Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Great quotations: Moms Mabley on nostalgia

The quotation:  
The good old days. I was there. Where was they?

Who said it?  Moms Mabley

Source: Goodreads

Thoughts on the quote:  Certainly an African American living from the end of the 19th century well past the midpoint of the 20th saw major improvements. But the quotation doesn't just apply to Moms Mabley's own life - I think it applies much more generally. Whenever people hark back to some 'golden age' it is good to recall these words of Moms. It is easy to forget the bad parts of the "good old days", especially if you weren't in one of the groups for which they were really really bad. You know - Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Jews, Italians, Irish and so on .... and, of course, women. But even for others - the good old days had their problems.
  Here are some things that made life better during Moms Mabley's lifetime
  • Penicillin was discovered in 1928 and saved millions of lives
  • Radio, motion pictures and television transformed entertainment
  • The car and the airplane changed transportation.
  • The crossword puzzle started perplexing people
  • Frozen foods made vegetables available all year
  • Zoom lenses made big differences in photography.
  • Ballpoint pens made it easier to make mistakes (but harder to correct them than with a pencil)
  • Computers began, and the very early beginnings of the internet, as well.
  • The slinky and silly putty and the Frisbee made for fun times
  • Oral contraceptives changed sex forever
  • In 1894 the average life expectancy was 42.5 for White men, 44.6 for White women, 32.5 for other men, and 35.0 for other women. By the time Moms Mabley died, these numbers were 67.9, 75.5, 61.0 and 69.0, respectively.

  So, when people start talking about the good old tells, quote Moms.
The good old days. I was there. Where was they?

About the author:  Jackie "Moms" Mabley,  nee Loretta May Aiken, was an African American comedienne, born on March 19, 1894 in Brevard, NC. Moms Mabley worked in vaudeville, and later in TV, as a standup, and in film. She died on May 23, 1975, in White Plains NY.  Moms Mabley got her stage name from a former boyfriend, saying "he took so much from me, I took my name from him".

Moms made over 20 recordings, appeared in 7 films and 9 stage productions.  She tackled issues such
as racism, social justice, and so on long before they were popular, and yet, she must have made them funny, because audiences loved her, and she appeared in mainstream venues such as the Ed Sullivan Show.  She was married and had several children, but also had female lovers.


  1. Moms also had some X-rated material that wasn't too widely distributed in the good old days when they were arresting Lenny Bruce on obscenity charges.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I did not know that