Food for Thought

by Eric Hamilton

When were ‘the good old days’?
Once again, I return to that question (and all its complexities), acknowledging that, while we should not want to return to an earlier time, there are usually layers of the past that we might learn from, today. There are also admirable people to be found in every time.
One such person was the late Dr. E.P. Hansen of Frankford, Missouri.
Don’t ask me what the ‘E.’ stands for—as far as I knew, the man’s first name was ‘Doc’. (He also happened to be the father of State Representative, Jim Hansen).
‘Doc’ Hansen was, in some ways, ‘a figure out of another time’—someone we all know; someone out of Norman Rockwell paintings and classic American novels: the ‘good doctor’, or the ‘country doctor’. We know this man. He is a trusted figure who lived in a time when most people lived in rural areas or small towns—a time when the doctor was the most important person in town.
Though Doc Hansen was never my doctor, he treated members of my family and was by all accounts an excellent physician. He was also the longtime mayor of Frankford, and, if you visit Frankford’s park, you will find a stone commemorating him.
Most of my memories of Doc involve the times when my Presbyterian church held joint services with Frankford’s Christian church, of which Doc was a member.
I was just a boy at the time, and everything looked bigger, so I thought the man was a giant (and he actually was tall enough to play in the NBA even now, at a position other than point-guard). However, Doc’s most impressive feature, for me, was his handshake, which could only be described as ferocious. Once, when I was six or seven and shook his hand in church, I thought that he might have lifted my feet off of the floor.
The man didn’t know his own strength. And of course, I was too young to know about the man’s real strength, either.
A story that I have always heard about Doc involved Frankford’s Little League team, which Doc had happened to coach. After a game, the team visited a restaurant in Wentzville called The Southern Air (which no longer exists).
This was before the Civil Rights Act, and there was a black player on Frankford’s team whom the restaurant refused to serve. At this point, it is said, Doc walked out of The Southern Air with the entire team. If the restaurant would not serve the whole team, the whole team wouldn’t eat.
Maybe this isn’t a flashy or sexy story. No one threw themselves on a grenade or charged headlong into machine-gun fire. Yet there is a sort of quiet heroism about it.
A group of young men learned a lesson that they would remember for the rest of their lives—that, as Thomas Jefferson wrote: ‘All men are created equal.’
This story also illustrates my point about ‘The Good Old Days’.
Many people, when they speak longingly of an earlier time, forget about restaurants like The Southern Air. On the other hand, there is always a need for good people like Dr. E.P. Hansen, in ANY time.
Regardless of when it happens, any act of quiet courage and integrity is an example of ‘The Good Old Days’.