I remember when I lived in Cape Girardeau, Mo. in the late 1970s, early 1980s, I would occasionally need to go to New York to the headquarters of my employer. I would drive to St. Louis, catch a plane (usually TWA in those days). Everyone on that plane would be dressed to the hilt – including me. Suit, white shirt, tie, the whole works.

A few years before that, when I worked for that little old soap company in Cincinnati, we didn’t go anywhere – even if we were going to a job site to check on a construction project – without wearing a coat and tie.

I was looking through some old family pictures the other day. There we were, visiting my aunt in Marion. This was about 1960. There was dad in a coat and tie – just for a family visit.

I have another picture of my grandfather in Troy being picked up by an uncle from Wheelersburg to be taken back to his home in Portsmouth. And there’s Poppy, in a coat and tie and hat.

In recent years, I have gotten onto airplanes where my fellow passengers, I’ll swear, are in their pajamas. In fact, it looks like they just rolled out of bed and came to the airport – no stopping by even their toothbrush for a quick freshening.

I don’t care what your politics are, you probably think society as a whole is in not in great shape. People are rude. You have to watch out for thefts when you walk about. You just don’t feel safe when you get away from your own surroundings. This is particularly true in small-town America when you must make the occasional trip to the big city.

So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? In other words, which came first: Degradation in public attire or rude and crude public behavior.

It is fairly easy, I think, to pick a time frame. But it’s still difficult to pick which was first precisely.

The time frame seems to be the late 1960s (1967 – the summer of love – or perhaps Woodstock in 1969).

More importantly, what has this done to us?

If one considers that it perhaps has broken down stigma and barriers among and between the haves and have nots, that is likely a good thing. If it has dragged us all to the basement in terms of public decorum, perhaps it is a bad thing.

All I can say is this: People are definitely ruder and cruder today than they have ever been in my lifetime. For me, this is a depressing turn of events.

It takes the optimism out of the day, it makes me want to take a shower, at times (particularly after being on an airplane).

For those who have grown up with this state of affairs, I weep. They have never known the time when it was an event to go some place, the idea of being polite and opening doors for each other, and on and on.

Personally, I think society is in a worse place when it comes to public decorum than it was a half-century or more ago.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.