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Preserving items from past keeps heritage alive

People are mainly interested in the present and the future, but they also have fond feelings for the past. A friend saves a grandfather clock, an old-time rocking chair and a heavy iron pot and kettle that were used in pioneer days.

Many objects that seem worthless have value because they are from the past. Some antiques that look like pieces of junk are great treasures.

Some states now have departments of preservation to save historic objects.

I noticed the strength of the desire to save historic things in a fight to save some buildings in Chicago when I lived there several years ago.

There was a great deal of construction in the downtown area. Old buildings were torn down and replaced with tall skyscrapers. The new structures had high, smooth walls and were narrow at the top as if pointing to the sky. The architects thought that sleek, streamlined look, like that of a missile, was modernistic.

However, this construction brought a loud outcry from many who wanted some old buildings to be preserved to show the architecture of the past. They said that if those buildings were destroyed, a part of Chicago history would be lost forever.

A clash occurred between the preservationists and the builders, who thought the old buildings were dinosaurs of the past whose time had come. They said new construction was progress that opponents were blocking. The preservationists said that all change wasn't progress, and that the builders didn't understand cultural values.

Also, the preservationists argued that some old buildings look better than the new ones. A famous library, the Newberry, was impressive in its old-time architecture. It was built in the last century, but none of the modern buildings looked as handsome as that old structure. The preservationists fought hard for such old buildings as if they were their children.

The great interest in the past also is shown by the many vacation trips people take to see historic spots. They flock every year to see the homes of Jefferson and Washington, the log cabin of Lincoln, the colonial homes in Williamsburg, Va., and a replica of the Mayflower that brought the first settlers to America.

The old-time train is another object we wish to remember. When the airplane replaced the train for long-distance passenger travel, it became almost obsolete.

The train played an important role in American history. When it declined from its glory days, it became a part of Americana _ the iron horse. A small, old railroad station in Dunedin has been converted into a museum that contains many railroad relics.

The desire to preserve the past was shown in a small town in northern Michigan I occasionally visited for summer vacations. It was filled with large trees and was shady and cool even on the hottest days. It was so shady it seemed the sun didn't exist. The cottages were built in the previous century. When you entered the town, it was like being in another time.

The owners wanted to modernize their homes while retaining the old-fashioned look. A law was passed that they could improve the interior of their homes as they saw fit but could not alter their outer appearance. Now the homes have refrigerators, washing machines and other modern equipment but still look as they did almost 100 years ago.

The love for old things was shown recently at a display of antique autos in Dunedin. Crowds came, interested to see how autos looked many years ago.

The cars were painted and polished and so shiny that they look brand new. Their owners must give them much care and affection. Many look more handsome now in their old age than when they were new _ and have greater value now.

As time marches on into the future of computers, space exploration and other vast changes, people still want to remember the past _ their heritage.

Charles Saltzman is a Dunedin retiree.