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Wish You Could Relive the Glory Days of the 1950s? Better Think Again

Recently when we posted an article about change in worship and noted that some people in our churches seem to want to return to the 1950s, one commenter who found absolutely nothing to like in the piece said, “I’d love to live in the 1950s.”

Happy Days. Chevrolet convertibles with the huge fins. Malt shops and sock hops. Mayberry was America and America was Mayberry. Ike was in the White House. Elvis was in his ascendancy. And Andy Griffith was sheriff.

What’s not to like, right?

I smile at that.

No one loves the 1950s more than those who never lived them.

My wife said, “In the 1950s, every time a plane went overhead I thought it was possibly carrying an atomic bomb to drop on us.”

Such was the attitiude of fear pervading this land.

In the early 1950s, I recall walking home from church with my grandmother after one of those meetings in which the preacher scared the living whatever out of us, and hearing the planes overhead—hey, this was Birmingham and they had lots of planes!—and I was thinking the same thing as Margaret: “We’re goners.”

You want to return to that?

Civil Defense was training people to stand on rooftops and spot aircraft, just in case one from the USSR showed up.

People were building bomb shelters, and television ads told how to survive the initial blast of an atomic bomb.

At the same time, the preachers were decrying the worldliness of the churches and very few of the congregations were doing anything about missions. There were almost no witnessing programs by any denomination, and volunteers traveling to foreign mission stations to do short-term projects were discouraged by mission boards because they interfered with the work of the career missionaries. No denomination had disaster relief ministries.

The 1950s were not a golden age of anything. I lived through it. I graduated from high school in 1958.

The so-called golden age of television—that’s what they called the Fifties—gave us the dumbest, boringest, mind-numbingest programs you can imagine. These days, at least you can turn to the National Geographic channel or see what the weather is doing or switch over to an old western. In those days, we had Milton Berle and Omnibus and 15 minutes of news each night with cigarette-smoking John Cameron Swayze. Yes, he smoked right there on the tube. The Today Show had a chimpanzee as a regular. The Tonight Show had Jack Paar. It was uniformly awful. Oh, and we had three channels. Count ‘em, three.

In the 1950s, cigarettes were everywhere and no venue was safe from the deadly fumes. You could actually smoke inside hospital rooms. Signs were posted on doors to alert you to the presence of oxygen tents—that stuff is flammable—so you were not to smoke in ICUs and such.

You want to return to that?