I Wish I Had Said "These" Things To The Fifties In America
Okay, so I'm not perfect . . .
last week I was getting ready to go to dinner. It was around 6 p.m. as I recall. I had showered and done all the things that men do in order to look decent in public, and as I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, I saw myself for what I really am. A slob. A disrespectful male member of mankind for the way that I dress in public. Sometimes, in my case, it takes a jolt from a scary image to shock me into reality. I felt so bad as I gazed myself up and down. I was literally ashamed to be called a man. That, my friends, is the Gospel truth.
As I re-dressed, I began to recall . . .
just how simple, peaceful, and trusting the 1950s really were. I was born on November 27, 1953, and managed, with the grace of God, to survive the Elvis, Everly Brothers, Chuck Berries of that era. I am not saying that I didn't like these musical icons, I just stated that I survived the 50's and now holding on to my life in 2011.
People in the 50's trusted each other. Have you ever really thought about that compared to our society of today? The firearm and dead-bolt lock businesses didn't propser that much in the 50's as they do today. People in 2011 are afraid. They don't want to interface with society as they did in the 50's. Everyone is out for number one in 2011, according to a friend of mine who I talk with each time I visit my local Walmart in Hamilton, Alabama, where I live. My friend is an astute observer of society and how we are changing as a people. And some of the homemade prophecies, so to speak, that he says, puts the fear of God in me all over again.
Where did we go wrong . . .?
really, people? What happened to us, the American people? Did we undergo an emotional surgery during our sleep that changed how we act toward our co-workers, people we attend church with, and the occasional stranger we meet on the sidewalk? If not an emotional surgery, then what? Something has changed us. Something frightful and cold. Was it the insurgance of street gangs in major cities that mostly rule wherever they choose to rule? Was it the attack of the World Trade Center on 9-1-1, that turned us sour against foreign people, all foreign people? Let's get real, friends. I had to take a good, hard-look at myself when I was redressing for dinner and I found that "I" have experienced changes. Changes that I do not like in myself. Anytime we change away from going forward, growing as human beings, we are on the wrong path.
It all came spilling back on me . . .
my memories, those I do recall, of the 50's, when men and women "dressed up," as they said back then, to just go to town. I am not lying to you. Men would not be seen in public without their suit, hat, tie and shined shoes. I remember that about my late dad. When he came home from the Army, he had underwent a social change from that of a carefree fashion plate, to a stern, disciplined man who took great pains with his appearance. I heard that the Army will do that to a man. And my dad was very strict in the way my mom dressed when he would take her and me along on one of his trips to town to conduct some banking business or just buy the groceries for our household. Even now I can easily see a mental photo of the crowds in Hamilton on a Saturday. Men and women in their finest. And it not even the dress-up day of days, Sunday. I liked that in my dad and mom how they presented themselves decent and respectful. Of themselves and others.
But on the other hand, take me for instance. When I go out, I never thought anything about wearing a slouchy throw-on sports shirt with cargo shorts and flip flops. The thought of "a man is judged by his clothing," never entered my mind as I bopped into my local Huddle House restaurant--greeting the manager, and friend, Delores Millican and her fine staff. I just assumed that if I had showered and put on an entire stick of Axe deodorant, I was fine. Not according to my thoughts I had when I looked into my bathroom mirror. I had dropped the fashion ball. Back slid. Got lazy in my appearance. This, folks, is what I call an "emotional purging," that will enable me to do better in the future. It is not fun. I can tell you that. Personal change is like slowly pulling a band-aid off a cut. It hurts. Deep. I always just ripped the band-aid off at the speed of sound while holding my breath and clenching my teeth.
And what about my mother, and all of the house wives . . .
of the Fifties? Who ever took time to give these dedicated ladies any tribute? I admit my failings on this. I seldom told my mother what a great job she was doing. And I can tell you this now without fear of being vocally-chastised. I have, on many occasions, as a young boy, witnessed my mother take little or nothing and make a feast for our family. This is a true fact. God take my life if I am telling a tale. She was your typical, prototype, stay-at-home-mom. And loved it. I think. Come to think of it, I never heard her just come out and say that she loved staying at home. I guess that my dad, sister and I just assumed she loved it. And as I have become older, I can tell you that assuming things about family and friends can lead to hurt and disappointment. Never assume anything about anyone. Find out what they are feeling. Talk to them for goodness sake.
Mother, like most house wives (by choice) of the late Fifties, used a wood stove. This was "the" appliance, if I can use that word, to be used in every kitchen in America. I know that my mom used hers a lot. One of my chores was to haul in stove wood as she called it, to keep a fire going in order for her to keep cooking. My dad, using his keen sense of preservation, would go t our local lumberyard, W.T. Vick Lumber Company in Hamilton, and load his pick-up truck with blocks that came off the finished lumber. And for five-dollars a pick-up load, that was a super deal. I liked the way these pine blocks smelled. I didn't like the painful splinters that punctured my hands when I would haul in the stove wood. That hurt.
