July 16, 2007

If you set the way-back machine to 1955 in America, where could you still go today (for the good stuff)?

Kids playing baseball, not PS2

Ice cream parlours

Local grocery and hardware stores with American workers

Homes that people with regular jobs can afford

Neighbors who borrow eggs and sugar from each other and watch each others' backs

Legal residents

Easy Sundays at the park

A great local newspaper


Good schools

Safe streets

Good healthcare

Well-built affordable homes

You get the drift. Is there anyplace in America still left unspoiled? Or is it all over?


Anonymous said...

you could see what happend but your eyes are wide shut.

Anonymous said...

I've heard it said that going to New Zealand is like going to America circa 1955- i.e.(clean streets, friendly people, very low crime,). Every American who goes there is amazed. The beaches are pristine, the land is untouched, and most importantly, you dont have hateful immigrants trying to game the system like you have in the States. I dont think there is any hope for America, but I do think there is for New Zealand! See ya there!

RJ said...

Okay, let's not go overboard with the "Happy Days," Norman Rockwell America. Don't forget segregation, Korea, and the creation of the energy black hole that is modern suburbia. That said, I remember when it was safe for hundreds of neighborhood kids to go trick-or-treating without parents tagging along. I use to walk to school by myself without the worry of drive by shootings or sexual predators. And schools were not fenced in security zones. Mind you, I grew up in a typical lower middle class area. It wasn't Watts, but it wasn't Brentwood either.
The quality of life in L.A. has definitely deteriorated over the years. A large part of that deterioration has occured over the last 20 years because of the massive influx of poor, illegal immigrants. Gang activity within the Latino community has exploded and most of the new gang members are imported. I've taught inner city schools for 16 years and have seen first hand the effects of illegal immigration on our inner city communities. I only wish my own child could enjoy the quality of life that I enjoyed as a kid.

Good_Old_Days said...

A few other things -

-Water fountains only white people could drink from

-Teenage pregnancies were much higher - but then, an 18 year old woman wouldn't have been accepted at most universities anyways, seeing as her proper role was motherhood

-Ah, the three martini lunch - drinking and driving was fun in the good old days before such sissy safety equipment as seatbelts or airbags

-A tax rate above 90% for the rich

-The draft

-No Playboy magazines or any other such immoral reading material - where banned in Boston still meant something

-No Miranda rights, and the police still knew what the third degree meant, through continual usage

-A military/industrial complex that was just begin to leach America's economy into the wasted shell it is today

I'm sure the list could go on, but the 50s were such a good time, that McCarthy's witch hunts, Nixon's Republican camel hair coat, and Ronald Reagan's acting career can be left for other people.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that gays were thought of as immoral or not existing. Oh wait, that's today.

Such wonderful progress.

Anonymous said...

Watch Bush's economic agenda:

Let the Illegals invade the US and twenty of them will move into a country club community, buy a mansion, and park 30 cars up and down the street. Then, you will have the subwoofers rattling your windows all hours of the day and night. Each day, they will rent out the rooms to different Illegals who come and go from other countries to work here in Bush's Uncivilized States of America.

Anonymous said...

Duck and Cover

Environmentalism? What's that? Sounds Commie to me!

Guadalupe-Hidalgo, 1848 said...

The extraordinary success of the USA was built largely on the failures in Europe. ww1 and ww2 decimated europe and russia and the US was the primary benefactor. We in the US were never smarter or better than the rest of the world.

Goth Girl Lover said...

I've seen "happy days" the girls didn't have "tramp stamps" on their back or piercings, no thanks, I like the Goth girls of today.

Sixpercenter said...

As an airline pilot I travel constantly. The only way to live the Norman Rockwell days is to go live New Zealand. Aside from that I left S CA last year for Maryland. I was tired of the outrageous cost of living, rampant conspicuous consumption and the fact that I was a minority (I'm white). MD is not NZ but close enough for my taste.

Anonymous said...


women having abortions in back alleys

yeah a great time indeed

Tesla said...

