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November 29, 2020 at 3:09 am #8789Efren YoungGuest
Of a Place and a Time
by Richard D. Altick
- Publisher: Archon Books
- Language: english
- Author: Richard D. Altick
- Format: hardcover, 199 pages
- Release date: May 1, 1991
- ISBN: 9780208023216 (0208023216)
About The Book
It is peculiar to Americans to think, “My generation is the one which broke with the past and created the modern world.” As wise and experienced people will do, Richard D. Altick tries to explain this recurring discovery by telling a story. The setting is Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the small and “typical” city where Mr. Altick grew up between the world wars. Trains stopped there; Hamilton Watch Company produced fine craftsmanship; rich farmland surrounded the town; and there were enough characters to people a set of novels — indeed, John Updike’s “Rabbit” Angstrom grew up the next town over. But in this story, as in others, a new generation wanted progress. Hence the discovery that the somewhat staid, somewhat traditional Lancaster was a tourist mecca. For in those rich farmlands dwelled the Amish and Mennonite, the “Pennsylvania Dutch” who had fled the turmoil of the old world for worship and toil in the new. Details of their lives had changed little over the years: no buttons; no electricity; no cars; strict rules. But in Lancaster this became Olde Tyme farming and hex-signs, with seven sweets, seven sours, apple dumplings, and shoofly pie. The tourist buses came, bringing plastic power and cash, and when the author came home as an adult, all was changed, changed utterly. The self-sufficient agrarian world which Thomas Jefferson feared would be destroyed by urban America was a Golden Age and a pastoral myth. The same American impulse that is constantly creating a more modern new generation did, after all, achieve the desired progress in Lancaster. It’s just that those most traditional of agrarian people, the Plain People, had to be put up for sale.
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