Main Liners of yore weren’t as sullen and serious as those dog-eared, sepia-toned photos let on. Aunt Beatrice’s hand-me-down tales of worry and woe notwithstanding, our ancestors knew how to have a good time—and they certainly had to be more proactive and creative about it. Back in the day, idle pleasures were decidedly simpler for young and old alike.
As author of our popular monthly Retrospect column, Mark E. Dixon was assigned the task of digging into the Main Line’s recreational past for this month’s cover story. In doing so, he found that recreation a century or so ago was more of a group effort. “There was less technology involved, of course,” he says. “But the tech angle seems less important than the fact that people did so many things together.”
To put it a different way, Dixon continues, “Software makers have put a lot of effort into making their products interactive. Our ancestors interacted with each other by forming baseball teams, cornet bands, bicycle clubs, etc.”
Which is to say that many forms of fun required actual skills. “I have a sense that today, more of us aren’t competent at much more beyond what we do for a living,” he says. “I find it a bit sad that people are now distracted from their own forms of recreation by the spectacle of watching professionals—that shift from playing the game yourself to watching others play.”
But even back then, sitting around doing nothing had a certain appeal. That much is evident from the contented expressions of the boys in the photo above.
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: The struggle to secure greater hunks of a substantial inheritance may not inspire much sympathy in these rugged economic times. Yet senior writer J.F. Pirro still manages to convey a healthy dose of empathy in “Money for Nothing,” his account of local trust-fund beneficiaries who’ve banded together with other heirs around the country to battle the banking industry for easier access to what they maintain is rightly theirs.
We should all have such problems.