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Have we progressed or not?

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Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 10:00 pm

When compared to today, were the times better or worse for California during the mid-1950s? I suppose the question is open to debate, but for those of us who remember, here are some of the "better" points of the argument:

1. Dead bolts and alarms did not exist on the average home. Most mothers stayed home, raised their children and watched over their neighborhoods. Illegal drugs in middle-class areas, for the most part, were non-existent. Public schools had some of the best facilities in the country. Streets were constantly being repaired or improved.

2. Justice was swift and sane. If a barbaric criminal received the death penalty, there were no endless appeals. People expected their politicians to be honest and trustworthy. Journalists and attorneys were respected. Physicians had full control over treatment of their patients.

3. At age 18, males had two choices: The military or college. If they chose college, they would enter the service upon graduation. Thus every man, who was physically able, gave something back to his country. Californians took pride in their country's military.

4. Most people were married by age 22. Divorce was rare, with the exception being the Hollywood crowd. Unwed mothers were scorned. Almost every home had two parents. They took full responsibility for the behavior of their children.

5. Manufacturing jobs were plentiful with good pay and benefits. The main worry was war with the Russians. Fears about ozone holes, climate changes and declining populations of spotted owls simply not did not measure up to the threat of thermal nuclear annihilation. Californians were united in patriotism and purpose.

6. Color TVs were new on the market. At a starting price of $495, they were out of reach for the majority of citizens. Television shows were family affairs that could be very entertaining without being crude or vulgar. Rarely were more than four commercials seen during a half-hour program.

7. Cars were colorful, chrome-covered and powerful. Designs changed every year. People anticipated the fall introductions of new models. Manufacturers, (the vast majority being American), promised their products would be, "longer, lower and wider." No one worried about gas supplies or gas prices.

8. The popularity of rock 'n' roll was on the rise. Black "doo-wap" performers and calypso singers outnumbered their white counterparts. Their songs were heard throughout mainstream America. Financial success was the goal for most. People respected those who had "made it." Most wanted to imitate perceived luxury lifestyles, not condemn them. Competitiveness was "in." Victimization was "out." People expressed status by the make of cars they drove, the furs they wore or the color TV sets (with 36 months to pay of course) in their living rooms.

9. Men wore suits and women wore gloves when traveling by airplane. Men removed their hats and never wore them backwards. Outstanding airline service was taken for granted.

10. Cops were good. Criminals were bad. Women were respected and never slandered in popular songs. Allies of the United States were good. Enemies of the U.S. were bad. Movie theaters were quiet places where cell phones did not ring. Kids stayed in their seats and people did not talk during the performances. Respect for others was in vogue, and narcissism was a word rarely heard.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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