The drama Keith, the drama. Healthcare today is far superior to what it was in the 50's, no comparison at all. Things aren't all that bad today. The 50's were a decade where problems were largely glossed over. These days all we can look at are the problems.

Budvar said...

I read in the last few days a quote from either Aristotle or Plato about 4000 years ago,(but can't find it now) that said something along the lines of "Democracy is rule by the mob who give votes to those who promise to give them the most. Rights are demanded and given, to the extent that a dog will rise on its hind legs demanding its rights, then power will be given to anyone who can restore order".

The more things change, the more they stay the same!!

Anonymous said...

The town where this picture was painted. The restaurant is still there. The town is virtually unchanged. No Walmarts or Home Depots. Kids walk home after school. We have almmost 0% crime. Yes it does still exist and I live there. And sorry, no way am I saying where it is.

Anonymous said...

Quite seriously, I know the type of location that still has this.

But I'm not saying.

If I did, next thing you know, the place will be mobbed, jammed backed.

And there's no way I'm gonna risk that.

Anonymous said...

How old are you Keith? 1955 America? Jeezuz, my father was 2 years old in 1955. Get with the times man.

Anonymous said...

American workers actually working.

Anonymous said...

When Bush makes a speech in a warehouse, he regularly has his staff tape over the "Made in China" stamp on boxes or turn them around so that it isn't visible. This is W's method for handling the trade deficit.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, 1955:

The vets who stormed up the beach on D-Day were still alive and Eisenhower was president. These people knew what sacrifice was and worked hard to build America's economic industry.

Today we have a bunch of pathetic panzies with their hands out for campaign contributions. They do everything possible to escape military duty. They watch American manufacturing jobs walk out the door and couldn't give a sh*t. They keep their assets in blind trusts so the public can't see whether they're shorting the sh*t out of the dollar (sure seems like it.) Was this what the troops stormed up Normandy for decades ago?

Anonymous said...

We'll have to ask Michael J. Fox

GWK said...

I was born in 1952 and grew up near Yankee stadium in the Bronx on Walton avenue. I played outside on the street in games such as shooting marbles into the sewer holes, using bottles caps with melted crayons of different colors in a game called skelly, making our own transportation using wooden milk crates nailed to a board, and roller skates as the wheels, stick ball. stoop ball, and on, and on. Our summer was open fire hydrants, and watching the fire works on the roof top. Thank you America for a wonderful childhood.

Garth said...

Oh please. Most cities and suburbs are safer today than they have been for many many years. Crime is exaggerated now and was certainly underreported in the 50s. Suburbs are safer for kids than ever but we are too scared by the media's fear-mongering to believe it. The Norman Rockwell era was seriously fucked up as other commenters have noted.

And your comment about health care back then proves that you have not a clue about the era. Most people had no health care and if they did have access to the stereotypical country doctor, aside from setting bones and doling out aspirin, if you were seriously ill, you died. Cancer was a death sentence 100% of the time; polio, tuberculosis, etc etc were ravaging the country. Life expectancy in the 50s was decades lower than today. Infant mortality was much much higher than today.

The real difference between now and then was that people had more realistic expectations about life's difficulties and sucked it up when calamity struck (rather than go crying to the government for instant relief). They were tough. We're wimps

honica jewinski said...

Great topic Keith. What you're reffering to is White America, and yes, it's over.

imAdik said...

this utopian 50s perspective was driven by censorship in hollywood

the movies from the 30s and 40s were trampy with sex and sluts and there was a huge huge backlash and hollywood had to cave in.

people who claim life was better back in the day lived in lily white areas. lily white areas are STILL around just harder to find and very nice.

look at malibu, ca 92% white its heaven! ok pricey as hell, no middle class but we never had a large middle class b4 the 50s it was temporary. got that? A LARGE MIDDLE CLASS IS TEMPORARY. It was due to the many many factory jobs we got rebuilding the countries we bombed and selling them shit they couldnt make.

DaveO said...

