I remember my dad, when I was younger, talking to a customer at the gas station that my parents owned and operated. The man was complaining about the price of gas going up and up and waxing nostalgic for how much it was years ago.
Now, my dad, who was born in 1923, also remembered things about the past but his memories ran counter to his customer’s; so I recall him replying with how much a quart of milk used to cost (yes, my dad once was a milkman, going door-to-door with a horse and wagon), pointing out that no one today seemed to complain about its astronomic rise in price — for if we use the early 1930s as our benchmark, when he was a kid, then the cost of milk has increased somewhere around 800% since then.
So it seemed pretty evident that the customer’s concern with gas prices today drove his selective memory concerning what it was in the past that ought to be marked and remembered.
And it was equally obvious, judging from how my dad used the past on that occasion, that a duel in the present, over current issues, could be fought based on what past was recounted — such as my dad defending his business from a complaint.
It was an early lesson for me, as I sit here now and think back on it, in ideology analysis and in how discourses on the past function — i.e., on how the past is created in the very act of seemingly remembering it. So when I find myself in classes today, trying to make points similar to this — such as bringing to the students’ attention that we are right now living someone else’s good old days, someone who will come long after us and wax nostalgically about a 2016 that we ourselves might not even recognize despite living it… — well, I often think back on that lesson I learned in the gas station.
Which is itself an interesting little moment of nostalgia too, no?
As for the post’s title, it’s the product of a little nostalgia of its own, for the closing line of a once popular song (that, yes, also once sold slow-pouring ketchup in TV commercials).