Geography in another era

As a high school student, I was always interested in geography, although I can’t remember taking more than one course. Nothing could be more exciting than learning about the world we live in. It was fascinating to turn the globe and discover the four corners of the earth.

Made you wonder what it was like in some of those faraway places. Like Australia and Africa. In those years, I thought that maybe I might get to Atlanta some day. London and Paris? Never thought that would be possible, and if it were to happen, it would take something like the U.S. Army to get me there. I never heard that there were military bases in the big cities of the world.

Hearsay was important in those days. There was no Internet back then, and my school didn’t even have a set of encyclopedias. We didn’t subscribe to a newspaper. I had to eavesdrop on adult conversation or interview my teachers to broaden my world.

The county library was the most versatile place to learn about the world. There was a globe in the county library, too, and I spent hours searching out the many countries in the world. Japan looked so small, and this piqued my curiosity. How did that little island take on a big country like China in World War II?

Turned the globe and found the United Kingdom. Seemed such a small place to have influence on the rest of the world. How did they send an army across the Atlantic to do battle in the Revolutionary War? I wasn’t good at conclusions about logistics back then. In fact, I never heard that word used but later learned its importance when I became familiar with the developments of the Second World War.

Your imagination would run rampant when you slid your fingers across the vast oceans on the globe. How did the Mayflower make it across the ocean and meet up with the shore in New England? Who would make that trip in the first place? And who would keep the ship pointed in the right direction?

When it was time to report for algebra class, I was totally flummoxed emotionally. Algebra was hard, much of it having to do with the fact that it was boring. Geography and history held a fascination that numbers did not.

There was excitement when you learned about the Roman Empire and the kings and queens of England.

Church was interesting when time was spent with the traditional Bible stories, but those long sermons almost did me in. While a preacher was pounding away with the fire-and-brimstone orations, I was looking out the window wondering how the Red Sox were doing — knowing that it was considered sinful to listen to baseball games on Sunday, let alone play the game on the day of rest.

One of the biggest shocks about the world we live in was to learn about the two hemispheres. When somebody remarked in May that it was fall in Australia, I couldn’t comprehend such a circumstance.

After all, when you looked at the globe, Australia was way down at the bottom. How could it ever get cold in Australia? I protested to my informer, “You can’t be right. Australia, on the globe, is way down past Florida. My thinking was the Australia had summertime the year round.

It was hard to try to fathom that our growing season was their harvest season. Years later, I was still taken aback when the Australian golfer Peter Thomson talked about how “bloody cold” it gets in Melbourne in the Australian winter. I had to think about what he was saying. Kids today fare better since they can learn about the growing season in the two hemispheres by just sitting at their computers.

However, by sitting at their computers, they can also learn how to build a bomb. Or they can learn about pornography. They can learn about steroids and masking agents, among other dastardly subjects.

When I think about all that, I realize that being provincial in another era maybe wasn’t so bad after all.

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