"I've heard it said that going to New Zealand is like going to America circa 1955"

OMG, that's what I told my friend when I went there in 2003. I said that this is probably what the US was like in the '50s-'60s. How sad that we allowed everything to disintegrate here in the US. When and how did we make a wrong turn? I'm sure it had something to do w/ greed.

Anonymous said...

"Ice cream parlours"

Parlour? WTF dude. You ain't British, OK? Spell the damn words 'mericun style, and stop being such a wannabe Brit.

What's next, you gonna be taking the lift up to the 4th floor flat to have a bloody spot of tea?


devestment said...

DDT laced agracultural ground water and vegetables. Thats what Campbells soup is, mmm mmm good!

Anonymous said...

New Zealand? It's already been "discovered" by tens of thousands of Europeans and some ugly Americans who are doing their damn level best to ruin it. Diversity is rearing its ugly, multicultural head and pretty soon the crime and drug problems will rank up there with every other "modern" culture.

RJ said...

Guadalupe-Hidalgo,1848 said:
We in the US were never smarter or better than the rest of the world.

What are you talking about? The question has to do with comparative quality of life in the U.S. between 1955 and today. Overall quality of life has decreased for a number of reasons, one being the massive increase in illegal immigration over the last two decades. Another reason is the general reliance on debt for consumption from the federal government to the average American household.

TM said...

I grew up in a Southern California tract home that was built in 1955, and it was a piece of shit.

I think they threw up homes back then just like they do now, only they didn't have to trouble themselves with things like wall insulation or earthquake codes. Our house was basically a wood frame with drywall on it. The whole city consists of similar houses (and they all look alike).

I think the whole business model of building large housing tracts of identical shitboxes was pioneered in 1950s.

Anonymous said...

give me a break, its not that simple. THe 1950's :
-you could still lynch a black man in the south and get away with it.
-people were paranoid about communism to the point of ruining people's lives.
-BS "moralality" that were as cruel as they were naive.
-placing retarded or emotionally challenged people in asylums
-the birth of the awful suburbia.-women stayed in awful marriages dut to the lack of oppurtunity and the stigma of divorce.

I love the 50's. Glad I missed them

Anonymous said...

Norman Rockwell painting?

It's not DIVERSE enough for modern America.

Come up with a painting of pregnant, illiterate illegal aliens lined up at the Food Stamp office...a painting for modern America...

Bitter Renter said...

That the 50s were some magical time is pure republican propaganda. They wistfully recall a time when women stayed in the kitchen, blacks stayed out of sight and queers stayed in the closet. A time when people were repressed politically, socially and sexually.

And to think all we had to do was commit the war crime of burning to death over 400,000 Japanese women and children! Make me all misty-eyed to think of the greatness America achieved with those two simple acts of wartime terrorism.

Anonymous said...

what the hell happened ?

Anonymous said...

canadas just doubled there budget to protect there borders from illegal americans trying to escape tinyurl/3e3tde

Anonymous said...

americans/mexicans whats the difference just dont smuggle yourselves into canada

Anonymous said...

Nothing that went on in the world, or govt mattered so long as you had your own peice of opieville and planted your feilds and were water and energy self sustainable and self sufficient.and controled the revenuer

Anonymous said...

move to New Zealand and be the hateful foreigner trying to game the system in the land of more sheep than people?/

Anonymous said...

im with the cdn anon usa keep your illegals contained !!!!!!!!!!!
dont bring them to canada, just because you willingly let them in, dosnt mean we want them

Anonymous said...

the young people i see today seem to be depressed. they know what has been done to them. there is no bright anticipation of the future. for those who are critical of the 50's, well congratulations - you have now made it pure misery for everyone!!! i recall that is what older and wiser people said back in the 50's. they were so right. there is no going back. we will only sink further and further into the hell hole created by the so-called "do-gooders".

Anonymous said...

What is going on here? Is this an alternative universe? You people LIKE what baby-boomers have done to our culture?

I think you must be too young to really know what it was really like.

