Back to the future going forward


Regular readers know I have fairly untraditional ways of poking around on the internet for intriguing nuggets of historical information. I most often choose the roundish number of 50 as a means of setting the parameters of my search, going back fifty years or so to see what I might uncover and discover. This time, however, I decided to stretch my boundaries to the even rounder number of 100 – for a couple of reasons. The people and events of 1922 were living and occurring just as the pandemic caused by the Spanish flu had receded. More importantly in personal terms: the birth years of my parents straddle 1922. My father arrived in mid-1920, with Mother being born the day after Christmas in 1923. I am always on the lookout for glimpses into their lives during the years before we began to share our times as a family.

Ten decades ago, two Ohioans held powerful political positions: Warren G. Harding was serving as President and William Howard Taft as Supreme Court Chief Justice. And in Columbus Clarence J. Brown, Sr. occupied the position of lieutenant governor. Americans outside the political arena of course exited and entered the world during the 22nd year of the 20th century. Most notably, Alexander Graham Bell passed on just as a bevy of entertainers joined the population. Judy Garland developed a voice that had us peering over the rainbow. Eventual animal rights activists, Doris Day and the recently-departed Betty White amused us with their individually-honed comedic styles. And Charles Schulz, also born one hundred years ago, created an entire ensemble of cartoon characters with whom we all could identify.

Institutions still familiar to our nation formed as Reader’s Digest began publication, and State Farm established itself in the area of insurance. The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on its way to becoming one of America’s most symbolic monuments, while 2022 Buckeye fans are probably even more willing to cheer even louder with the knowledge that the Rose Bowl is one hundred years old. With Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties supplying a divergent backdrop, radio became much more than a novelty, complete with entertainment, news and commercials. President Harding had one of the devices installed in the White House, in the process becoming the first Chief Executive to have his voice thusly transmitted.

Other new accomplishments included the first blender, water skiing by a daring teenager on long wooden boards, and skywriting converted from a British military means of troop communication to a form of advertising in America. And charmingly, Margery Williams penned, with illustrations by William Nicholson, a childhood classic still available on most library shelves under the title of The Velveteen Rabbit.

Equally compelling as the people, practices, and products that came into existence one hundred years ago are some predictions for our newest year in this 21st century – from the minds of forward thinkers more than willing to prognosticate in the early years of the 20th century: newspapermen Charles Taylor and Wilbur Sutton, Professor Ferdinand Shuler, and author W.L. George.

According to an article last week in the Akron Beacon Journal, sometimes these futurists were far enough off base to cause our knowing smiles and clever eyerolls:

“The printed word, that one can read and digest, will always be popular. The newspaper is on the earth to stay.”

“…within one year every man, woman and child will be wearing glasses.”

“Rolling sidewalks will connect buildings, and anti-gravity screens will prevent airplanes from falling out of the sky.”

“…a complete meal may well be taken in the shape of four pills…although corned beef hash and pumpkin pie will still exist.”

Other predictions, however, were so astonishingly spot on as to perhaps raise more than a few modern eyebrows:

“…commercial flying will have become entirely commonplace…covering the distance between London and New York in about 12 hours.”

“Most fit women will be following individual careers…all positions will be open to them…probably a large number in Congress…on the judicial bench…perhaps in the president’s Cabinet…unlikely they will have achieved equality with men.”

And other 1922 predictions for 2022 simply beg interpretation:

“The child is likely to be taken over by the state…schooled, fed, and clad…at the end of its training placed in a post suitable to its abilities.”

“…a multiplicity of laws will lead to a paralyzing bureaucracy.”

“The American people, who long have boasted of their freedom, some day will have to begin tearing down some of the statues.”

“Americans will be less enterprising and much more pleasure loving.”

So here we stand at the very beginning of 2022, with that unnerving sense of uncertainty to which we have become all too accustomed. We have the predictions of those last century thinkers to consider plus the many current prognosticators have made and will continue to make.

Suffice it to say that just as in 1922, we can safely predict in 2022 millions of people will exit and enter our planet only to be remembered and forgotten in equal measure. Inventions and discoveries will be made to the benefit and detriment of the Earth and its people. Institutions will be built as will more modest structures, some of which will survive. We can make the same predictions for 2122, 2222, and beyond. We need only go back to the future to go forward.

Happy New Year!

Boomer Blog

Shirley Scott

Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.

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