Wednesday, June 15, 2022

What Were Your Good Old Days?


Dear Friends,

A certain loved one has been incessantly reminding me, and with considerable uncalled-for delight, that my birthday is this week. She’s just far too young to know that at some point in one’s life it’s best if birthdays, like certain personal medical procedures, are left unspoken about and politely ignored. So, I’d be too mortified to tell you how old I am, but let’s just say back when I was learning how to drive, I remember how outraged my dad was at the budget-busting price of gas. It was 30 cents a gallon. And now as I spend $118 to fill the tank, I can’t help but to remember with fondness, what us old-timers call the “Good Old Days.” 

Of course your Good Old Days memories will be different from mine. I know this is kind of nerdy to say, but I loved Laurel Elementary School in West Hollywood. Back then, the Bible was read in public schools and in my secular school’s music classes we sang hymns, “Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord” and what were known as “Negro Spirituals” that gave our all white school a sense of the pain and sorrow of the slave along with the joy and hope they had in Jesus. Today, White children would be viciously attacked for cultural appropriation by singing “Oh, nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Nobody knows but Jesus” but singing these spirituals gave us kids a beginning understanding of slavery, the cruelty of it and an empathy for African-Americans. We sang “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” with the hidden meaning about a band of angels (abolitionists) that takes the slaves to freedom. “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” was about the slave’s pain and despair. And one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar and still play today is “Michael Row The Boat Ashore” – about Michael the Archangel rowing the escaping slaves across the river and to the promised land. 

In the Good Old Days, my secular school taught about slavery by having us memorize and sing the Christian spirituals that portrayed the human pain suffered by the slaves and provoked our empathy. Today, some school districts use a curriculum that provokes divisive guilt and shame for those who are White and is resulting in more anger than empathy between the races. I personally think that what was taught, in my school, about slavery and the Civil War was far more effective in reaching us kids with what we needed to hear.

But you might wonder why Christian hymns and spirituals were being taught in secular public schools. Back in the 50's and 60's, America was still thoroughly steeped in the Christian world-view that had been woven into our Nation’s founding documents by the Founding Fathers. State laws even enforced some of the Ten Commandments. For example, God had said to keep the Sabbath holy and do no work Exodus 20:8-11 and, of the forty-eight states in the 1950's, forty-six of those had Blue Laws requiring that businesses be closed on Sundays so that people would do no work and they could attend church instead. 

And back then, a large majority - 63% of all adult Americans - regularly attended church. Biblical morals and values from scripture determined what was “true” and the “right thing do.” The Judeo-Christian work ethic was instilled by parents into their children. In those days, people disagreed but were civil and there was an overall kindness in the way most people treated others. Church-going adults genuinely tried hard to love their neighbor and taught their children to do so. Contrast then versus now. In 2021, only 28% of American adults went to church and a large segment of our society hates their neighbor, cancels them out, ruins their business or causes them to lose their jobs and attacks them and their family for their beliefs. Is it possible that faith and church was what has made the difference between what we experienced in the Good Old Days and the breakdown of America’s civilization that we see today? 

At age 7, I’ll never forget the thrill of seeing the delivery van pull up to our house with our brand-new, state-of-the-art, black and white Zenith television set. In those days, it didn’t hang on the wall. It was a hundred pound piece of furniture. One of the neat things about summer was being able to watch Sheriff John while eating your lunch. For those of you who didn’t grow up in L.A. during the 50's, "Sheriff John’s Lunch Brigade" was a live television show for children that showed cartoons. Sheriff John opened the show by leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance and he talked about respecting your parents, helping others, being courteous and the importance of good manners. Sheriff John had a glass of milk and a sandwich as he and all his viewers had lunch together. But first, he led us all in a prayer: “Heavenly Father, great and good. We thank Thee for our daily food. Bless us even as we pray. Guide us and keep us through this day.” And remember, that was a secular television show!

In the Good Old Days, nearly all kids in elementary schools did not drink, have sex or do drugs. Things are different now.  Elementary schools are where it starts and by High School, 30% of students binge drink at least monthly. We knew about gay men, a few went to our Episcopal church in Hollywood, CA, but we didn’t celebrate them in parades and honor them for their sexual practices as we do today. In the Good Old Days, it would have provoked great hilarity if we’d been told that we could choose whether we would like to be a boy or a girl. My elementary school library was that special place where I could check out the books I loved to read. Today school libraries are the venues for near-naked Drag Queens performing for students as young as those in the first grade. 

Our Good Old Days music was different back then too. We listened to Elvis, Connie Francis, The Everly Brothers, Paul Anka and Brenda Lee singing love songs. Today’s rap/hip-hop “music” uses obscene lyrics and exalts shootings, violence and sexual assaults. Frankie Avalon never sang a song glorifying the rape of a woman. In fact, most of the country songs and some of our Nation’s most popular songs in the Good Old Days had Christian references or imagery. 

The Gospel spiritual, "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" with the strong Christian imagery, was recorded by the Highwaymen in 1960 and it became the #1 hit single at the top of the Billboard music chart for two weeks. "He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands" went from church to #1 on the Billboard charts in 1957, and "Wings Of A Dove" was number one on the country lists before it crossed over and became a hit on the popular music charts. "Spirit In The Sky" and the beloved Gospel song, "Oh Happy Day" and many others were some of America’s most popular hit songs. It is inconceivable in our minds, that in today’s world, a contemporary Christian praise song about Jesus could become the most popular song in our country, but then of course, all things are possible with God.

In the 50's, even in urban L.A., children were able to go outside and play anywhere they wanted. Gangs, sexual assaults, kidnaping, shootings and pedophiles were almost non-existent in those days. There were no gun restrictions and guns were available and affordable to all. You could walk into any Sears, Roebuck store and pick up your package of underwear, a socket wrench and an inexpensive handgun or a rifle. There was not a single mass shooting in the 1950s. We had no fear of violent mentally ill people. They were safely confined in State mental hospitals; they were not living on our sidewalks. We could walk anyplace at all day or night. We had no fear of our neighbors. We helped them. They helped us. It sure was different in the Good Old Days. Young boys are raised today on violent video games where their score is based on how many people they kill. I was raised on Superman who stood for “Truth, Justice and The American Way,” along with The Cisco Kid, Zorro, Sky King, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Those were our heroes!

Roy and Dale
I have a Roy Roger’s coffee mug with Roy’s Rules printed on the side: 

1) Be neat and clean. 

2) Be courteous and polite. 

3) Always obey your parents. 

4) Protect the weak and help them. 

5) Be brave and always be careful 

6) Study hard and learn all you can. 

7) Be kind to animals and take care of them. 

8) Eat all your food and never waste any. 

9) Love God and go to Sunday School. 

10) Always respect our flag and our country. 

When I was a kid, no movie celebrities were looked up to and respected more than Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans. They dedicated themselves to Jesus and lived their lives not like the Hollywood stars they were, but like the committed Christians God called them to be.

Thank you for accompanying me on my trip back to the Good Old Days! Along with the resurfacing of some fond memories, I think it’s worth knowing that things were different then because, like the apostle Paul, Romans 1:16 people were not ashamed of the Gospel. Men and women were bold and stood up for their Christian values and beliefs. Today, surveys show that most Christians fearfully hide their beliefs in order to avoid being attacked for their faith. But if there is going to be a change in our culture, it will start with the men and women of God. People like you and me. We are called to be unashamed of the Gospel and boldly live out our Christianity, both in our words 1 Peter 3:15 and in our lifestyle 1 Peter 1:15. Just like in the Good Old Days!  Amen?

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