Keith N. Finlayson
The Days of '47 parade winds through Salt Lake City on July 24, 2006.

July 24 has come to Utah again. And the old stories will be told once more — the persecution in Illinois, the Prairie Schooners sailing across the Great Plains, Brigham Young declaring, "This is the right place," and thousands of Mormon pioneers filing into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake to build — from scratch — a new city, a new society, a new way of life.

But if the history of the pioneers is a constant, the world itself is in constant evolution. And looking back just 50 years, to 1958, makes it appear that those celebrating the Days of '47 five decades ago must have lived on some other planet.

In 2008 people talk of the mortgage loan crisis. In 1958 people paid just $12,000 for a home and about $92 a month in rent.

In 2008 people talk of the outrageous price of gasoline. In 1958 people were paying 25 cents a gallon.

In 2008 people talk of the war in Iraq. In 1958, Iraq became a republic following a military coup.

In 2008 people talk of the new Batman film "The Dark Knight." In 1958, the most popular film was the musical "South Pacific."

The point is, in a world that is not only wildly unpredictable but at times wildly whimsical, it's nice to know that some things will be there when you need them — things like the big parade downtown on July 24 and a celebration that includes a rodeo, fireworks, concerts and family time.

Human beings are creatures of habit. If they don't have good habits to fall back on, they'll develop bad ones.

The annual celebration of the Mormon pioneers has been a good habit for the state of Utah. And though it, too, has evolved to a degree — with other cultures, races and religions now joining in the festivities — for the most part, July 24 is its roots.

No matter how willy-nilly the leaves and branches may grow in Utah, the roots are solid and well-grounded.

In a sense, in fact, Pioneer Days is the taproot that has nourished, and will continue to nourish, many of the grand and worthwhile enterprises that have blossomed and flourished in the state.