I grew up in McLean, Virginia. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Truncellito, took us to a concert at Constitution Hall. She made the girls wear white gloves.

I sat next to her. When the music started, she took out her opera glass. I was in awe. Oh for teachers who knew how to use an opera glass - or, even teachers who KNOW what an opera glass is.

Anonymous said...

Insane. The state most like your vision of 1950s America (white, rural, low crime, affordable housing, low rate of foreclosure) is least like the US today. And the worst state in the country for business.

West Virginia. I live there.

I find the housing analysis interesting and the immigrant bashing grotesque.

Anonymous said...

I remember looking through the NY Times help wanted section in the early 60's. Ten pages of jobs under "help wanted, male" and a couple of columns of jobs under "Help wanted, female". None of the jobs in the help wanted female section required more then a high school education. Those days may have been good for white males but not so good for everybody else.

Anonymous said...

--Jackson Hole, Wyoming

--Stowe, Vermont

Basically, they are either tourist towns or college towns like Boulder Co but not major cities.

Most major urban locales are dumps.

Anonymous said...

what about the KKK of which I am sure some of your contributors are members of, what about civil rights marches, what about lynchings what about mccarthyism, what about the korean war, what about the vietnam war, what about you quit looking at old episodes of leave it to beaver. it's sort of like that movie pleasantville with tobey mcguire and reese witherspoon it's was all fake because once the doors were closed all hell broke loose.

Anonymous said...

The 1950's ain't be no good, man.

Less than 10 percent of childrens born was bastards. Ain't not enof welfare back den. Now, we got all de welfare, and over 30 percent of childrens be bastards. Now we got AIDS, crack cocaine, drive by shootings, gang rapes, illegal aliens all over, man, dis be mo' better!!!

Anonymous said...

"...look at malibu, ca 92% white its heaven! ..."


Look at all the illegals and assorted other Third Worlders invading Malibu (or any other SoCal beach) every warm weather weekend!


Anonymous said...

"...I find the housing analysis interesting and the immigrant bashing grotesque. ..."


It's ILLEGAL bashing, not immigrant bashing. What part of ILLEGAL don't you understand, my dear leftard?

Art_Critic said...

Let us slow down, 1950's style, and read the painting properly. It is a moment in time - a momentary spell of relief for the trucker and the clowning soda jerk, two tough, hard-working (even the fountain jerk has sinewy arms) blue-collar Joes whose lives are very far removed from the virginal kids (note the boy's white blazer) headed to the prom. The painting asks - "wither youth?" Quite possibly the suave, cherubic couple is on their way up, but equally, the two Joes may represent adulthood, with all its hard knocks, and their future. Certainly, if upward mobility is their fate, it will be the against the odds.
If you are still with me, you already get what the whole nose- buried-in-the-flower thing is about. It's a joke, it's a compliment, it's a harmless flirt, but it's also an antidote to the sexual tension of the first date. The adult, perfect-fitting evening attire of the kids also presages an immanent coming-of-age.
All this and more is present in what Keith and many Rockwell fans naively take for mere nostalgia.

Oh, the answer to your quesiton may well be Lake Cloud, Minn. the likely inspiration for Garrison Kellior's fictional Lake Wobegone.

And Rockwell painted near his home town in Connecticut, if I am not mistaken.

Anonymous said...

was born in 1952 and grew up near Yankee stadium in the Bronx on Walton avenue. I played outside on the street in games such as shooting marbles into the sewer holes, using bottles caps with melted crayons of different colors in a game called skelly, making our own transportation using wooden milk crates nailed to a board, and roller skates as the wheels, stick ball. stoop ball, and on, and on. Our summer was open fire hydrants, and watching the fire works on the roof top. Thank you America for a wonderful childhood.

July 16, 2007 2:11 PM

But please tell us when and why did you decide to start smoking dope, never bathing, smelling like a goat and tearing up college campus that were given to you by your predecessors?

