Living life in the past - Todd Defeo

More than once, I've been told, "You were born a century too late." And quite frankly, I think it's a valid statement.

In all of my hobbies, I am interested in the historical aspects. I always want to know how things have evolved and changed over the years. Take, for example, my greatest hobby: railfanning.

True, I take off most weekends and seek out the train-watching hotspots. But as soon as I return home and start downloading my pictures, I start researching the location's history. I want to know what railroads came to the town and when. I want to know when the town's depot was built, which railroad used the building and when the passenger train last stopped there. What's more, I would have rather been among the final passengers who boarded the train that day.

But far greater than any locomotive seen on the rails today are the ones that you won't see n steam engines. Filling the sky with plumes of smoke, steam locomotives conjure up romantic images of a bygone era. How amazing it would have been to have served as an engineer, helping to move railroads west and connect the country's two coasts. Surviving engines, primarily relegated to railroad museums, are the greatest relic and worth seeing at every chance.

Just as railroads played a key role in the county's history, baseball shaped the nation's sports culture.

As a self-proclaimed student of history, I am taken by the pursuit of the all-time great baseball teams. To that end, I own several baseball games n both computer and board n and I pit teams, usually from different decades, against one another. I am constantly intrigued by the outcome, but I never settle. I continue to replay the matchups and also new ones. I have no outcome that I am hoping for; rather I want to be surprised at how small changes in a particular matchup can alter a game's outcome.

But, the greatest indication of my living in the wrong century: I was a history major in college. True, just about any major would have been more useful in the "real world," but had I the chance to "do it all over again," I wouldn't change anything.

Since high school, I wanted to study 20th century history, perhaps because that era was so recent, in fact concluding while I was in college. But, the more I pursued academics, the more my interests retrogressed, at least from a period standpoint. Today, I find myself most fascinated with the Civil War, the old West and the Cold War. My library is filled with books covering those three eras and one more interest n music.

I can't simply listen to music. When I do listen to a few of my favorite records, I can't help but want to learn more about the artists themselves, most of whom lived decades ago and helped shaped music as we know it today.

Along those lines, I dedicated an entire year's college research project to studying how music told the story of the Civil War. From tough times to military campaigns, music was and still is an important method of story telling, one that should be preserved, just as national landmarks are.

So, who says there's anything wrong with living in the past?

Todd DeFeo is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at tdefeo@henryherald.com .