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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tales from the old-timer

The “Good Old Days”





By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

daughter of the Old-Timer



**********





Two weeks ago we drove from Oklahoma to Wisconsin for a family wedding and visiting. We brought our camper on this trip and stopped for the night while headed north in the small town of Stanton, Missouri, right along the interstate.

The campground we stayed in was located next to an old church and cemetery and, in need of a walk, I passed under the traditional wrought iron archway “Stanton Cemetery, 1869.”

I made a beeline to the oldest section of the cemetery and started looking at grave markers. It is a grim reminder of life in those times that there is a large number of markers for very small children - infant mortality was high right from birth. Medical advances have mostly wiped out childhood deaths from infectious disease now, but back then, it was common to see a marker for two or more children from the same family with dates of death within days of one another - a hint as to the cause. Antibiotics and lifesaving medications were far in the future, and the toll on the young and vulnerable was significant.

I recalled an old cemetery I walked through in an Upper Peninsula mining community many years ago. Many of the headstones for young men were “a miner.” “Died in the mine.” Working conditions were often brutal back then - and while some people like to rail about overbearing Occupational Safety and Health regulations, workplace deaths in the United States are now very uncommon. You’d like to believe any business owner would do the right thing for their employees..but not all of them are so altruistic. Having a basic platform for protecting people from occupational hazards just makes sense to me. The alternative? Pretty grim.

Once we were home in Peshtigo I walked through the Peshtigo Fire cemetery as well - it struck me that it was close in age and time to the Stanton cemetery. The markers are getting very worn and hard to read - but there too is an unsettling representation of the young.

It’s very easy for any of us, as we age, to look back and talk about the “good old days.” Fact is, things are pretty good now. I am not at all sure many of us would wish to return to the days of row upon row of “angel” grave markers, or funerals of young men killed trying to earn a living.

Note: Thank you, Mr. P., for your kind words. I was walking down the road near my parents’ house last week when a little pickup with a big lab in the front seat passed me, and then stopped and backed up to me. “Are you the lady from Oklahoma?” I had to laugh and admitted I was. It was kind of you to greet me AND to offer me your mosquito spray! It was good to see everyone at home, but we were all scratching big bug bites all the way back to Oklahoma!


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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