I grew up outside of Elmira, Ontario an area known for its old order mennonites. Old order mennonites are much like the Amish and reject 20th and 21st century technology. They get around by horse and buggy, have no electricity in their homes, and their churches are called meeting houses.
I went to school with some of them. The males leave school at 12 years old when they are considered to be of prime working age to work on the farm. Most of the females leave at the end of grade 8.
As non old order mennonites, we laughed at this rejection of technology and culture. If I were a boy, I would always have worn dark trousers with suspenders and a white shirt with a dark jacket and possibly a straw hat. All the girls wore flower print dresses and had their hair down in two braids, one for each side of their head.
But our culture was different. We could do anything we wanted with technology the height of which seemed to be television and the telephone. Sure there were things like answering machines but only Jim Rockford had one of those. And at the end of the seventies, video arcades were just starting. But television ruled supreme as the dominating technology that whiled away more hours than anything else.
So we laughed at the mennonites who didn’t have this window on the world and were stuck with only toys and games from the 1800s.
Television showed us many things but a lot of shows passed by us almost unknown. There had to be a hook that got to us somehow. Stalwarts like Happy Days and Little House on the Prairie entranced us. Who wouldn’t want to be the Fonz, able to fix anything with the proper hit of the jukebox or motorcycle.
And we loved following the adventures of Laura Ingalls in her twin braids hung down with her flower print dresses. People from that time used to get around by horse and buggy and that too was a draw. She must have lived in a finer time because she had adventures every week.
It was fascinating watching these kids who would use only toys and games from the 1800s. Despite all our technology, we couldn’t help but dreaming about colonizing the American prairies.
How could we explain this all to our friends, the old order mennonites? Having never watched Little House on the Prairie or any television for that matter, how could they understand? I imagine that the suspension of disbelief for this show might have been too much for them.