Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Those Fabulous Fifties

If I had to pick a decade to spend the rest of my life in, it would be the 1950s. I know what you're thinking, another old coot looking for his lost youth, but it's more than that. Life in America was different then. Americans were different too. There was optimism in the air. People still believed the Horatio Alger stories where the main character, Ragged Dick, (hey, I didn't name him) overcame poverty by working hard and leading an exemplary life, eventually gaining wealth and honor. Those stories may have been exaggerated some, but Americans generally felt that if they got an education, paid their dues, and worked hard, they would succeed. And they did for the most part without welfare, food stamps or government handouts.

Family roles were clearly defined. The men went to work and the women stayed home, kept house and cared for the kids. This model of the American family served the country well for a hundred years. And in case we needed examples to show us the way, we had "Father Knows Best", "The Ozzie and Harriet Show" and "The Donna Reed Show" as templates for what a family should be. Mothers rarely worked, kids didn't go to school until kindergarten, and when they got home, Mom was waiting with milk and cookies to help with homework. There were no nannies to care for the children; that was Mom's job. On weekends, Dad puttered around the house or took the kids out to learn how to ride a bike or hit a baseball.

The United States was the envy of the world. Our economy was strong, jobs were plentiful, and anything 'American' was soon being copied by the rest of the world. Literature, art, entertainment, commerce, science and medicine were reaching new heights. American might was respected and feared all over the globe. If we went to war, our young men were ready to defend their country. They understood that our way of life was only as safe as our military might made it. There were no anti-war protests, women were not setting their bras on fire, school administrators maintained order and discipline without drugging our kids with Ritilin, and cops were given a wide berth if you knew what was good for you.

Technology had not yet become an addiction for our citizens. People spoke face-to-face or, if you were lucky enough to have one, on the big black telephone sitting in the living room. Kids played outside instead of sticking their faces in a computer or video game. The pressure for material things did not drive our existence. Clothes and toys got handed down without shame, cars and appliances got fixed instead of junked, we had one TV and we gathered around to watch as a family rather than hiding in our rooms and surfing the net, easy prey to perverts who prowl the chat rooms looking for vulnerable kids with something missing in their lives.

If you got sick, the doctor came to the house and healed you for five dollars. There were no massive HMOs with their forms in triplicate, or money-hungry doctors looking to put another Cadillac in their garages. We didn't use heroin, crack or cocaine; I think Cherechol cough syrup was the strongest drug I ever took. Hypertension and clinical depression were not epidemic, there was no AIDS and psychiatrists needed second jobs to make a living. We ate what we enjoyed, and strangely enough, all those beans, lentils and greens we ate because that was all we could afford turned out to be the secret to good health. We didn't know what cholesterol was and ate ice cream and cannolis without guilt.

I know there were problems. Race relations were horrible. We still went to war. Women and minorities battled the glass ceiling. But are we that much better off now? Race relations seem worse than ever, only now we have added guns to the mix. We are at war today with an unseen enemy who will not meet us on the battlefield but instead kills us by flying planes into buildings and strapping bombs to their children. The basic family unit is under attack. Unemployment and the entitlement mentality are rampant. Divorce and child abuse are at all time highs. Our leaders are in office, not because of their ability to govern, but because they can make pretty speeches. Our own citizens and countries around the world are losing confidence in America. People live in fear of the unknown.

Honestly, you can keep your 60 years of progress and drop me back into the middle of 1955. I'll be just fine, thanks.


Children's Craniofacial Association