The Good Old Days -- They Were Terrible!

by Otto L. Bettman

The disgusting old days is more like it

Jan 2001

This book is absolutely harrowing and makes one wonder how America lasted until the 20th century -- learn the 19th century origins of the U.S. drug problem (children got hooked on the morphine and the opium in the patent medicines given to them to calm them down, for example) and why the Prohibition might not actually have been an over-reaction to alcohol; learn how our public school system originated as a rote memorization factory in which children ill-fed, ill-taught, and ill-washed crammed onto benches while an ignorant man or woman, not paid enough for even room and board, tried to keep some semblance of order (for which endeavor one schoolteacher got stoned to death for her pains); learn how common were the transportation accidents of the day, in which railroad tracks went through towns without regard to the usual traffic and a propensity for cutting the maintenance costs meant dangerous conditions for those on and off the train.

This book does not go into exhaustive detail (even if it exhausts the reader), and is illustrated with clippings from magazines and newspapers of the time. One other reviewer complained that photographs weren't used, but truthfully I don't =want= to see the photographs of the conditions. The drawings and the text provide enough horror, and I think Dr. Bettman did not want to put readers off =too= much. Also, the drawings from the press give one information that photographs would not have -- the perspective of the people at the time. Many of the drawings come with captions or some doggerel poetry, indicating how well people knew what disgusting things they were getting into.

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Mary Pat Campbell, last updated 11 June 2001