“The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village.” Marshall McLuhan
I am struck daily by how much technology has changed our world. Heightened surveillance pretty much everywhere and all the information that is out there is just staggering. I get the reasons for all of it. Yet, the other day my husband was reminiscing about how he grew up in a very small town. So many of those very charming stories could never be because today – it just isn’t possible. These are some of those stories – both told to me in my small town and in his.
His Aunt Mabel was a tiny little woman with one eye which she lost while cutting firewood as a child. Aunt Mabel was beloved in the community and worked as a teller in the small local bank. She was a single Mom and understandably ran a little short from paycheck to paycheck. So, she would take a little and then pay it back immediately. Everyone knew, no one said anything and they all let her gracefully handle her finances knowing her struggle. Today, that just wouldn’t happen. It is a charming story of days of old.
I was an attorney in a small town in Indiana. Judge Meyer was the Circuit Court Judge who was a great storyteller. We would sit in his office with his feet up on the desk reminiscing. He told this story of he and his father in law who was in constant competition with Judge Meyer as the prosecutor, and his father in law as the defense attorney. His father in law knew how to disrupt a courtroom. Because Judge Meyer has the burden of proof, it is a much more difficult place to be. He needed the jury to pay attention.
Among the antics, his father in law brought a cigar into the courtroom and would hold it in his mouth during Judge Meyer’s closing argument. The cigar was at least a foot long. He would puff on it until the ash was long. The jurors would watch in amazement as the ash didn’t fall. His father in law had put a wire in the cigar to hold the ashes. In that small town in the 40’s and 50’s, not guilty verdicts were not uncommon. You can’t smoke in a courthouse much less a courtroom. A story of old- never to be repeated.
Another is again about his father in law who, not uncommonly in those days, drank a lot. There were many stories about him, but a favorite was his long night at the VFW where the bartender called the police. How bad that must have been, I can’t imagine. Only he was taken to the local jail. His VFW buddies fashioned a long straw that they put in a bottle so he could drink it through the bars in his cell. Again, no way would this happen today – even someone arrested in a bar is placed in a county jail with security nearly as strong as a federal prison.
Make no mistake, I am glad that no one could smoke a cigar with a wire in it while I was giving my closing argument, but I love the antics and love the story. I am also glad that county jails are tightly controlled. You never know who someone is. But a real jail with literal bars on the window like Andy Taylor’s jail with Barney Fife, that is TV come to life. Imagine Otis’ friends with a bottle and a straw peeking through the bars.
My husband’s small town is full of those stories. I love to hear him tell them. It makes me wish I could go back and stand around and watch them. I can picture that old bank with the teller windows and the vault in the back. I can picture a smoky courtroom and certainly devious defense attorneys trying to trip up the prosecutor. Thanks to our weekly visits to Mayberry with Andy Griffith, I can picture the jail cell.
Technology has brought us a great deal. Communities are generally safer with guilty criminals convicted and secure jails. I guess not all bank tellers would pay the money back. But we can sure reminisce and imagine a world that at least seemed simpler. A “global village” is interesting at times, but a small one has a charm that the Internet will never bring again.