The material culture is sometimes looked upon negatively by people disposed to have a frugal, Spartan-like disposition. Conversely, the joy of finally possessing an object of our desire can flood our whole being with a sense of wonder.
“A Thing of Beauty if a Joy Forever.”
The key word is thing, not many things. Many things are not usually directly additive to pleasure. Humans are most likely to remember a singular moment in their lives or a series of separate notable events.
At the time of World War II, when I was growing up, because of the war, there were no minor or major products available for civilian consumption. The Depression was over and people were working in the war industry. They were making money, but could not buy a new car, washing machine, or any other object of their desire. That is, until the war was over and industry changed over from war production to civilian production. The money was there, but we could only wait, compounding our anticipation for something new.
We were still relegated to driving old cars or other ancient forms of transportation. In my father’s case, a 1931 Model A Ford, which he later sold for $14. My preference was a 1940 Harley-Davidson motorcycle. This was not altogether a bad thing. We learned to take care of and treasure whatever we owned. In the advertising of the time, the manufacturers showed us the many new products that would soon be available.
Of course, this only increased our anticipation.
The cost of the war had almost destroyed the British economy. Combined with the devaluation of the pound and their advanced motorcycle technology, their post-war motorcycles were very attractive to me. After poring through many brochures and devouring every photo and technical specification, I made my choice. A 1950 Matchless G9 500 Twin would be mine!
In the quaint world I lived in at the time, credit availability for an 18-year-old was not an option. If you wanted to buy something, you first had to save your money. I was earning $1.37 an hour as an apprentice electrician and was contributing $25 a week to our household. Even with me doing side jobs, it took me quite a while to accumulate the $725 I needed to purchase the Matchless.
That happy day finally arrived. Off we went to East New York and Carl’s Motorcycles on Linden Boulevard. There on the showroom floor, resplendent in polished aluminum, chrome, and finished in a flawlessly applied black baked enamel, with hand-painted gold pinstripes, sat the object of my affection. What a beautiful sight it was! I will never forget that day.
Since that time, I have owned a few new cars and motorcycles, but the Matchless still stands out in my mind.
The ride home, to me, was like a trip on a magic carpet. With the Matchless’s front “teledraulic” telescopic fork and its swing arm real wheel, it fairly floated over the bumps in the road. Or so it seemed to me. By contrast, after striking a pothole with the Harley, I almost was thrown over the handlebars. The Matchless had other wonderful features designed to make the rider one with the machine. Unlike the Harley, I no longer had to take one hand off the handlebar to shift gears. Its foot-operated gear shift and hand-operated clutch, combined with the superior placement of all the controls, assured me that this motorcycle was much safer to operate.
The riding position with my feet resting on the footpegs enabled me to just rotate my foot slightly to apply the rear brake. With the Harley, I had to first lift my foot off the foot rest and then step on the pedal to apply the rear brake. The seating arrangement, with my feet resting on its footpegs, and my knees bent at a slight angle, acted to absorb road shock, thereby helping to maintain control.
By any standard, these features added up to an ergonomic delight.
I had experienced the almost perfect set of circumstances to really appreciate what I would finally own. First, the lack of availability of the object of my desire. Then, making do with what I had. Then, the lack of the means to buy something. Finally, saving and accumulating the money to buy the thing I wanted. Fortunately, by that time the Matchless had really evolved into something that was vastly superior to what I previously had owned.
At age 87, I am now in the twilight of my life. The Matchless is still fresh in my memory. That single purchase has greatly influenced my attitude towards everything I own. I feel that my possessions, although they are inanimate objects, deserve care, should be free from abuse, and be treasured. The Matchless still lives within me today.
On their 21st birthday, each of our grandchildren received a photo album with our genealogy, our personal stories, and pictures of them in our family gatherings over the years. Also included, to reinforce the values taught and modeled by us and their parents, were these proverbs to guide their life choices.
1. Wishing won’t make it so!
2. Good fortune favors the prepared mind.
3. There is no greater delight than going somewhere in search of adventure and discovering yourself.
4. “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight.”—Theodore Roosevelt
5. Pay yourself first (i.e., savings plan)!
6. Do what is right rather than what is easy.
7. Think great thoughts, but relish small pleasures.
8. All that glitters is not gold.
9. Never confuse your net worth with your self-worth!
10. Goodness is greater than greatness.
11. We are what we repeatedly do.
12. “Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”—Aristotle
13. “What you leave behind is not an engraved stone, but woven into the lives of others.”—Pericles
Ann Porter, AKA Grandy
What advice would you like to give to the younger generations?
We call on all of our readers to share the timeless values that define right and wrong, and pass the torch, if you will, through your wisdom and hard-earned experience. We feel that the passing down of this wisdom has diminished over time, and that only with a strong moral foundation can future generations thrive.
Send your advice, along with your full name, state, and contact information to NextGeneration@epochtimes.com or mail it to: Next Generation, The Epoch Times, 229 W. 28th St., Floor 7, New York, NY 10001