Just how great were those good ol' days?
WERE the good old days really that good? Is TV worse or better than it was back in the 70s? Were the freedoms that we may have experienced as kids back in the 60s and 70s and now lament for, better than the type of cotton-wool society we seem to have created now?
If you'd asked me this six months or so ago I'd probably have said yes. Pretty smartly, and mostly without thinking. 'Yeah those days were great' I'd have said. 'Playing in the creek, get home when the street lights turned on, no bike helmets, jumping around on the bench seat of the family station wagon, sans seatbelt and all that.'
However, a couple of months ago I listened to a fascinating edition of Conversations on ABC radio, where a favourite radio personality, Doug Anthony All-Star, Richard Fiedler, was chatting to fellow ABC-ite Richard Glover, about his unusually titled book, The Land before Avocado.
I suppose we need to talk about the title for a while before we move onto the content, however, I think you'll quickly see that the title and content end up being analogous for that time, pre-1980ish when the avocado was nothing but an 'unusual vegetable'. Rather than the almost billion-dollar crop and industry it is today.
Australian producers had ventured into avocados with limited success from the 1940s up until the '80s when hard working Aussie scientists managed to defeat the crippling root rot that had all but made the avocado non-viable as a 'proper' crop. Can you imagine Australia without avocados now? I suppose we'd still all be eating Vegemite on toast? Maybe all those yummy things from the past like lard perhaps?
The book explores such topics as school, fashions, parenting, work, food, alcohol, road safety and attitudes towards people different to us, (that even includes women!!) in the world gone by 40-50 years ago.
The book is written in a delightfully light style and would equally suit being guzzled in one sitting, or sipped, chapter by chapter. The topics are entertainingly written whilst still managing to remind us of the often cringingly strange attitudes and behaviours of that time.
Things like the "locked stationery cupboard", treatment of foreigners, school students and other underlings as well as practices, that in hindsight, are probably best left in the past.
It's not all doom and gloom, however. There's a chapter called "15 Things Worth Re-claiming From the 70s" towards the end of the book that gives the decade a bit of its dignity back as well as a closing chapter that critically looks at some of the things that are not so great about "the now".
So, don't worry, you won't end up hating the '70s completely by the time it's finished. It still leaves room for nostalgia, just maybe through some thinner rose-coloured lenses.
Possibly the best use of this book, besides the memories and laughs, is to share it with those of the younger generation. Particularly those who think they are hard done by in 2018. I bought a couple of copies to give to my adult children for Christmas. It certainly helps to back up all those "When I was a boy" stories they've all come to "love."
RRP $29.99 Available where all good books are sold.