Everything Old is New Again

“Everything Old is New Again”: That’s a great song lyric, cliche, and truism. And, it’s happening all around us.

Today, I read an article in the NYT about how, in an effort to save fuel expenses, and reduce toxic emissions, the owners of the large seagoing tankers and cargo ships are considering….installing sails!

Think about it: Those ships require steady, but not excessive speed. They need to conserve expensive fossil fuel,. They want to take advantage of natural forces , go green and reduce their carbon footprint. Why not go back to sails? The ships would have standard diesel engines, in case of emergency or a calm, but they would be capable of deploying sails in a stiff breeze. The engines would idle, and the sails would propel the ship. I think that’s genius.

It’s not the only example. In my life I have seen many more. How about the filling stations of the 1940’s? They offered cheap gas, oil, water, and air. They lost out to the big garages that were filling stations, repair shops, and mini malls. Now the garages are in trouble, and what’s coming back? Filling stations.

What about the little appliance repair and shoe shops that could fix and extend the life of your toaster, or resole your shoes? People tire of the disposal vs. fix-it mentality (“Throw it away and buy a new one). Will the repair shops come back?

Remember the 1950’s? Several of my teenage Saturday evenings were spent in a Drive-In. You could see a first run movie, at low cost, with food and restrooms available, and not be bothered by rude people in the next seats. Families loved it too. Judy and I would take a night out with the kids, see a double feature, cartoons, have popcorn, a drink, and watch the films while the kids fell happily asleep in the back seat. The Drive-Ins died out. They were so “yesterday.” The developers were offering the owners big bucks for the land they sat on. The developers aren’t buying today like they were. So, the Drive-Ins are making a comeback attempt. You might find a Drive-In not too far from where you live. I think more are to come. Maybe this decade will herald “The Return of the Drive-Ins.”

How about bottle deposits? During WWII, kids made spending money by collecting empty bottles (2 cents for a small bottle, 5 cents for a large). That died out when they introduced disposable, plastic bottles. Now, guess what? The deposit concept is back, and here in Maine, that includes soda bottles, liquor, juice containers, (5 cents for a soda or juice bottle, 15 cents for a liquor bottle), and most everything else that has carbonation, and a few that don’t (like water) . The kids once again can make spending money by collecting empty bottles.

Have you noticed that Coke and Pepsi are coming back with the original sugar additive as a sweetener, and not corn syrup? Sugar tastes better. It always did and it always will.

Remember radio? Television supposedly killed it in the Fifties. Not so. Radio hung in there and now it’s back with satellite radio. I thought it was frivolous until I got a six month free trial with my new Ford. They have individual stations, each specializing in the kind of music you like, without chatty D.J.’s and obnoxious commercials. It’s wonderful. I may collect cans and bottles to cover the $15/month it’s going to cost me.

I expect “The Shadow” and other radio drama series to be back soon in a modern format; maybe a Big Band Saturday Night Dance Party too.

Oh, and did silent movies get swept away decades ago? Guess what won the recent Oscar for best picture: “Silent Movie.”

A recent piece on “60 Minutes” explained how typewriters are making a small comeback. People like the tactile sensation, the privacy, the challenge, and the control. No Liberian or Eastern European scammer is going to steal your identity on a typewriter.

The smelly, depressing, nursing home that my parents’ generation dreaded, and feared, is being replaced by assisted living facilities and home care. People can still have independence, and be in a congenial environment near family and friends. It may even be cheaper.

I heard a radio advertisement for a large bank that said if you call their 800 number, you’ll get a real person on the phone, and not a machine that tells you that the menu has changed, and ties you into stressful  knots. Humans are back..

On a commercial level, I’d bet on hard copy photographs in an album coming back.. My grandchildren love to go through my family photo albums. Yes, they can go on-line and see the digital photos their parents’ took (at least 6 photos of every scene), but it’s not identified and not the tactile same as enjoying a family album with someone who can sit and explain whose those people were and why they’re still important.

I’d also rethink home appearances by local merchants. How about a greengrocer, dairy truck, or a butcher whose licensed vending truck appears in your neighborhood, by appointment, at a certain time each week?

Could you use a milk and dairy man making regular deliveries? Is there a chance we could bring Main Street back?

Several years ago, in New York City, I happened onto “The Last Wound-Up.” No, it’s not a Western emporium run by Porky Pig. It’s a store that sells the same tin wind-up toys I had when a kid. You wind it up, it goes like crazy for a minute or so, then you wind it up again. Some kids prefer it to a battery operated version. You don’t just watch it, you interact with it. And they’ll never have to hear their parents say, “I’m sick of buying batteries for that thing.”

And.. what’s next? I don’t know, but I can hope it has to do with keeping the family together; neighborhoods too (what about a return to neighborhood grocery stores? A place to pick up today’s supper and sundries). Maybe we could look at returning kids’ sports to the kids, sand lot games, and downsize the adults who want to be #1,  putting more stress on the kids, and more expense on their family? We learned a lot about priorities from the scandals at Penn. State.

The examples go on and on. We start to realize that change is good only if it’s an improvement. We mustn’t sweep away the good with the bad. I once heard a futurist exclaim: “If it’s not broken, break it anyway, and start anew.” Foolishness, say I. I think this particular futurist was unmasked as a fraud and an opportunist. He ended up serving time at Club Fed.

Who knows what’s next? We can think up new opportunities and, if they make economic sense, maybe someone will convert the wish into reality. There are only so many varieties of anything we can try before we repeat ourselves. In some cases, we’re already there.

That’s why “Everything Old is New Again.”


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