An issue of the Now I Know newsletter was particularly fascinating. It was called When You Don’t Believe Your Past Self.
“Think back to a major moment in your life — something which you truly think you remember each and every detail about. Now, try to recall something mundane from that day, something unrelated to the main events of the moment. What you ate for breakfast, which shoes you were wearing, the weather, the day of the week, etc. Unless you have a savant-level recall, chances are your memory of that fact is, at best, a guess…
“But where is that line between ‘important stuff’ and ‘I think it was a Thursday and cloudy out? It turns out that, even on days we think are seared into our memories, those memories aren’t very reliable.
“Actually, it’s worse than that. If one leading study is any indicator, not only do our memories kind of suck, but we can’t really deal with that fact.
“For horrible reasons, most of who were alive on September 11, 2001, can remember a lot about where we were and what we were doing that morning… Plug in just most other dates in the last fifty years, though and that’s not the case. For memory researchers, 9/11 [was an] opportunity to run experiments that are hard to replicate.
“A year after the terrorist attacks, a group of researchers from asked more than 3,000 respondents… to write down their memories of 9/11 — where they were when they found out about the attacks, who they were with, etc. The research made the same requests of the same people a year later and then again in 2011, ten years after the attacks. And what they found… was that stories changed over time…”
Chris said: Your memory is striking. Next “Ask Anything” I’m asking about that: do you remember the first time usually, or do you have to return to it repeatedly like most people, just you’re more diligent about than most?
Well, let me say that there are plenty of things I don’t remember. Some of it has to do with functionality. For instance, I know that Sonny Perdue is Secretary of Agriculture. When Obama was President, I knew Tom Vilsack was. But since he’s not anymore, he has slipped my mind. The only former Secretary I can remember is the infamous Earl Butz, under Nixon.
This isn’t a recent thing. When I worked at FantaCo in the 1980s, I usually made the bank deposits every weekday, and I’d see and briefly chat with one of the two tellers. One of them left, and seven months later, I saw her on the street. I could ask her about her cats or the problems she had with her apartment. Yet for the life of me, I could not remember her name.
I hate going to parties and meeting a bunch of new people. Despite all of those tricks I’ve read about overcoming this issue, it continues to dog me.
In junior high, I was supposed to memorize the Gettysburg Address; the whole thing is two minutes long. But I was unable to accomplish this. Likewise, I had a monologue in a high school production of The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco, and the Fire Chief had some incoherent rambling I just couldn’t master.
If people tell me things, I’m not as good as if I read them. I specifically have no capacity for line dancing because the mind can’t remember what the caller just said thrice before letting us go on our own.
On the other hand, things involving numbers I’m much better at. My daughter’s Social Security number, my library card number. If I get hit by a car, I won’t remember anything about the car except its license plate.
Music, too, is a tremendous help in recalling things. The Daughter is doing well in social studies because she knows most of the lyrics to the musical Hamilton. This is how she knows the first four Presidents.
But some things I just know. All of the Presidents, their political parties and the years they took office. I don’t know ALL the Secretaries of State, but a good chunk of them.
When I was on JEOPARDY! in 1998, and I had to put in order the statehood of three states, I could visualize a map in my fifth-grade class, with California already a state in 1850, when the other territories north and west of Texas were not. So Nebraska was next. Oklahoma, which I know from Rogers and Hammerstein, didn’t become a state until 1907, so it was the 46th, I know without looking it up.
Of course, like most people, I also remember things tied to a significant event. How beautiful the weather was in New York State on 11 September 2001. The look on Lee Harvey Oswald’s face when he as shot by Jack Ruby in November 1963, which I watched on live TV.
And I can have memories of events that astonishes people, but only because some other fact triggered it. I believe I try to pay attention.
Finally, writing it down is useful. The blog is often doing just that, so, if for no other reason, I should keep it up for a while.
Anne Pluta says that the trouble with Donald Trump voters is not that they are uninformed but that they are misinformed. Biggggg difference. Uninformed people just plain don’t know. Misinformed voters think they do but they’re wrong — and they’re usually determined to never admit it.
