The greatest time machines

An old forty-niner takes school children back to the California Gold Rush. Coloma, California, July 2004

An old forty-niner takes school children time-traveling back to the California Gold Rush.
Coloma, California, July 2004

“Two of the greatest time machines ever invented are called memory and imagination.”
Ashleigh Brilliant

It’s beginning to look as if this winter will mean a lot of time indoors for most of us.  So it’s a great chance for some time travel!  Pick up a historical novel (and feel free to share recommendations for us in the comments below), watch a TV or movie drama based in another era, or simply daydream about what life was like 100 years ago, and what it might be like 100 years from now.

Those of us who have been around long enough to remember the 1950’s or 1960’s can share a bit of nostalgia for more recent times gone by.  (Raynard, what’s the first TV show that comes to mind when you read this?)  Or the techies among us can tell us what lies on the horizon for advances we might live to see eventually.  Beam us up by sharing your thoughts with us today!


  1. raynard

    Julia the first couple of T.V shows that come to mind are” Happy Days”, I love Lucy, I Spy Get Smart AND Mission Impossible,. Throw some westerns in there along with some game shows and soap operas.Now ” which wheel do I spin? Wheel of Fortune or The Price is Right? lol( Tnank God for Youtube’ Remember when gas stations sold” no lead gas and fixed your cars? Now most of them have’ convience stores that sell tou just about anything and what about when gas was ” called Ethel and coffee ” a cup of joe” when you” Ate at Joe’s lol Be Blessed

    • Raynard, I never watched Happy Days much, but I loved Get Smart and I REALLY loved Mission Impossible; I watched the re-runs when I would get home from work in the summers when I was a teenager and they just seemed to get better with time. Matt and Jeff still watch Wheel of Fortune together. Regarding what used to be called “service stations” — YES I remember those days and in fact my grandparents ran one of those places out in the country, where I always envied my brother and cousins who were allowed to pump the gas for customers. They also had a tiny little rural store attached to it (they weren’t called convenience stores in those days, but that’s what they were). They lived in some little rooms off the side of the store, and when my parents weren’t around my Granny would let us take “free” Cokes and candy and so forth. I always felt sorry for my Daddy because he would PAY for everything we took. I thought he was so foolish to pay since I knew my Granny would give it to him for free! (I never thought about where the stuff came from, I just figured it was all Granny and PaPa’s stuff and I knew they never charged us for anything so I though my Daddy was totally DUMB to pay!) Thanks for the strolls down memory lane. Hope you have a wonderful holiday this week and I’m praying all goes smoothly for your family through this transition.

  2. Anon E. Moose

    On imagination of historical fiction: The nineteenth century is more facinating than any other. Modern innovation, including the industrial revolution, had burst upon the scene, and yet many day-to-day activities had remained unchanged for centuries. For just one example, consider the operator of one of Eli Whitney’s new cotton gins. He would go home and eat a supper cooked on a wood stove, then huddle around a whale oil lamp to read the Holy Bible (or maybe even a dime novel). If he lived in one of the more innovative areas of the country, his whale oil may have evolved to coal oil. Then it was off to sleep in a bed, on “mattress” of tightened ropes. (Sleep tight had literal meaning as a goodnight salutation.) And hey – no running water with which to freshen up in the morning, let alone hot water. Can you imagine?
    While you are imagining, look to the future when all these screens on which you ‘swipe” your fingers are a joke. When you must use a screen for work, it detects the precise alignment of your pupils, and what you are looking at is automatically selected (no left click, not even a touch screen). For entertainment you are surrounded by holographic (let’s say Dickens) characters, and sound technology has moved from “surround sound” to the tones actually coming from the hologram’s mouth. When the holographic character’s eyes look up to see snow falling, magical snowflakes appear above your own head, accompanied by a chilling draft.
    My grandson, Jacob, got it years ago when he kicked his covers off while trying to go to sleep while listening to the sound of a crackling fire on a synthetic sound machine. “Jacob, you need to keep these covers pulled up, or you’ll get cold!” “No, Grandady, this is a very strong fire” 🙂

    • Mr. Moose, I love these thoughts! I really enjoyed reading them, especially the part about Jacob and the fire. I echo your question: Can you imagine? Evidently, Jacob can! The juxtaposition of these thoughts of past and present has raised an interesting (and to me, new) idea: I wonder whether technology might enable us to someday REALLY re-visit the past, and understand things in a way we truly cannot now?! Thanks for sharing your musings here.

      • Anon E. Moose

        The Disney corporation had a plan to do this, with a theme park near Gettysburg. The spoke of the “realism of the smoke, including smells”. I am so thankful that we purists shot that program down! Our best attempts to”re-create” history often fall far short – particularly in the more portentive episodes of human existence – so as to cheapen that which was real.

