Were the good old days ever really that good?

Kelly's Eye
Kelly's Eye

SOUTH Tynesiders can be a cynical lot.

While the Gazette website is often awash with criticism of this or that latest council development, many local people are afflicted with partial vision when it comes to our collective past.

Quick to lambast efforts to drag the borough into the 21st century, we often get dewy-eyed when discussing our social or industrial history.

But were the “good old days” ever really that “good”?

Yes, we once had full employment when the river and our local factories were booming, but we also endured a host of health and social problems, some linked to heavy industry, plus appalling housing standards.

Much of this often gets written out of our sentimental memory.

Likewise, those who claim that sex offenders are a recent phenomenon need to take a reality check – and a history lesson.

Apart from most sex offences – particularly those within families – never or rarely being reported, such stories never made the papers in days gone by.

Check through back issues of the Gazette from 50 or 60 years ago and you’ll find reports of women being “attacked” in back streets.

The fact that some of these were sex crimes was simply not reported.

And remember, bad health, poor doctors, indifferent schools and lacklustre teachers all existed in the past we often paint as a lost Eden.

Until the advent of Ofsted, for example, we knew relatively little about what goes on in schools.

Likewise, the world of doctors and hospitals was pretty much a closed shop, in terms of public scrutiny, and our old, cap-doffing, deferential society meant the public rarely pressed health professionals on high mortality rates.

Plus, 24-hour news means all of us are more informed about awful things happening at home and abroad.

Ignorance can be bliss, but some wear rose-tinted spectacles when looking back.

Which brings us to the present and the council’s efforts to boost the town centre with its much-trumpeted £100m ‘365’ plan.

True, the scheme is being vigorously talked up and dressed in shiny PR lingo but South Tyneside Council is at least trying to tackle retail decline.

And South Shields town centre is not alone in looking like a ghost town.

The same problems exist in towns and cities throughout the UK, for a complex bundle of socio-economic reasons.

And while every jaundiced armchair critic with access to a computer apparently has quick-fire answers to all these issues, it’s the council which has to do the deed – and take the almost inevitable flak.

Let’s at least give South Tyneside Council credit for trying.