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Putting the past behind us, while looking back

By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

I often run into people who have lived in Carbon County their whole lives who say to me, "This county is not what it used to be. It used to be a lot better in the old days."

Coming from outside of the area over 12 years ago, I personally can't tell you "How it used to be" here in eastern Utah, but I can tell you that things are seldom as good as most of us remember them, regardless of where you come from or were raised.

Part of the fallacy of believing things were better not only in the old days, but particularly in our youth, is that we are viewing it with hindsight rather than with a temporal point of view. In 20 years the problems you have today, will seem much less important and you will probably remember a nice birthday or a fun Fourth of July much more than you will the trepidation you felt about the war in Iraq or the possibility of terrorism coming into our community.

This is even proven by people who have gone through terrible things. I often hear many World War II veterans say that those four or five years that they were in the war was some of the best times of their lives. Some recall fondly the comradeship, the way the nation came together, the girl or guy at home waiting for them, the exciting end of the conflict, the euphoria after the war, etc. However, if you had been able to talk to many of these people at the time, most of their views would have been much different. At the beginning of the war the country was scared senseless by what seemed to be an imminent invasion by the Japanese and by the time the troops returned home they found a country profoundly changed from a isolationist nation to a super power with the ability to destroy the world, yet it couldn't convert from a war footing fast enough to provide jobs for all those former service people or make an really new automobiles for almost three years.

Jumping to my generation, I know a lot of people who still live their lives in the 60's. I have some fond memories of that time, when fast cars and rock music dominated my life. Yet, if I really think, I was a skinny kid, who got cut from the basketball team, who had a terrible time with acne, was sure girls would never like me much and wondered if I would ever be able to finish college and make more than the $1.25 an hour I was making at a part time job I had at a furniture factory where all the bosses hated anything to do with modern teenage life. I even remember one of the owners telling us we couldn't play rock and roll music on the radio in one of his delivery vans when we went out to take furniture to customers homes. The 60's may have seemed a time of liberation to some, but for me it was a time when I had little power over my life. It was frustrating and maddening. Yet I still can recall much of it with happiness.

I once heard a speaker at one of those "personal development" conferences say that we can dream about yesterday, and we can plan for the future, but the only time we can really affect is what is happening at this moment, on this day, in this time.

That advice has stuck with me over the 25 years since I heard that, and even in the worst of times I have tried to not revert back to thinking about when things seemed better.

But as good of advice as that is for individuals, it is even more sound for towns, counties and countries.

There was a time when this county could count on coal to provide it's living. The land was totally wide open, so you could go anywhere you wanted to fish and hunt or drive your vehicle. You were a big winner if you got a high school education, because a lot of people never got the chance to finish secondary school. A college education was truly a dream to achieve, but it wasn't needed to make a good living. It was time when gasoline went as low as 19 cents a gallon, and you could buy a new car for under $2000. It seemed like Main Street businesses would be there forever and that the people here would always be the same.

Our community is changing. It started when the first people came here as trappers then as farmers and cattlemen. Then came the immigrants who mined the coal and worked on the railroad.

Each group that came in made this a different place from what it was before. Today, people move in and out constantly, some from foreign lands, most from other states or towns. Each person who comes to live here changes this county. They bring with them their ways and their talents and sometimes some things we would rather not have them bring.

But, in reality, can you imagine it being any different when others in the past did the same thing.





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