        • Yes, I must admit that I find the lonely silence of a battlefield to be far more evocative than any display could be. BUT at the same time, I was blown away with delight the first time I ever visited a museum that had not only sights and sounds, but smells and tactile sensations (breezes, cold, heat, etc.) which for me was at Dover, England, where they re-created the WWII underground hospital and tunnels. Perhaps because it was located underground in an enclosed area, and did not seek to re-create an actual battlefield, the effect was fairly dramatic and left me with a much more vivid idea of what might have taken place. I think if it’s done well (which would include knowing when not to even try) it can be effective, but I think holographic re-creations would be all the more so. Just remember how impressed we were with the ballroom “dancing ghosts” created that way in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion back in the late 1960’s.

  3. HarryS

    I am an octogenarian and in the category of age I am classified in the “old” category of old age. Every time I acknowledged this I bask in the glory of gratitude for this long and fruitful life and reflect on even being thankful for the dastardly mistakes made along the way for they have been and are the impetus for the good life I have enjoyed the whole time and even more so in the last 28 years.
    So I say, ‘Thanks be to God’.
    I give him all the credit.

    Of course I have seen many wonders in this world including myriads of wonders in the occurrences in my own life and I feel extraordinarily blessed for the powerful influence of the Judeo-Christian culture I spring from and especially for my wholehearted and continued commitment to this pathway.
    In addition to this there is another committed ministry in AA as I practice step 12 which says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs”.
    As Paul said to the Romans I glorify my ministry.

    • Harry, thanks for sharing these uplifting thoughts with us. Yes, even our mistakes can be used to work for good in our lives and the lives of others, if we persevere and don’t lose hope. I am grateful for the wisdom AA has spread to people through their enumeration of the 12 steps; there are people struggling with so many compulsions and/or addictions that have been helped by various adaptations of that program. It truly is a ministry and I’m glad you are able to be part of it. Hope you have a wonderful holiday this week as we CONTINUE in Thanksgiving!!

  4. bobmielke

    I was so blessed to grow up near St. Louis, Missouri. There was so much history close by that gateway to the west. Just down the road were the Mississippi & Missouri rivers, home to stories by Mark Twain. Hannibal, MO was his home and tourist attractions were created to tell the story. Illinois state parks were built recreating that era complete with state employees dressed in period garb. Then there is Branson, MO with it’s blacksmith shop building old flintlock and black powder rifles. Silver Dollar City and the Bagnell Dam tourist complex were created there. Meramec Caverns and Onondaga Caves were wonderful places to visit with their huge caverns and ancient interiors fascinating to one and all. Even the St. Louis Arch had a paddlewheeler on the river’s edge that was actually a McDonald’s Restaurant.

    • Bob, I was unaware of many of the attractions you mentioned (I thought Branson was only for country music) but I do remember I really enjoyed the wonderful museum at the Arch. I’d love to see the other places you described. So little time, so many fascinating things to see! How lucky we are, not only to have such things available to us, but also to have the time to visit them, instead of worrying about surviving hunger, violence or weather. Lots to be thankful for this week and always.

  5. Judy

    I love that photo! It’s a story in itself. I too enjoy the nostalgia of hearing about past times and people. Julia, I’ve sent you a separate mailing of something from my family’s history — much too long to share here in the comments section. I hope you enjoy a peek into my great-great grandmother’s life. I never met her but feel as though I have because of the stories passed down to me about her from my grandmother. As you recently wrote,
    “The lives of our ancestors have much to teach us, and whether or not we are aware of it, their influence lives on in us.”

    • Hi Judy, thanks so much for sending me the email – I haven’t gotten to my email yet (I’m on the road with spotty internet service) but I know I will enjoy it whenever I am able to get the message. I really appreciate your taking the time to send it. You are so fortunate that you have these stories to treasure. The photo of the old miner with the kids was a wonderful moment that I would probably have forgotten if I had not taken the photo. I guess photos are my way of hoarding happy memories! Hope that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving week!

  6. Carolyn

    We hope that you all will have a great holiday week. We will be with Jennifer and family. Happy. Thanksgiving. Love and hugs to all.

    • Carolyn, I’m so happy you will be together with Jennifer’s family. We will be with family too, for the first time in many years. Happy Thanksgiving and hugs to all!

  7. Sheila

    Julia, I had to check my facts regarding the HBO miniseries,”John Adams”. That is one of my personal favorites, and originally aired in 2008. I would like to read the book by David McCullough. I love the ’50’s and ’60’s music, although I was just a child. Heehee! 😉 We are really foggy here today…. I mean our weather. 😊 I’ve been thinking of ya’ll. “Hi” to Jeff and Matt.

    • Sheila, I too loved the Adams series, and have the book on my shelf and my list, still unread. Although I was around for the 50’s and 60’s, I’m far more into the classic rock of the 70’s, though there are lots of 60’s tunes I’m still very fond of. We had a gorgeous and WARM (70) day yesterday. A bit more gloomy today, as befitting this time of year. Fondest thoughts to you along with hearty wishes for a wonderful holiday week!

