The fifties were a time of romanticism. For those of us who were teenagers during those years, World War II was a fading memory and it was smooth sailing for the American dream. The lyrics of rock and roll songs of the era said it all. “Tuti Fruiti. Lolly pop, lolly pop, Oh lolly, lolly, lolly, lolly pop.” And then there was the ever-popular “sh-boom, sh-boom, yakety yak” and “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog.” Mindless lyrics for a romantic era unfettered by real challenges. We were captives of a idealistic age of unrealistic mush that sounded great but was devoid of the practical realities of an imperfect humanity.
These were the years before the secular-liberal invasion of our schools. This was before the immigration explosion, before the union stranglehold, the erosion of the family, gangs, drug and alcohol abuse, racial and cultural challenges, sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, teen pregnancy and teen motherhood, flag and draft card burning, Vietnam, Watergate, hippies, protest music, body piercing, baggy pants worn low, hats worn sideways, rap music, filthy language, runaway divorce, militant homosexuals, child abuse, campus massacres, drive-by shootings, backpacks, cell phones, CD players and assassinations.
This was the time when prayer was still permitted at school, the Bible was holy, the flag was still saluted with respect, the national anthem was sung with honor, students respected their teachers or faced discipline at home, a parent was home to greet the children when they came home from school, local school boards and parents had authority over their schools, parents were the shapers of moral values, school was a place of order and control, and the word gay meant happy. The educational system in the United States was the envy of the world and California had the number one educational system in the most educated country on earth.
These days saw the likes of Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, classic rock and roll, one brand of Levis jeans, a white T-shirt, and Wellington boots. With a fifty-five Chevy, a radio, a pretty lady and a dollar in our pockets, we were the kings of the world. We could drag Main Street with nobody shooting at us and the drive-in bellhops would bring a hamburger, cherry coke, and fries right to the window of our car. The American dream was unfolding before our eyes.
High school graduation came for me in June of 1962 and the world was waiting for the rock and roll generation. We were babies or still in the womb when World War II ended seventeen years earlier. We had known only a world of peace and safety and the happy sound of romantic rock and roll. The great crimes of high school were chewing gum or running in the hallway. The biggest worry we had was what to do about zits. There were no tall fences to keep students in and criminals out, and no security guards, or probation officers on campus. Marijuana was a hideous drug experienced only by the low-life losers in dark alleys of faraway cities. There was no talk of sexually transmitted diseases, or date rape and verbal abuse. It was just “sha-boom, sha-boom” and a sock hop on Saturday night.
In those days, education was a simple matter. Teachers taught, students learned, and parents gave their full support. One didn’t get in trouble at school because if you did bigger trouble was always waiting at home, and someone was there to give it to you. If a teacher called home for our misbehavior, it was the end of the world as we knew it because the teacher was like a god and his/her word was final. There were two parents in every family and one car in the driveway because momma stayed home to take care of the children.
Oh, I know it wasn’t a perfect world but it was a simple one. One didn’t have to be concerned with which telephone company to have because there was only one company and it was called The Telephone Company. It was easy to buy basketball shoes because the only athletic shoe company was Converse, unless you wanted to wear Keds, which we believed were worn only by ice cream parlor workers and cheerleaders. As I said earlier, there was only one style of Levis. They were blue and you didn’t let them fade but wore them over and over until they would stand up by themselves in the corner. They were best accompanied by a white T-shirt with the sleeves rolled up and Wellington boots sporting a spit shine.
Gasoline was thirty-four cents a gallon and a pack of cigarettes was about the same. Yes, smoking was all the rage because we had not yet invented lung cancer and besides some people thought it was cool. I never smoked because I was sure I was cool already and besides I didn’t like to breathe smoke. It just didn’t seem natural.
In those days you could take a young lady on a great date for a couple of dollars. With some homemade popcorn, brownies, and soda pop, we headed for the local drive-in movie theater for the latest flick. With a dab of Brylcream for our hair and a splash of Old Spice for our faces we were ready to take on the world. It was a simple world with few worries and less complications.
Innocence is not easily spoiled. It is the natural condition of well-adjusted children raised by caring parents. Many movies and books make fun of that era of innocence as if it was backward and uncool. Cool is highly overrated. It causes people and nations to do stupid things.
The age of innocence, the 50’s, was spoiled by an onslaught of social experiments foisted upon an unsuspecting public. It was no accident that the Supreme Court of those days was a liberal majority of men in black with an agenda. It was not accidental that they would take prayer out of our schools and bar the moral code upon which the country had been founded.
They would twist the Constitution to make it say what it had not said for 176 years. We cannot return to the 50’s but it is not too late to return to the principles that made those years innocent. May God grant us the courage and fortitude to do so.
In the movie October Sky Homer Hickam stood out in the night sky with friends looking to the sky hoping to spot Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the earth. Historians have painted the event as a signal that the United States was falling behind in the race to space. It became an excuse to change what we had been doing in our classrooms.
Sputnk marked the end of the age of innocence and beginning of the “decade from hell”. Three years later President Kennedy would promise us in his inaugural address that we would be on the moon by the end of the decade. We landed on the moon in 1969 but the country had changed for the worst and more change was on the horizon.
Some have called the sixties the “decade from hell” because of its moral and political chaos. It was the decade that saw prayer taken out of school in the Engle v. Vitale decision, Bible reading taken out of schools by Abington School District v. Schempp, religious speech prohibited in school by Stein v. Ohinsky, and the court endorsement of the theory of evolution in Epperson v. Arkansas. Not only was it the decade from hell but in some ways it unleashed hell into our schools as the next four decades clearly testify.
Regardless of how you view the significance and effects of those decisions, you must admit that they marked the end of the age of innocence. Secular-liberals say “good riddance” while the rest of us look back with sadness at the loss of simplicity in our society and our school system.
I am not advocating a return to the fifties as much as I am campaigning for a return to the ideas, and principles we allowed to fade. Social structure can be destroyed but ideas, principles and morals are forever. We must find a way to restore them into our lives, families, churches and into our schools for the sake of our children and the future of this great nation.
Christians need to be reminded that Jesus called us “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13, 14). How we behave lights up a world around us with the Light of Christ within us. How we behave adds a preserving affect to the societies in which we live. Christ dwells within us and we need to begin to act like it. We can return to those ideas and principles that preserved innocence in society. We can do so in our own lives and in the lives of those with whom we fellowship. A remnant of faithful can change the world.