Judy and I subscribe to the magazine Reminisce. It’s about, naturally, an older time. But only stories from the 1940’s-1950’s really interest me. It’s like the birthdays listed daily in the paper. I read all the older birthdays, but none of the younger. Reverse age discrimination!
Anyway, while having little good to say of morals in today’s America, we certainly have improved our health and hygiene over our 19th century ancestors, whether in villages, towns or cities. For those who long for the “good old days,” when life was simpler, we need to remember it was also a lot less healthy and hygienic.
In Springfield, Illinois, when Lincoln served as a lawyer, more pigs roamed the streets than were in pens during the State Fair. Urbana, Illinois had “more hogs than people,” and the porkers had equal rights to the streets. Shades of India with their sacred cows!
Dogs also roamed unchecked and only the threat of hydrophobia would expedite a campaign to kill strays. Rats infested the underside of wooden sidewalks. Even public buildings had their infestation. Only the horror of having a new-born infant devoured by a pack of rats at Bellevue Hospital roused the New York City Council to action.
Community water works usually lagged behind population growth. Even when New York built Croton reservoir in 1862 the city’s tenements often had to find other sources for use. Chicago’s water supply, from Lake Michigan, often contained disease-ridden parasites when rain ran off manure heaps on city streets.
Like my dad, who picked up food left-over’s—we called it slop—from the Lincoln Hotel, Lincoln, Illinois, whatever their stage of decomposition, then fed it to family pigs, Chicago’s milk-giving cows often drank and ate from “whiskey slops.” Irrepressible Conflict, 179-181
But do not be misled, however. We haven’t eliminated filth from our society. We’ve merely moved it indoors as moral filth. Into our T.V. rooms and community movie houses where Hollywood pours out its sewage. Into university classrooms where professors damn God and exalt Darwin. Into the studies of liberal theologians who spout anti-Christ lies. Into the offices of arrogant politicians who declare themselves superior to all opinions but their own.
Give the mid-19th century a spiritual awareness we can’t claim. They knew the difference between what could make them physically sick and would kill their souls! We haven’t a clue that a difference between the two exists. What good is it to have gained better health for a few extra years of life, and lost God in Christ forever and ever?