God was mentioned and prayers were said, religious carols were sung, School Christmas programs depicted the birth of Jesus. I recall even hearing about the Ten Commandments in class, and then came Madalyn Murray O’Hair.
We went to church every Sunday, and most places were closed out of respect. On Friday, many 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. A 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. He did tell me once about being on Saipan and going to the latrine only to return to find the soldier he was sleeping next to dead with his throat slashed by an enemy guerilla.
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, you sucked it up. I always dreaded being called last when the classes’ most popular students chose sides for dangerous games like “dodge ball” 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, all death traps, but what a ride.
Growing up, there was one big threat, atomic weapons the “commies” had. We had drills and practiced getting under our desk in the event of a nuclear war, I often wondered how a ½” thick Plywood desktop would feel crushing you when tons of flaming roof top, ceiling and 100 pound light fixtures with monstrous 250 watt bulbs came crashing down.
In those days, and in the preceding tens of thousands of years, there were two sexes, male and female. It was the American dream to fall in love, get married and then have a family.
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 (that resembled breasts) built right into them. Bumpers that 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 (it must have 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 breath 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 (true story). 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 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 any time 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 just that, and we won.
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 and a modicum of skills learned in wood, metal or auto shop.
Gambling was seedy, you worked for your money, and 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 absurd.
I am deeply saddened that my Children and grandchildren will not know what an exceptional, wonderful, powerful, inventive, creative, generous, fiscally responsible country America used to be, not always perfect or right, but always trying to be better.