I am not being smart. I've always wondered why children of the world war II vets who were advantaged decided to go absolutely insane in the 1960's. Have you ever watched a 1960's rock concert like Woodstock? It can be seen as nothing other than mass brainwashing of an entire generation, especially the upper income college pukes.

And now its this same group who sets policy for this country. Is it any wonder we are in a disaster of biblical proportion?

But why did the suburbanite kids of born in the mid 1940's to early 1950's think it was their god given right to absolutely destroy this country?

JamesK said...

Personally, I'm glad I live in 2007 rather then 1957.

I like the fact that that the city I live in no longer a "Sunset Town" where non-whites would be assaulted or killed if they stayed after sundown.

I like the fact John Crow laws are a thing of the past.

I like the fact someone can't be arrested for being gay.

I like the fact I can say "Unions are a good idea" and not have to worry about being Black Listed. Or called up before Congress to explain why I shouldn't be sent back to Russia.

I like the fact we have to worry about a few insane men with suitcase nukes. Not a few insane men with enough nuclear power to blast the crust off every square inch of the planet.

I like the fact that smallpox doesn't exist outside of a few labs and Hollywood movies.

I like the fact that the quality of life for everyone in the world is higher today then it was yesterday.

I like the fact that I have the information of an entire world at my fingertips 24/7, and that community now means something other then "The people you wound up near."

I like the fact that when a politician says X one day and Y the next, we have evidence of both and the means to show others.

I like the fact that we're more aware about the world around us, the world within us, culture, technology, ecology, health, psychology, and know a million ways to make our lives better and avoid stupid mistakes born of ignorance.

I like the fact that tomorrow we'll understand how many things we're doing today are also stupid and fix those too.

I like the fact that we have programs designed to filter information for us because there's just too much.

I like this world. In fact, I love it. I love it despite its flaws, which are many, because it's better then the world we had yesterday, and it's better then the world we had the day before that. And all around us are the means for making tomorrow better still.

Today sucks.

Yesterday sucked more.

Tomorrow will also suck, but it will suck less then today does.

Anonymous said...

We are dealing with the era I call
the "Oprah" era, when we sit on the hot seat and blame politicians,
Mommy, Daddy, and Uncle Chester
for all the mean things we are exposed to. Psychiatrists should
thank God, along with doctor phil
and the other blamers, for all the collective uncle alfreds and chesters that "destroyed our lives", along with momma not taking
us on enough vacations, and daddy getting loaded at the poker game on fridays. People nowadays in the "Blame Game" society act as if the whole world should have been involved in their upbringing, and should be blamed, as If this was an
actual incarnation of "The Truman Show", and everything actually DID
revolve around us.
The 50's and 60's reality was that
the idiot box was our best friend,
the folks were getting loaded with highballs at our friends old mans
house listening to Space age bachelor pad cha-cha music and
cheating on each other, the moms
hit the bottle in the pantry after
snot-nosed jr. got back to school
after lunch break watching bozo's circus, and valium was consumed
and popped like french bon-bons
in gay Paris(paree). Our next-door
neighbor kid was thrown down the stairs when punished with regularity, and he turned out just fine(he's a doctor BTW, and doesn't just LOOK like one).
Now you look at a kid wrong and they have the abuse line on speed-dial. Now you send a kid to his messy room for punishment, and he has a cable 200 channel TV, playstation 3, 75 games, 100 DVD's,
a phone, comics, and reams of junk
food. Kids have it best now, and not only are they unappreciative,
but they have a higher fat mass than their folks. They will be so heavy as they age that they will set off tsusamis as they collectively get off their arse to grab another cheeseburger in 20 years........It is best now.......the good old days were red-scare, duck-and-cover, keepup
withthejones' frightmare, with no poullution standards, and uncle joe smoking his cigar inside the car with the window rolled up and the kids in the back seat.
Good old days? Hah! Make me laugh!

Anonymous said...

