Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of being a baby boomer was growing up in a country that wasn’t just exceptional, it was spectacularly exceptional. The common thread that united all of the varied ethnicities was the English language. The sense of unity in the community was tangible. Almost everyone in the classroom and on the block knew each other.
Violence in school was virtually unheard of, gum chewing was the big problem. We were taught things like manners – to open the door for the girls and let them enter first, saying please and thank you was a given. If a student used bad language, it was off to the principals’ office for a reprimand.
Most of us kids owned a BB gun at some point, and dad would take us to the country and teach us to shoot with his shoulder breaking 30-06 that he purchased as war surplus.
God was still part of life and prayers were common. Religious carols were sung, school Christmas programs depicted the birth of Jesus. The Ten Commandments were taught, and then came Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
We went to church every Sunday, and most businesses were closed out of respect, and to allow employees time for God and family. On Friday, fast food restaurants served fish out of respect for Catholics.
It was an honor to be bestowed the duty of leading the pledge of allegiance at school, facing the flag that our dads, neighbors and family members had recently fought and died for. My dad rarely talked about the war, most soldiers who saw real action didn’t.
When it came to sports, everyone played outside, every moment they could, like in “Sandlot”. We kept score and if you or your team sucked, too bad. I always dreaded being called last when the classes’ most popular students chose sides for dangerous games like “Dodgeball” but you learned early on that life was full of disappointment.
The playgrounds had actual steel equipment, things like towering swings and slides, and merry go rounds and teeter-totters, death traps all, but what a ride.
Growing up, there was one big threat, atomic weapons the “commies” had. We had regular drills and practiced getting under our desk in the event of a nuclear war, I felt confident a ½” thick Plywood desktop would prevent me from being crushed when tons of flaming irradiated rooftop, ceiling, and 200 pound light fixtures with monstrous 250-watt bulbs came crashing down.
In those days, and since the dawn of humanity, it was simple and scientific. There were two sexes, male and female, not the 71 genders Facebook claims. It was the American dream to fall in love, get married and then have a family, buy a house and enjoy this great country.
Detroit was some faraway wonderland, a place with plenty of great jobs and even greater cars. Gas-guzzling monstrosities with steel bumpers that had bullets built right into them (often called Dagmar bumpers). Bumpers then weighed more than most foreign cars do now. Smog was unheard of. Muscle cars had muscles.
I remember my dad bought a 57 Plymouth station wagon that held 8 for us to go to grandmas some 2500 miles away with all six kids. The back seat faced rearward and the entire rear window rolled down, leaving half of the back wide open so my little brother and I could breathe those lead rich exhaust fumes for weeks on end. There were no such things as seat belts, and the dash was soft steel, loaded with pointy metallic knobs. In the event of a crash, mom would stick her arm out to prevent you from flying through the windshield. I remember roughhousing with my brother once and the door opened up and he rolled out, fortunately, we were only doing 35 so mom pulled over and went back and retrieved him. At the gas station, you were greeted with a smile, and at .28 cents a gallon, you would cheerfully get your windows washed, oil, radiator, and tires checked, a free map and some S&H green stamps, that you could save (and eventually lick) so your mom could get a new iron or mixer. Sodas and large candy bars were a nickel, and I remember when a new place called “Taco Bell” opened up and everything was .18 cents.
Entertainment consisted of 3 TV channels, all at the whim of the antenna. Often, the 200 pound, 19” black and white television set would be on a TV tray with spindly metal legs or teetering on some other piece of furniture. Cartoons were great, had heroes and villains, and a moral. Comedy was funny, not dirty. In fact, the married couple in the Dick Van Dyke show slept in separate beds.
Crime wasn’t an issue; you could go downtown anytime day or night and not worry about it.
Patriotism was a good thing. We were proud of America, proud to be Americans.
We were taught to remove our hat when the pledge of allegiance was recited. We were taught to cover our heart with our hand when the flag presented itself in a parade or other patriotic ceremony. We gave thanks before every meal.
Astronauts were heroes, and the space race was awesome.
As a rule, politicians were respected, and you felt that they really did have your best interest at heart. They knew you were their employer and any scandalous behavior would have them looking for a new job. Policemen were friendly and could be trusted. Teachers taught things like math, reading, and writing, and if you didn’t meet expectations, you went to summer school or repeated a grade. High school graduates knew how to read had a good grasp of history and math with hands-on skills learned in wood, metal or auto shop.
Gambling was seedy, you worked for your money. If you did want to gamble, you went to Vegas with all of the mobsters. The thought of a state taxing casinos and lotteries to acquire revenue, then using the proceeds for “education” was absurd. Drugs were a taboo, and marijuana was terrifying to those of us who listened in health class. The thought of a state allowing dope to be sold and taxed, then using the proceeds for “education” was again, absurd.
Sports heroes were just that, these were real people who would spend time with fans after a game, signing, laughing, telling stories, grateful they had a job that allowed them to do what they enjoyed.
I am saddened that my Children and grandchildren will not experience what an exceptional, wonderful, powerful, inventive, creative, generous country America used to be, not always perfect or right, but always trying to be better. I am truly grateful for the fact that I did grow up in a time when America was at its best, and can only pray that we will once again experience it.
From the blog “preparedness is fundamental”