October 7, 2020
When people talk about the good old days, they are often referring to when they were children, or maybe in their teens or early 20s.
In other words, the reason the old days were good was because they were young.
In our culture generally, it’s the 1950s that are often thought of as the good old days. Life was simpler, there was post-war prosperity.
If you went back in time to the ’50s, though, you might get a different story. People who lived in that time didn’t necessarily think those were the best of times.
For example, an episode of the Twilight Zone that came out in 1959 featured a man who was desperately tired of the rat race, work pressure and the demands of urban life.
He wound up going back in time to what he imaged to be the good old days — the 1920s. Yes, even the Depression era seemed better than the ’50s. You could sit back on the front porch with your extended family and enjoy a cool drink. You worked for yourself on a tidy little farm.
A lot of our ideas about the ’50s come from TV and the movies. They often portray an idyllic life back then: mom, dad, two or three kids, a dog, a house with a white picket fence. Only dad had to work, and his job was well-paying with regular hours. Mom stayed home to look after the kids.
This portrayal was indeed accurate for some people. If you were a white middle-class male, the world was your oyster.
Recently, TV and the movies have been showing the ’50s for what they really were: an era ruled by bigots, bullies, sexists, racists and homophobes. One show that comes to mind is HBO’s Watchmen. Another that just came out is Ratched on Netflix. Also on Netflix is Hollywood. On Apple TV+, there is For All Mankind.
Watch any of those shows, and you’ll realize that the ’50s, and even the 1940s or 1960s, were absolutely not the good old days for most people.
What were the good old days for me? Sometimes I like to recall funny things that happened in the past, but mostly I prefer to get the most out of the present.