h2g2 Literary Corner: In the Good Old Bizarre Summertime

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In the Good Old Bizarre Summertime

For decades, Europeans thought of the Edwardian Era (1901-1914, roughly) as the most halcyon of times, ditto North Americans – though they didn't call it Edwardian, just the 'good old days'. Summers in that era are remembered as being darn near perfect: the food was better, the ice cream colder, the women more elegant, the livin' easier.

It turns out the origin of that myth is in the time itself. Apparently, there was an intolerable air of smugness around the place. You want proof? Try reading through this boosterish brochure put out by the Muskegon, Michigan, Chamber of Commerce, touting its lakes as a tourist destination in 1908. The brochure, Summertime Amid[sic] Muskegon's Lakes, is fun reading. The photos are even more enlightening. Here's a selection.

Map showing Muskegon, MichiganThis brochure begins:
Muskegon is the ideal made real; it is the seemingly impossible come true. It is the vacation of your dreams.
So hop in your flivver, and follow this handy map to your summer wonderland. Come and shoot wildlife. Canoe. Eat a lot. Go fishing. Sing barbershop. And leave us lots of your money.
The average high temperature in July in Muskegon is 80° F/26.6°C. Now, admittedly that's during climate change. But come on! Let that child out of the winter coat! It needs to feel some sun on its skin, and sand between its toes. Grr, the past is irritating.
Men in suits holding a huge fish.The brochure says,
At Muskegon you go fishing in a street car; you live in a city and breathe country air; the wind blows, but there is no dust; the sun is always shining, but it is never hot.

Look at these guys. First of all, who goes fishing in a suit? Now, I ask you. And just whom are they trying to fool? They're bursting with pride at reeling in this humongous fish. Get them trying to act all nonchalant. The future laughs at you, sirs.
Men draped in the proceeds of four hours' shooting in Muskegon in 1908.Oh, yeah. Come and shoot the wildlife. You'll feel just like President Teddy Roosevelt, the big game hunter. You couldn't leave something for the future to enjoy? You marauders can go back where you came from.

The brochure promises comfort, fun, and good eating:
You will not be fed on canned goods, condensed milk, dried beef and prunes. You will not suffer the dreary monotony of unending sameness.

We want to go back in a time machine and arrest those hunters. Also, take at least two layers off that child, and let it enjoy the sunshine. Good old days, pah. Give us the Aegean in the early 80s.

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Dmitri Gheorgheni

03.07.17 Front Page

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