Maurice Ravel played at at Vincentian Institute in Albany in 1928!
I have said before that I’m not much for nostalgia. Yet, this year, I have joined two Facebook groups that are looking back at people and places from the cities’ past.
One group is I AM FROM BINGHAMTON, NY. The group was created in 2008.
This picture is of McLean’s department store in downtown Binghamton, one of two stores – the other was Fowler’s – that anchored downtown Binghamton for decades. McLean’s was located on Court Street at the corner of Chenango Street, across from City Hall.
My mother worked at McLean’s, first as an elevator operator, then as a bookkeeper for many years. My sisters and would go downtown, often walking from home, to visit her, or to walk up Chenango Street to eat at some restaurant called the Olympia (?) Tea Room, or to see a movie at the Strand or the Riviera.
Later, my mom worked at Columbia Gas as a bookkeeper, also on that first block on Chenango. Most of the place mentioned are long gone. There’s a Boscov’s where Fowler’s was, but it is possibly the rattiest looking store in the chain. How can I have forgotten that the CVS drug store, was once Hamlin’s before it got bought out?
Closer to my home, we went to the G&H Diner frequently because my mother had neither the time, the inclination, or the talent to cook; how did I forget that place on the corner of Front and Franklin Streets? On the other hand, I never knew about Binghamton’s Buried Stream of the First Ward, MY old neighborhood.
Ross Park Zoo is still around, and still with a carousel. But I had forgotten that it used to have a train to ride around.
I WAS able to add to the discussion. As a Cub Scout, I discovered, on a tour of Crowley’s, the dairy producer. that one building was linked to the building across Conklin Avenue underneath the road. When I was eight, this was exceedingly cool.
When I was a kid, I appeared a couple local daily TV shows in Binghamton on WNBF-TV, Channel 12, maybe TV RANCH CLUB or OFFICER BILL. Or possibly, both. Here’s a LINK to an INTERVIEW with BILL PARKER, the host of those two shows and much more. My buddy John notes that his “VOICE still resonates the same after all these years!” (November 7th 2014, 46 minutes).
Of course, there is sometimes a tendency to idealize the past. This is a picture of a Ku Klux Klan rally from the mid-1920s, in front of Binghamton City Hall, which is right across from McLean’s. From one participant’s information, they tried to re-market themselves as a “service organization” to attract new members and downplayed their racial motives. They were still anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant as well as anti-black, and tried to form a boycott of Endicott Johnson shoe manufacturers if George F Johnson didn’t fire his immigrant work force; George F ignored them.
This is a piece of local history I had heard about, second-hand. But to actually SEE it on streets I have walked was astonishing. The fiction that the Klan existed/exists only in the southern US. From the Wikipedia: “At its peak in the mid-1920s, the organization claimed to include about 15% of the nation’s eligible population, approximately 4–5 million men.” Reportedly, from 1923 to 1928, Binghamton was the NYS headquarters for the KKK.
(Unfortunately, the KKK thread, which was quite civilized, was removed from the page by the administrator, presumably as too controversial.)
I got the picture below from my friend Carol of the remains of the school I attended from K-9, 1958-1968, Daniel Dickinson, taken May of 1973, when I was away at college at New Paltz. I was unaware this was about to take place until long after it was razed, and it broke my heart. The area is now apartments.
By contrast, the Facebook page Albany… the way it was, run by Al Quaglieri, whose byline I remember from Metroland, the arts weekly, involves discoveries of things I never knew. Maurice Ravel played at at Vincentian Institute in 1928! Even Albany before dozens of homes were razed, and the Empire State Plaza was built was new to me, since I didn’t move here until 1979.
I was able to participate in one recent conversation. Al doesn’t always remember some of the places that have come and gone. But I remember, fondly, the Shades of Green vegetarian restaurant on Lark Street, around the corner from Washington Avenue. I went there a lot when I worked at FantaCo in the 1980s.
You should check out the Albany group archive, a “gigantic photo library – over 10,000 images that you can search.”