I miss 1955. I say that as a 41 year old man living in the year 2014. So, if you’re good with math, you’ve figured out I wasn’t alive in 1955. Actually even if you’re terrible at math you still would have figured that one out. I was born almost twenty years after 1955 but from everything I perceive about 1955, I wish I could experience just a taste of life in America then. That’s not to say that I don’t love my iPod, my SUV, craft beer or even the swimsuits of 2014. I do and I can’t much imagine life without them anymore. But there is something about the ideals, the innocence, the accountability and the attitude of 1955 America that summons my eyes to fixate on every old photograph I see; imagining myself walking around and taking in 1955 America.
Ideals, Idealism…Idealists. Is it possible to be at or near perfection with anything? Why, you might ask, does 1955 seem to be my perception of near perfection? The short answer is: because I want it to. It’s an arbitrary date I’ve assigned to crest the greatness of American life; a time when ideals were simpler. Being able to envision my ideals gives me a place to run to in my mind when I experience what I perceive to be a failing or defect of modern day. When, for example, I witness the types of people reality television shows exhibit, I want to zoom to my 1955 when Beaver Cleaver’s boyhood peccadilloes were what constituted zaniness.
Before any internal “yeah, buts…” begin to manifest in your mind, be sure that I’m not naïve to the extent that I do not know what social norms have changed for the better since 1955. The attributes that I assign to my version of 1955 only acknowledge the injustices in passing; meaning if I were to time travel to 1955 I’d be aware of them. But what most intrigues me is not the historical aspects and as much as the perceived ideals of the time. Social norms be what they were, in my 1955 people were friendly and neighborly to all.
I miss the 1955 that’s portrayed on the television programs of the day, knowing full well that’s not necessarily what life was like then. Nonetheless, the ideals that were generally acceptable to be put on t.v. and radio had to be close to the norm by which people perceived themselves. Otherwise I have no doubt the Hollywood elite would have pushed the envelope as far as they possibly could, even in 1955.
That brings me to the point I’m trying to make. 1955 has a different feel in my mind than does 2014. As a father of two I hate that I have to eventually explain to my kids the hopeless absurdity of reality t.v., the preposterous notion of welfare and food stamps and living off of other people’s hard work, the bizarre interactions of parents and children in which one cannot tell who’s trying to be younger, or the smugness of the radio deejay as he or she frolics around the obscene language habitude in an effort to be cool. Dads in 1955 didn’t have to worry about that.
In 1955 I’d get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to get ready for work, slippers next to my bed. The coffee would perk until done and I’d read a little more of the last evening’s newspaper. I’d clean up and get dressed as the kids ate their breakfast mom cooked. To be sure…it would be at the kitchen table. Off to work I’d go…
In 1955 I’d come home from work to kids doing homework, mom happily fixing dinner and the latest evening newspaper. The neighbor might swing by unannounced, because that’s o.k., just to chat about bowling or baseball. After dinner the family and I might stroll down the street to the ice cream shop where people ate ice cream and….talked to the other customers; instead of having one hand on their phone.
Bedtime stories, baseball games, and neighborhood barbeques are as essential as breathing. Customers are not rude to the store clerk and drivers of vehicles would never flip the bird to another driver. Policemen visited schools for workshops and talks instead of being assigned a school to deter would-be student murderers. There were no obscene bumper stickers, panhandlers, run-down houses, hold-ups, beat-downs, moms with 500 tattoos, dads with 30 piercings, music lyrics that degrade, honking horns, or shouting road rage matches.
Idols were moms. Idols were dads. Idols were teachers. Idols were not on American Idol. Idolizing was reserved for those in society who worked hard and proved worthy of idolatry by way of diligence. Children had reasons to respect their parents and parents in turn were blessed with the patience to implant their ideals to willing minds. Neighbors held neighbors to account and people challenged one another to be better. And church, which if nothing else gives humans a consequence, was a social mandate.
No one was in a hurry to get through life. Conversely, no one wanted to waste time on fruitless actions like playing video games or watching reality t.v. Chores were a grace because it meant you were making your life better. It meant your ideals were being kept up. In my 1955, ideals trumped just about anything that didn’t further one’s humanness. Sure, I may becoming outmoded and corny in my 40’s, but darn it…..I miss 1955.