I’ve written about using documentaries, historical journals, museums, and re-enactments to explore history, but I can’t go on without praising one of my favorite publications. It is a magazine that brings primary source history to my fingertips and reminds me of the struggles and challenges my parents and grandparents faced.

Don’t jump to conclusions! I’m not talking about WWII history magazines, archeological reviews, etc. I like those too, but they’re for another day.

I’m talking about entry-level history where even the most disinterested beginner can take a bit out of time and enjoy it.  A visual layout with great, short, first person reports on the historical past of the 20th century is the fundamental strength of Reminisce magazine published by Reiman Media Group which is a subsidiary of The Reader’s Digest Association, INC.

Tales of the past

This is the kind of history that you might hear your grandparents or great-grandparents tell if you are lucky enough to have these resources still alive. It isn’t ground breaking, never-before-seen historical research, but it is just as important. Knowing the daily details of the past and the experiences of our elders help us to live a fuller life, to respect them more, emulate the great things they did, and, one hopes, not make the same mistakes.

Magazines like this are a great teaching tool for kids and teens and a way to get them interested in history. Reminisce in particular has a surfeit of photographs, illustrations, and reprints of old cartoons and advertisements. Every issue is colorful, like having your own personal museum to page through whenever you need to fill a few minutes.

Did people really act like that?

After flipping through the past, it might surprise you to realize how degraded our current society has become. Wholesomeness is not something marketers feature much anymore. We are so used to the world in which we live that sometimes it takes a virtual journey back in time to realize how sordid it has become.

Scanning the advertisements of years past is an education in what people valued. The advertising professionals of the era designed their material to appeal to those values: wholesomeness, dignity, respect, faith, hard work, thrift, good clean fun, cleanliness, good cheer, family, marriage, the innocence of romance. From our 21st century cynical viewpoint we often see this material and think it looks hokey or syrupy. Kind of sad that good clean fun isn’t considered fun anymore.

There is one requirement when delving into this kind of historical record (or any part of the past, actually): check your modern sensibilities and put them aside, don’t reason from our contemporary perspective. Trade cynicism for a lighter approach to life in order to appreciate an era, only a few decades old, which had a greater sweetness and innocence than what we suffer through today.