Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sustainable Saturday - Good Old Days That Never Were

A rerun - a post from November 8, 2009, slightly edited.

If you are the typical 50-something, you pass various joke emails back and forth....about aging, weight gain, and "how good it was in the 1950's". (Or, maybe in 2018, you use Facebook.)

There are the pictures taken from old black and white TV programming.

There are the quizzes you pass only if you know about Black Jack gum, wringer washing machines, and The Lone Ranger.

There are the "we got raised fine despite (name hygienic measure of your choice that didn't exist in our childhood)" stories.

Ah, those good old days.

Like memory, nostalgia is selective.

And the 1950's weren't just Howdy Doody, skate keys and green Coke bottles.  There's the stuff we forget.  And the stuff we don't really want to think about.

I sure remember the always present sores on my nose from those heavy glass framed glasses.  How thankful I am for modern technology. And for the blood pressure pills that save me from the fate of my grandmother.

My spouse remembers the boy next door, the one close to his age, the one who had a heart defect and never made it to adulthood.  As an adult I found out how his mother carried him to school because he was too big for a stroller, she didn't have a car and the school refused to provide transportation for him.  You see, there was no law protecting his rights to a free and appropriate public education.  That's just the way things were.

I remember when I was young, my parents (and me, indirectly) being discriminated against in housing because of our religion.  And how, as an adult, I got to read the papers of a house I was purchasing in Wichita, Kansas, and seeing how there was a pre-civil rights act "restrictive covenant" that would have prohibited a person of color, certain ethnic origins, or a Jewish person from purchasing it.

I remember how my female friends interested in playing school sports were just plain out of luck.

I remember employment ads in the paper separated into "Help Wanted Male" and "Help Wanted Female".

I remember my father telling me about being stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi during World War II and seeing the colored drinking fountain signs and worse.

I grew up knowing that my father, who suffered from epilepsy due to a head injury suffered in service to his country, found himself time and time again discriminated against when trying to look for work.  (Of course, this continues today, but at least there are laws that intend to protect against this.)  You see, in the early 60's his job was moved 700 miles away and he didn't want to uproot his family.  Yes, that stuff happened even then.

I know now that, in certain states, he could have been sterilized (although perhaps not by the 1950's), and you would not be reading this blog today if this had happened to him.

I remember that a former co-worker lost her mother in childbirth due to a health condition I was successfully treated for in my pregnancy, and my son and I are both alive today.  But her mother isn't.

I remember the man I met in 2009, alive because of a heart transplant.

I won't even get into some of the "adventures" of my brother in law growing up, because people then just didn't understand (or care) about autism.  Nope, that wouldn't have made it to Leave it to Beaver.

Yup, those good old days of black and white.

Do I sound bitter?  If I do, I don't mean it.  I will be the first to admit there are things about the 50's that we would do well to still practice.  Like common courtesy to our fellow man.  Like patience, like not expecting things "instantly."  Like respect.  Like children being able to explore on their own, being able to spend time just daydreaming, not having every minute of their day planned and regimented by adults. 

But, we should not live in a past that never existed.


  1. I remember not being allowed to run in the sprinklers cause we might get polio. And the never-ending air raid drills in school. And girls being pushed into teaching or careers as secretaries. Need I go on?

  2. Just yesterday my father and I were discussing how much "simpler" things were when he was a kid. I pointed out that the problems were there; he just wasn't as aware of things. Which he agrees with. Better and worse. That's how things go.


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