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The Way We Were INDEX 1  2  3
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The Fifties, the Way We REALLY Were...

People frequently send me nostalgic pieces with memories, usually complete with music, such as The Fabulous Fifties sent by Fuller Brush Divisional Director David Froshaug.  What we usually really remember was through rose-colored glasses - actually recalling when we were young, healthy and strong, had hope, and expectations of a seemingly endless and glorious future ahead - unless we had a really bad childhood and a very good memory.  For instance...

If a kid misbehaved in school, the teacher frequently wielded a ruler across the knuckles, the principal had a paddle, and your parents gave you another licking when you got home. Even if you were innocent.  (Even if you were framed by another student.  Even if your parent beat you black and blue...)

Remember cheap gas and great cars like the '57 Ford?  (Remember the Edsel?   Remember earning so little you couldn't own a car?) 

Most kids' mothers were home with a snack waiting when they got out of school....     (Unless the Moms were alcoholics, social butterflies, or single moms who were hardly EVER home.  And not so great for the moms who'd rather be doctors, engineers, CEO's, architects....)

You probably remember when no one worried about a little dirt, or germs, or playing in the mud, or scrapes and bumps....  And often you were sent to play with sick friends to get your required childhood diseases "over with".   (Remember summer polio epidemics?  Remember people dying of measles, or because there weren't antibiotics to speak of?  And most life-saving surgeries were still a distant dream?  And when cancer was a death sentence and you didn't tell anybody until it became apparent dying was eminent....)   

Everybody knew their neighbors back then....  (Except in slums where you'd rather not know your neighbors.  And society made sure your neighbors were just like you.  Remember segregation?  Back of the bus?  Colored only water fountains, schools and restaurants?   Lynching?) 

Remember when women were women and wore skirts?  And girls didn't leave the house unless they were made up and their hair properly styled?  Recall when Mom wore hosiery that came in two pieces?  (And when many jobs and pleasures were denied to women because they had to wear skirts.  And huge amounts of time and money were spent on grooming in order to attract or keep a husband.  Remember when all girls had to learn to sew their own clothes in home economics?   And wear them no matter how badly sewn?  Remember garters that cut off  circulation and caused varicose veins?  Or garter belts with little hooks.. aargh... less said the better.  Cinch belts that kept one from breathing freely?  Pin-curls that were heck to put up in crossed bobby pins, and worse to sleep in?  Crinolines that, if quality, cost a fortune, and made it difficult to get in and out of cars decently.  Feminine products that had belts and hooks and were scratchy?  Heavy earrings that pinched?   And women who didn't go through all these tortures had "let themselves go"? Where did they go, by the way....) 

Remember when the whole family went to church together twice on Sundays?  (And hell and brimstone were threatened for those who didn't, and little children often had to sit still for HOURS on Sunday or face a whipping when they got home.  And people in small communities that didn't follow the ideas of the local clergy were often ostracized or looked down upon.)

It was a more innocent time with better morals and higher standards...  (Divorced women were looked down upon, considered "easy", even if their marriage was intolerable, or the husband walked out.  And girls who got pregnant were sent away and had to give up their precious babies, while the guys that got them that way flaunted "doing it" among their peers.  Or a shotgun wedding was called for, with a guy who quite possibly mistreated you thereafter, out of resentment for trapping him.   And birth control was chancy and many families had more children than they could support or nurture.  And women or even children who were molested or raped were "asking for it" or otherwise blamed...)  

Do you recall Lucky Strike?  How about the Marlboro Man?  Camels commercials?  Sophisticated women in movies with a cigarette for some handsome guy to light?  Tough guys squinting John Wayne style, as smoke drifted into their eyes?  Sneaking out behind the barn to have a smoke where your parents wouldn't find out?  (And then in later life when health concerns arose, not being able to quit, or going through Hades to do so.  Or dying by inches from heart or lung disease, or cancer.....)

Remember high school, the prom, dates, drive in movies....  (And most guys WANTED to stay in school because it would keep them from being drafted into a cruel, unfortunate war whether they wanted to go or not.....)

When operators actually placed your telephone call for you...   (If you could afford a telephone.  And then one had to watch out for people listening in on party lines.  Or find a coin phone that actually worked.  And dialing and dialing.. and waiting...   And shouting on long distance calls, rarely made anyway because they were too expensive.)

No computers to fight with, no email or spam, just personally written letters that carried the personal touch...  and stamps were just a penny or three...  (And not knowing how your family really was until a week or more later, if they could take the time to write back.  Being out of touch with loved ones, going to the mailbox each day and coming back empty-handed and disappointed.....)

Frankly, I had a TERRIBLE time of it during the fifties.  I wouldn't go back even to get a young, fit, healthy body again.   Or if I did, I'd be a first-class rebel and rabble-rouser, and probably get institutionalized as nuts!   How about you?  Or would you rather dream on......

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