Oh, the Good Ole Days. Wasn’t it great back when a loaf of bread cost .20¢ and a gallon of gas cost .25¢? When a new car cost less than $2500.00 and a gallon of milk cost about a buck?
That was 1960. The year I was born. “My Three Sons”, “The Flintstones” and “The Andy Griffith Show” all debuted that year. Chubby Checker was doing “The Twist” and Elvis was asking “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”. The Pirates beat the Yankees in the World Series and Floyd Patterson was the Heavy Weight Champ. Looking back on it now – through “Wonder Years” re-runs if nothing else – it was a Golden Age.
This is the idealized image a lot of the Conservative Right holds out as how things ought to be now. Dad coming home from his job. Mom putting dinner on the table. The kids playing outside with the other neighborhood kids. A car in every garage and a chicken in every pot. Life was simple. Every family was a cross between Leave it to Beaver and Donna Reed. Every dinner was a Norman Rockwell moment.
This is what the hard core Conservatives and the Tea Party say we need to get back to. Except…
While bread cost .20¢ and gas cost .25¢ the average household income was only $5200.00/year. So that $2500 car still cost almost half a year’s salary and a home cost around 2 1/2 years salary at $12,700. And while Andy and Opie were goin’ fishin’, five US Soldiers were dying in a far off place called Vietnam. 5…a number that would grow to over 58,000 before everything was said and done.
The Unemployment Rate is 1960 was 7.1%. As I write this, it’s 5.1%. Martin Luther King, Jr. hadn’t marched on Washington yet and segregation was the rule of the day in the south. The Bay of Pigs invasion was one year away; The Cuban Missile Crisis was two. Oddly enough, by current standards the Middle East was actually fairly quiet and peaceful.
Single women could be refused a Credit Card by their bank although a married women could get one…if her husband cosigned for her. In many states, women couldn’t serve on a jury because their main job was to be homemakers. Also, women were considered too delicate to hear the more grisly parts of some court cases and it was feared that their natural sympathies would keep them from being objective in the jury room.
If a woman wanted an Ivy League education she was out of luck. Most of the Ivy League Schools wouldn’t even admit women as students. If a woman did get an education and got out into the work force, she generally got paid .59¢ for every $1.00 a man got paid…assuming she was white. If she was black, take everything I just recounted and turn it up to 11….maybe 12.
Yep,the Good Ole Days. When we had good old fashioned values like rampant sexual and racial discrimination. And old fashioned economic times when the cost of living was, percentage wise, about the same as now. Stronger Foreign Policy times when we were getting involved in a war that would kill more Americans that both Gulf Wars combined. A time with the Cold Ware was in full swing and school kids watched films teaching them to duck and cover if the Commies dropped the bomb.
OK, so the 60’s weren’t all that great. But what about the’50s! Now there was a real Golden Age. No hippies, no drugs, no Vietnam. It was great! Sure, it was. Instead of hippies we had beatnicks. Drugs were already a problem but hadn’t made it into the papers yet and instead of Vietnam we had Korea with 33,000+ caualties (1.2 million if you include North and South Koreans and Chinese). Blacks and women didn’t have even the rights they had in 1960 and McCarthyism was in full swing. What’s not to like?
Mind you, there’s a lot about the 60’s (my childhood) that I miss. Lazy afternoons playing with my friends, long summer evenings chasing fireflies. sledding on snowy winter days and coming home to my Mom’s hot cocoa. The thing that was so much better about that time compared to now is that I was a kid. I didn’t have any idea about bills or unemployment or foreign policy.
It wasn’t that that stuff didn’t exist. It just didn’t exist for me. I was a kid. But it did exist for my Dad and Mom. They worried about it, lost sleep about it, prayed about it – the same way that I worry and lose sleep and pray about things now. So, to me and other people of my generation it WAS a golden time. But that’s the problem with getting nostalgic about the past. You’re usually getting all misty eyed about a ‘good parts’ version and ignoring the bad stuff.
George Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Learn your history…all of it and not just the ‘good parts’ or the parts that cater to your own fears and prejudices. And when the fear mongers and hate mongers talk about going back to a simpler time, remind them about 1 Corinthians 13:11. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” and tell them it’s time to grow up.