Looking ahead for 2023 - and back - Keith Roulston editorial
New Year’s Eve 2022 saw millions of people making New Year’s resolutions for 2023, and I’m betting the majority wished for more: more vacations in warm surroundings in Mexico or the Caribbean, a more comfortable home or more enjoyment in the backyard, possibly around a pool or hot tub.
Few people, I’m guessing, were thankful for what they already have, even though most Canadians, Americans or Europeans have more than their parents or grandparents could ever have dreamed of possessing.
My wife, for instance, watches the home improvement channels where people are busy tearing out kitchens or bathrooms or living-rooms that already are so far ahead of anything my parents, even I, could have dreamed of when I was younger. Heck, I can remember when I wouldn’t even have envisioned this sort of home, since I go back to a time when we didn’t have television, then went through years of getting one station, then two, then three. It was years before we could expect cable or satellite TV, let alone the universe we enjoy today.
Today, we have a plethora of movies to choose from over networks supplying them. I can recall when the VCR was something we rented in Blyth from retailer Irvin Bowes, who also had a limited selection of movies. Then, we got our own VCR and rented or bought movies on tape. Soon, that was replaced by a DVD player and shops where you could rent or buy from a selection of hundreds of movies. We have our own collection of several hundred movies on VHS now, a reminder of times past before people could simply tune in any movie they wanted on a cable service.
At one point, if you wanted to listen to local news on the radio, you had one choice: CKNX AM. It meant you’d better also like country and western music because that’s all they played. Now CKNX offers an FM station where you can get a whole different sort of music. You can even get the news from their website. If you choose, you can listen instead to CHWC-FM’s country music from Goderich or MyFM 90.5 in Exeter.
When I was growing up, long, long ago, we had a good local doctor in Lucknow. Things were not nearly as good, however, if you needed hospital care. I suffered rheumatic fever (a disease unheard of today) and I was treated at home by my parents because they couldn’t afford to pay for my stay in hospital. Yes, in those days in the late 1950s, we had to pay for our doctor and hospital care. It was in 1965 that our federal government under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson introduced the Medical Care Act in which the federal government promised to pay half the costs of medical treatment if the provinces would pay the other half.
After that, medical care began to change. Local hospitals all grew as beds and services were added and people suddenly got used to having proper care, no matter what their finances. New vaccines, provided with public funding, such as the polio vaccine, took deadly threats off our list of concerns in the late 1950s.
But as governments searched for ways to pay these added costs, they looked to cut costs elsewhere. We saw that directly here in Huron. As editor of the Clinton News-Record in 1970, I was there to cover the prolonged closure of the Canadian Forces base at Clinton. A similar process began at the former base at Centralia. Both had been started in World War II as part of Canada’s contributions to the war effort (along with stations at Goderich – the current airport – and Port Albert). A coworker at the newspaper created the name the old Clinton base still carries today, Vanastra. It was in a contest for which the winning prize was to be one of the houses at the base. The prize was never awarded and the developer soon disappeared.
So we have seen some setbacks over the years – as the loss of importance of our main streets has shown – yet housing has flourished. In general, we are so far ahead of where we were when I was a young man. As a child in school, I remember only two families who went to Florida. Today there are too many to count. In fact, Florida has become too boring for many people so they are seeking new adventures in the Caribbean, Mexico and South America.
Most people have visited Europe and more and more are seeing Asia. We have friends and relatives who have journeyed to Australia to visit children who have relocated there.
But while huge portions of our population are doing well, we have more people living on the streets than ever before. Thankfully, we also have more people helping them than ever. So, in general, as we face 2023, we have never been so well off. But there are reminders that as good as times are, things can easily go wrong.