Most house wives of this prosperous era of our country used modern appliances as electric stoves and refrigerators. Depending on the income of the household, electric appliances were prominent. In our case, we only had the electric refrigerator. And wood stove. In later years, when my dad secured a better job, he gave my mother an electric stove. She was like a kid on Christmas morning with a new doll. I recall how happy she was to get this needed-appliance. I was happy for her. Now I am sad that she did most of the cooking. I say most, because my dad was an excellent cook also, but he belonged to that cold fraternity whose motto was, "cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, having babies, is woman's work." I loved my dad. But I never recall him ever resigning from this awful club that kept most house wives from driving a car, working at their own business, and things in life that women should enjoy. With my mother being the exception to the rule, I cannot believe that if they were injected with truth serum, the house wives of the fifties would say, "Hey, we loved being kept at home. Loved the drudgery," I just cannot bring myself to believe these ladies would say thing like that.
The church has a lot to do with the atmosphere of the 50's . . .
with ministers who didn't bother to dig into the Bible for the bottom-line truth that a woman's place is anywhere God can use her. It was okay for women to leave their homes to work in war times in plants building tanks, planes, and jeeps, but for a woman of the Fifties to have their own opinion, no sir. Verboten. Keep your mouth shut, ma'am. No one wants to hear the opinion of a woman of the Fifties. Did you know that in some cases, when a husband and wife were in a group of people, the wife had to be silent as her husband talked? And it wasn't manners, but sheer power that the husband had over the cowering house wife, whose ideas and opinions just might have been better than her husband's. We will never know. And sharper minds haven't invented a time machine either.
Personally, and at an early age, I have heard preachers of some denominations use Proverbs, Chapter 31, as the justification of their church charter that a woman's place was in the home. I have found out by actually picking up the Bible and studying, that ladies, real ladies, like Deborah, Aquilla, and even Rahab, (who according to the Hebrew Manuscripts, wasn't a whore) went to battle with their husbands. And I am not talking about a husband and wife ruckus. But a battle with swords, shields and bloodshed. Who said a woman's place was in the home? God didn't. Man did. And what a waste that ideology was. The women of the Fifties who were kept under the thumbs of their husbands, probably had a lot of creativity to share. Ideas that might have helped out nation. Solutions to common problems of society. Sadly, again, we shall never know. And have they got anywhere with that time machine yet?
With much respect and tribute, here are just a few things that I should have said to the Fifties . . .
- Thank you, for the moral structure of that time. I was raised with a moral background embedded in me as a child. It is still with me today.
- Thank you, for treating others in the Fifties with honor, respect and care. I speak of people in categories such as . . .the Armed Forces, our policemen, school teachers, neighbors and yourselves.
- Thank you, for standing up for the underdog. The little guy. The abused woman who was kept silent by threats by her low-life of man she called her husband. People of the Fifties, you had guts. Nerve. And drive. No one ran over anyone when you were around.
- I appreciate, all of my school teachers who had the guts to read us a Bible story each morning. I never dreamed that I would live to see the day in America when reading the Bible was illegal. But that doesn't change my appreciation to my school teachers who did a good job of planting the seed of respect, dignity, and care for others in us as each school day began.
- I appreciate, the now-collectible fashions of your era. The suits, hats, shoes. Fashions that made the men and women of the Fifties.
- I appreciate, the sense of peace that people felt as they walked on the sidewalks, sometimes hand-in-hand, never rushing to get for fear of being mugged, robbed, or harassed. Oh how I wish that this atmosphere would resurface in 2011.
- I appreciate, all, every serviceman and woman, in every capacity, who volunteered, not threatened, to defend out country. You, the heroes of the Armed Forces, those from the Fifties and back. And those from the Fifties to 2011, are to be commended for your bravery, patriotism, integrity, and sacrifice.
- I appreciate, now, the respect that you instilled in your children in the Fifties. "No, sir," "No, ma'am," were the norm for answers when children were spoken to by their elders. And there were no cell phones, texting, or eating meals on the children's time tables. Dinner time meant family time.
- I appreciate my dad, mom, and all the dad's and mom's of the Fifties who worked with cut hands, bruised hearts, and burdens that ignited such a spirit of survival, that people such as I wouldn't be here unless these special people had went forth--blazing the trails for us to follow.
- I appreciate, very much, how you, the men, women and children, dressed in the Fifties. I am not slamming the fashion industry of 2011, but in some big city fashion markets, the Fifties look is making a comeback in huge strides. But powerful fashion brokers have started called Fifties fashions, retro. Whatever the name. Your fashion choices were special.
I realize that when I get carried away on the 'currents of inspiration,' that I can be a bit mushy. Sweet. Sensitive. And maybe sickening to many. I do not care at this point of my life. I have said what I should have said when I had the chance. And for some weakness that I masked as forgetfulness, I just kept my mouth shut.
With this piece, I consider this just another piece of the foundation of my life being restored. And my heart and conscience won't be bothering me about my neglectfulness anymore.