Good mold daze? Hahhhhh!
I remember when they kept what they
called "Mongoloids" in basements.
lockedup up like the elephant man.
We had a grown up downs synd named
Mongo Pete that lived in the basement, who the kids taunted mercilessly by banging on the cinderblock windows. Now they
have olympics for them, and they cross the finish-line hugging.
And, BTW, no one calls them Mongos
anymore....Last time I heard, they were now "Chomasomeally challenged", but that was shortly
after Corky's retirement from "Life goes on" What they call them now I'm not quite sure.

Anonymous said...

Hahhh..just what New Zealand needs....millions of overweight
fat-bodied americans grazing on fast food.......don't they have enough sheep(le) and cattle already.?

Anonymous said...

For Gods sake the last thing New Zealand (or any other country for that matter) needs is an influx of whinging, know all Americans.

Stay where you are. Aren't you always telling everyone you live in the greatest country in the world? You are not welcome.

Anonymous said...

Poor New Zealand.

That's all we need - a bunch of loudmouth, arrogant, obnoxious Yanks pouring in and telling us how to run our country.

You have stuffed up your own country, and now you want to come here and ruin ours.

New Zealand is keen for immigrants who will raise the average IQ of the country - not lower it.

Kiwi Girl said...

For all you stupid Americans dreaming about New Zealand, I grew up there and there is just as much racisim and problems with illegals as you guys whinge about. The Pacific Islanders are violent, fat and often illegal. There are race gangs and drug problems. The reason your country is going down the toilet is because YOU are like spoilt brats who think you deserve everything NOW. For gods sake wake up to yourselves and realise that outside of America, most other countries despise you. Oh, and keep out of NZ. We don't like you either.

Anonymous said...

At least some of the "good stuff" of the past is still everywhere. Sometimes you just need to open your eyes.

Sound like you need to watch Pleasantville. If something is missing - create it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I've heard it said that going to New Zealand is like going to America circa 1955- i.e.(friendly people)

Friendly(?), irrelevant seems a better fit.

Big American Male said...

Come eat my big american sausage.

Anonymous said...

Concerning NZ:

To the Kiwi complainer, NZ is a Pacific Island so in a sense, you're on the Maori's territory, like it or not. In contrast, the Native American element of the USA was exterminated by the time of Wounded Knee cerca 1900 so there isn't a "Treaty of Waitangi" which makes multiculturalism an element of US society. The modern day Indian casino reservation is that, a modern day tax shelter, little more... not a nation within a nation.

Instead of the exploits of an Anglo-Saxon Pacific Island, the USA has integrated all of the world's white (including eastern Europe and even the christian elements of the middle east) into a highly generic, American society with hispanics and African-Americans in the periphery, outside of professional sports. That's America in a nutshell.

In NZ, most white people are a blend of UK (British/Scottish) or Irish. In contrast, most whites in America are a mix of British/Scottish, Irish, French, Nordic, Slavic, Italian, Greek, etc, all distinct, originating cultures but today, there's practically no difference outside of church denominations and bake offs (like Greek day or St Patty's day). I even know of pre-Russian revolution American-Slavs (great grandparents arrived pre-1918) and asked them about the Czarist times and none of them even knew a smigeon about Trotsky or Nicholas outside of the history channel. Clearly, this is a different society from let's say Europe where nationalities never blend into the mainstream.

So this new incursion, via Mexicans, breaks up the American way of everyone forgetting the troubles of their grandparents and becoming a member of a wider and more productive society. NZ, without Brits, will never have this so it's probably best to have rich Americans and Canadians retire there (ala retirement visa path like Oz) to at least keep an economic barrier between the haves (Brits) and havenots (PI: Maoris, Samoans, Fijians, etc) since that'll increase the percentage of rich (but retired) whites and so when younger Anglos can't find work and are competing against PIers/Maoris, at least they can become gardners to those well-to-do Yankees' retirement villas.

Anonymous said...

WE the Ugly Americans, hear of how we are hated all over the world. Until there's a war or natural disaster, then you fair-weather friends come a runnin, with your hands out!


'We' give more aid and assistance to the world than ourselves!

Doug said...