Friday, April 02, 2010

The Way We Weren't

In this morning’s local paper (Watertown Daily Times) there was an article from the Washington Post about the anger of some over the health care law and it quoted one of the opponents, Hugh Pearson of Bakersfield, who expressed a desire to return to life the way he remembers it in the 1950s. He remembers the America of the ‘50s as an “Ozzie & Harriet” and “Leave it to Beaver” existence. “Now we have MTV, expose-yourself stuff, and we have no morality left, not even by legislators” he said. Apparently He'd like to go back to the '50s.

Mr. Pearson’s comments brought me back to the 50s too but I don’t remember them the same as he did. I’m 65, a tad older than Hugh and I remember the 50s well. I remember poverty. Not everyone lived in nice middle class neighborhoods with a station wagon in the garage. I remember that people did “fool around” and get divorced. Although we didn’t know it at the time even “Ike” had a mistress. People lived together in the ‘50s without getting married. We had a neighbor who had a “live-in housekeeper”. I remember backroom abortions, with women dying from botched procedures. I remember being whacked with a ruler in grade school when I didn’t write my letters and numbers to look just like the ones posted on green cards over the blackboard. I remember being told that the Russians could drop a nuclear bomb at any time and that we needed a bomb shelter in the backyard to escape being vaporized. I remember during the McCarthy hearings the teacher reading a list of the sorts of things commie's say and telling us that if we hear Mom or Dad saying anything like that we should turn them in. I remember discrimination, not just toward blacks for whom there was a long list of epithets not just the “N” word. Italians, Irish, Polish, Jewish and native Americans all were treated to derogatory references, not to mention gays, women and Catholics. If you were anything but white, male, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant you were less than equal. The “Ozzie & Harriet “ life was a very closed community.

The 50s was a warm fuzzy time for those who were part of the minority that lived that existence but for the rest of America it was a very different time. It is easy to think of the “Ozzie & Harriet” existence being all of America in the 50s because that is what the media showed. TV was new and what it showed was the way we liked to think of ourselves and the country. The rest was ignored, the poverty, the discrimination, the hatred. We now live in a time when those things are not ignored. Get over the 50s you remember Hugh. For most people it really wasn’t like that.

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