the popularity of social media sites provide many kinds of services to its users like helping them connect with people, share opinions and life experiences with likeminded people, stay in touch with friends and colleagues; they also allowed users to create groups, a.k.a. ‘clubs’, that share same interests, hobbies, education, situation, whether past or present.
During 2020 and 2021, nostalgia was everywhere and it all made sense: the time was right to long for the past and relive happy memories while we were stuck at home pondering our situation and hoping everything became ‘normal’ again; it made its way into every walk of our life, from our wardrobes to our music, from our recipes to our television selections, from vintage classic car to stores we used to shop at, from Woodstock to the golden age of Hollywood and ‘Gone with the wind’, family Christmases at home with our pet dog; it made us more optimistic for the future, happier despite it all through this ‘blast from the past’. Social media and its groups had seen our wishes, needs and expectations, and it was only happy to oblige us by facilitating our membership.
‘Way back when’, today’s boomers didn’t have internet to document their past: memories were made of poorer quality photographs and sound recording; today’s millennials have the benefit of powerful technologies to record their life events to the second in high-definition picture and sound. Nostalgia becomes a warm blanket, a gushy feeling to the downs of life: simpler times, happier lives.
As a finale to this week’s column, I would like to share with you excerpts from a FB post from the group Yesteryears Memories that show how life wasn’t all rosy in yesteryears, accompanied by a collage of yesteryears pics for your enjoyment. See after reading if you are still as nostalgic and sentimental about the past. Enjoy!
The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just like you like it, here are some facts from the ‘yesteryears’: most people got married in June because they last took their bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June… However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence, the custom today of carrying a bouquet when you get married!
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water; the man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the sons and men, then the women, and finally the children, last of all the babies. By then, the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it! Hence the saying: ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!’
In the old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire; every day, they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat; they would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, and then start over the next day. Sometimes, stew had food in it that had been in there for quite a while!
Those with money had plates made of pewter; foods with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death; this happened most often with tomatoes; so tomatoes were consequently considered poisonous. Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky; the combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out cold for a couple of days; someone would take them for dead and prepare them for burial: they were laid on the kitchen table and the family would gather around and eat and drink, and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ‘holding a wake’!
P.S. Thanks to my friend Terry ‘la-terrible’ for this contribution!