Thinking back to when I was a kid in the late 60's and 70's, it's clear that the "good old days" weren't so good. Here are ten reasons why.
1. Black Lung. Nothing like dying of "coalworker's Pneumoconiosis" whereby you choke to death on coal dust embedded in your lungs. This sounds like horrid way to go, and yet when I was a kid I heard a awful lot about it. Sadly, you don't hear so much about it any more, mainly because those affected have probably been killed by it.
2. The Neighborhood Beer Garden. In the old days in NEPA you had "beer gardens". Pleasant sounding, don't you think? Conjures up images of little Irish Fairies floating around flowers and such, doesn't it? I mean who wouldn't want to go to a garden? Of course conjured up images are different than reality: these were bars, all to numerous, where the over-worked would drink themselves into oblivion and then go home and either beat their spouses and/or children or simply sleep it off...until tomorrow, when they would do it all over again.
3. Beating Children. Speaking of beating children, I knew kids growing up who where were actually beaten by their parents. Fists and all. These days we call that "child abuse", but sadly, when I was younger, it seemed to be much more frequent. For the record, while growing up I was s%#t scared of my mother, she never laid a hand on any of her children (to the best of my knowledge).
4. Blind Obedience. Be it to a church in general, clergy specifically, a labor union, an employer, or to a politician, back in the old days it seems that adults were much more likely to be blindly obedient. Now I do understand that the opposite of that is equally troubling, namely rampant cynicism, but back then many simply believed everything told to them by certain figures in authority, and our area was all the worse for it.
5. Disgustingly Polluted Rivers. As a kid I remember walking down to the Lackawanna River and smelling just how awful it was; the smell was akin to diesel fuel. It was wretched, and for the most part, that seemed to be okay. I am glad that has (mostly) changed. Now we actually give a crap about our rivers.
6. 4 Television Stations. Growing up we had just four television stations: 16, 22, 28 & 44 (ABC, CBS, NBC & PBS). Now I don't really watch that much television myself, but it is nice to have some choices.
7. Shamelessly Corrupt Politicians. In retrospect, everyone knew that the likes of Dan Flood and Joe McDade were crooks, but yet almost everyone was fine turning a blind eye, as if they were stealing for us. Note to file: they were actually stealing for themselves; we just got the crumbs that fell off the table. Unlike the other items on this list, sadly this one still continues to a certain extent.
8. City Steam Heat. Back in the old days, many cities (such as Scranton; I'm not sure about Wilkes-Boro) had centralized heating systems, whereby steam would be pumped directly into homes and businesses for heating purposes. Growing up we had this in a house we lived in on Pine Street. Sounds like a great idea, huh? In theory yes, provided that steam was the only thing that came in along with the pipes. It wasn't. These were basically cockroach (or as we would call them "waterbugs") superhighways.
9. Ethnic Enclaves. Forget the Serbs and the Croatians, for in Scranton you had the Irish and the Polish (or the Irish and the Slovaks, etc.). As if where your parents or grandparents came from actually, really mattered all that much in the grand scheme of things. These differences were petty and stupid, and actually helped politicians take advantage of dim-witted voters by appealing to ethnic sensibilities.
10. Cars. This isn't specific to NEPA, but I'm going to mention it anyway. I learned how to drive in a 1976 Chevy Nova. My first "real" car was a 1974 Plymouth Duster. Want to know what the worst car in the world is in the snow/ice? That would be a 1974 Plymouth Duster. Cars "back in the day" by and large were horrible in all but dry pavement, guzzled gas (I had a 1975 Chrysler Newport that got less than 10mpg city) and handled like tractor trailers. These days most cars handle decently in bad weather (I have an AWD Nissan that can climb goat paths in the snow), have lots of options and are much more fun to drive. Oh, and they get much, much better gas mileage.