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Nostalgia and Past Reflections
Your first bicycle, kiss, and fond memories of high school days…these remembrances are called nostalgia. The word comes from the Greek meaning “returning home.” It was first used in 1688 by Johannes Hofer describing medical aspects of “home sickness.”
Nostalgia can be triggered by many things, old songs, movies, sounds or a certain sight or smell. Many might say it’s a form of escapism to happier times and places, sort of a return to the “good ole days.” Whether it’s the “Roaring 20s” or later each decade had its own distinct flavor. Ahh yes, the “good ole days” when we were young and knew it all and our parents were a couple of squares who didn’t have a clue. Of course, there’s the memory when we matured and discovered perhaps they weren’t the dopes we took them for after all.
At one time or another we have all experienced warm, fuzzy feelings of a cherished memory. Maybe it came from looking at an old photograph or revisiting a place you once lived during your childhood. These thoughts can transport one back in time to relive moments long since past. The first day of school, good friends now lost or a memorable walk in a park can all be pleasant to dwell on. Where were you when you first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” by The Beatles? The question can obviously jump start the imagination and evoke images of earlier days.
Vent Haven Museum
American Sign Museum
However, nostalgia can take other forms than just memories. Some live in the past by collecting memorabilia from different eras. Antiquing is one form, as is collecting baseball cards, stamps and popular toys of the past. Others may relive a different time through dated records, films or old recorded radio broadcasts. The list is endless. Photograph collections, depicting old trains or automobiles of the past are also popular pastimes.
However, nowadays nostalgia isn’t limited only to individuals. Museums have been built catering to the whimsical memories of yesteryear. Posters, classic autos, jukeboxes, historical documents, photographs, maps, newspapers and toys are on exhibit across the country for all to enjoy. Some museums limit themselves to one specific category such as vintage automobiles or old toys while others display anything considered to be nostalgic. By visiting one some may become immersed in memories of their childhood and discover just how much they have forgotten over the years.
For example, the Vent Haven Museum, in Fort Mitchell, KY, is dedicated to the art of ventriloquism. There were many famous ventriloquist acts in entertainment history. The museum, opened in the 1970s, features the dummy sidekicks they used. There are tributes to 20th-century ventriloquists such as Edgar Bergen, Paul Winchell and Shari Lewis along with displays about great dummy makers of the day like Charles Mack, Frank Marshall and the McElroy brothers.
Another, the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, exhibits collectible signs with gilded lettering and neon.The signs speak to us long after what they proclaimed had ceased to exist. “Old Barbee Whiskey,” “Cole Batteries” or “Flying A Service” may not mean much now. But we can still hear their voices ringing throughout the decades.
Today, nostalgia is alive and well. Vintage clothing is making a comeback, every other film is a remake from a successful movie of the past and even bands from our teens are re-forming and playing to sold out audiences. Even advertisers are getting in on the nostalgia kick by using commercials from way back, ageless background music and unforgettable scenes from the past. There are even companies who specialize in reproducing everything from wallpaper and fabrics for people remodeling old homes and period movie sets to parts for obsolete items.
Fortunately, today we don’t have to rely solely on out faulty memories to take a walk down memory lane. Because of the efforts and struggles of a valiant few who have strived to preserve artifacts and vestiges of our history were able to reacquaint ourselves with our past. By the way, where were you when you first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand?”