  8. Gee, that old fellow is 100% authentic, I think he must have walked out of a time machine. Speaking of time machines, we went to see the Matthew McConaughey movie ‘Interstellar’. It was 3 hours long. Futuristic but with a vintage feel. He drives old trucks and lives in an old house on a farm. Basically, the human race survival comes down to one person and that person ages in earth years when her dad goes to space and is gone for a long long time But in space, time moves far more slowly. So when he gets back, his kids are full grown with families of their own and he’s still young. It’s a cool concept, but the movie was too long I thought.

    I’m more interested in history and the past than speculating about the future. I try not to think of the future as grim, but it’s not looking good for those around in 50 to 70 years from now. The movie touches on this in great detail. I tend to be nostalgic in my decor choices, clothing, music and movies. Favouring the 40’s I think. It was probably a terrible war time for many families but I’m drawn to the simplicity of hanging your clothes on the line, not locking your doors, lots of kids playing outside, shopping locally in smaller stores run by people you know. Maybe it’s me looking through rose coloured glasses. xoK

    • That sounds like a movie I’d really love, but Jeff has a policy of not watching anything over 2 hours long. To this day he has not watched Dances with Wolves for that reason, though we were able to get Amadeus past him, and he really liked that one (good thing, as it’s one of my favorites). I know what you mean about dystopic future scenarios. But sometimes I wonder if that isn’t just because most of us do love the nostalgia of times gone by. There is so much about bygone days that I miss, but when I look at Matt and realize how little chance he would have to be alive, let alone have any sort of life back then, I realize that some things HAVE gotten better, and may get better in the future. I am encouraged that many people seem to be re-discovering the wisdom of past ways of living, while at the same time holding onto some hard-earned lessons. It’s a tricky line to walk, but maybe we can do our best to set a good example for future generations. Meanwhile, I love those rose-colored glasses! So becoming on us, and no harm in having things look a bit prettier. 😀 I know your Thanksgiving was last month, but I hope you have a wonderful week this week and enjoy the holidays vicariously through all your friends in the USA!

      • Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Julia! I love all the points you make about the future. Carpe diem I say! xo K

        • Thank you! It’s been lovely so far. Holidays are such a time of respite from the normal pressures of life. Hope you have a lovely, warm, cozy weekend.

  9. Julia,
    I can remember milk and bread delivered at our door. I was especially excited when the bread man had a new product to offer-original style potato chips. What a great day that was. Also a produce truck would drive through our neighborhood. I can still here the melodic song of “Watermelon!”
    The sound of the “Good Humor” ice cream truck bells, that sent kids scurrying home for 50 cents to buy an ice cream on a hot summer day; and enjoying it with friends under the shade of a tree.
    And we even had a man who made the rounds to sharpen knives.
    Yes, I remember it well…as the song goes.

    • Wow, I remember fondly many of the delivery people you describe, but I never heard anyone describe first hand about the knife-sharpening man. When I was a child I learned to play a song on the piano that was about a “scissors-grinder” who seemed to serve much the same function, but it truly seemed to be of a far bygone era. We had the Charles Chips delivery man who brought the best potato chips on earth! We also had the glass milk bottles from Atlanta Dairy left in the old fashioned metal milkbox that sat just outside the back of our home. We never had a produce truck, though. I wish we had one now. We got our watermelons at the farmer’s market in town, and chilled them to perfection before slicing into them. It was very rare that we were allowed to indulge in buying something from the ice cream man — in fact, it was mostly when I was at friends’ homes that I had that joy, but it’s definitely a magical memory. I still hear the music-box sound of them in our York neighborhood sometimes. Thanks for sharing these trips down memory lane!

      • We received milk delivery as you did. Charles Chips I fondly remember also. One of my first pieces played on the piano wasn’t scissors-grinder. Instead it was “Oats, Peas Beans and Barley Grow.”
        Good old days!

        • Alan, I had never heard of that song, but like almost everything else, a quick online search brought up several references to and/or versions of it. Wikipedia claims the words date back to 1898, and the tune to 1650! Old days indeed!

  10. Happy Thanksgiving, Julia. Blessings…

    • Thank you, Merry! Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to you and your family as well.

  11. HarryS

    “God’s goodness hath been great to thee.
    Let never day nor night unhallowed pass but still remember what the Lord hath done.” 🙂
    William Shakespeare

    • Harry, thanks for these words of wisdom — hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  12. Michael

    Ken Follets book on building the cathedrals is great-” Minions of Stone?”

    • I haven’t heard of that title.

  13. Michael

    Try this “Pillars of the Earth”

    • I did read that one, and it was really good. I especially liked the way they brought in the history at the close. I want to read the sequel now. I used to love Follet’s thrillers (Eye of the Needle, etc.) but with Pillars of the Earth he demonstrated that his writing is versatile enough to handle a long epic.

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