Yesterday I finished reading the second volume of a humongous time travel book by Connie Willis, action set in World War II.
After my sojourn through London in the Blitz, countryside manors where evacuated city children were sent, rescues at Dunkirk, St. Paul's Cathedral and other landmarks damaged during bombings . . . after all that, I had no option but to believe that I, too, like the characters in the book, had time traveled back to the end of the 1930s and the beginning of the 1940s.
Well-written books, fiction or nonfiction, stay with me a long time. Naturally, I woke up this morning thinking about time travel. Would I want to do it, if it were available? If so, where would I go--what part of history could I experience?
Speculation is fun, especially if you know it's safe. You won't, obviously, get stuck back in 1492 if you're just speculating about how the world around you was operating when Columbus struck off to find the Orient--taking a little detour because of the continent in his way--and bumped into America.
Reading isn't the only way I can travel to other times and climes--all I have to do is open a drawer crammed with photographs (we used to have them printed out on Kodak paper downtown at the drug store--anybody remember that?). Right there, in my hand, is the image of my grandparents, my mother and her sisters, my dad and two of his sisters. My own children (were they ever that young?). Cousins, friends, neighbors. The house behind them may be gone now, but I remember it when . . . .
If I want a truly first-hand account of a period before I was born, I only have to find someone older than I am. (Note: This gets harder and harder each year. Imagine that.)
One of the best sources for local history was a man I used to walk with at the Y. He died recently, just before his 95th birthday, so his store of information is gone. But he left me with wonderful memories of people he'd known when he first lived here in the 1940s, and a deep respect for the stories people can tell. All I have to do is listen.
I'll time travel us back to three times in my own life, just for fun:
First - 1878 and 1882. These were the years my maternal grandparents were born. The War Between the States had ended in 1865. In 1879 Thomas Edison's first functioning electric light bulb lit up. In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was created.
Next - 1933. My parents were married in September that year. Not a very good year in many ways: The Great Depression was in full swing. The Dust Bowl was being created as topsoil took to the air and left nothing much for crops to grow in; the devastation was further enhanced by drought. In the cities, unemployment reached 25+%. In Germany, Adolph Hitler was named chancellor. Food prices were low, compared to current costs: Bread, 7 cents a loaf; hamburger, 11 cents a pound; gasoline was 10 cents a gallon.
Last - America in the 1950s. The era of the tract house, made necessary by so many returning GIs and the need for a lot of cheap housing immediately. We called it peace time, but there was unrest--civil rights began to gear up; the Cold War continued. But we also got Elvis and rock 'n' roll. (I'm sorry, folks, but both Elvis and the RnR were too chaotic for me. I believe I've mentioned before that I'm a dinosaur.)
Today--this era we live in--allows access to so much information. If you have a computer, you have, literally, the whole world at your fingertips. Google will get you there--and out of the 15 million sites it offers, you'll only have to choose what you want.
See you soon. Bon voyage!