Monday, July 6, 2009

“The Good Old Days, When Life Was Simpler”by John Alexander Madison
July 6, 2009

Lake Wobegon has been described as the little town where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average.” It is a fictional town in Minnesota, and for several decades Garrison Keillor reported the News from Lake Wobegon on a Saturday PBS radio program called A Prairie Home Companion.

As relaxed and entertaining as Lake Wobegon was for many (circa 1974 forward), it had nothing over Lake Waccabuc in northern Westchester County, New York. That’s where, in the late 1950s a casual tennis game at Waccabuc Country Club with former U.S. Vice President Henry Wallace was a regular occurrence before driving down to Lake Waccabuc for an afternoon swim. There, at the snack bar staffed by identical twin brothers, a fifty-cent credit would buy a young teenager all the soda pop and candy bars one could possibly consume in an entire week. Drive-in movies, root beer floats at the corner drugstore, dragging the main in your (or a friend’s) hot rod or customized convertible, poodle skirts and chaperoned school dances were the norm.
The Juke Box blasted favorites such as At the Hop by Danny and the Juniors; Young Love by Tab Hunter; All Shook Up by The King (Elvis Presley); In the Still of the Nightby The Five Satins; Love Letters in the Sand by Pat Boone; Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley; Come Softly To Me by The Fleetwoods; or I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash.

Listening to the radio was a regular treat where weekly shows stirred the imagination of listeners from young children to adults alike. Radio programs such as the “Lone Ranger,” “Amos ‘n Andy,” “The Adventures of Charlie Chan,” “Hopalong Cassidy,” or Orson Welles’ stirring 1953 version of “The War of the Worlds” were truly entertaining and nothing short of exciting.

And then there was… "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" Those were the opening lines of the "Detective Story" radio program which captivated listeners for years, so much so that the name was later changed to “The Shadow.”

And who could forget the Cunningham family? Howard, his wife Marion and their two children, Richie and Joanie and local dropout and family friend Arthur “The Fonz (Fonzie)” Fonzarelli who brought millions of fans years of great memories of the “good old days” of the 50’s and 60’s, better known as “Happy Days.”

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his historic "Four Freedoms" speech to Congress. While Western Europe was under Nazi domination, Roosevelt proposed that the American ideals of individual liberties should extend to people throughout the world. While he articulated the necessity of war, Roosevelt discussed its ideological aims and the profound beliefs of all Americans about freedom.

Roosevelt said “We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-- everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world.”

Inspired by Roosevelt’s speech, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) created a series of paintings on a theme of our "Four Freedoms.” In the series, he translated abstract concepts of freedom into four scenes of everyday American life. The patriotic paintings symbolized the war aims President Roosevelt set forth. The "Four Freedoms" were reproduced in four consecutive issues of "The Saturday Evening Post" alongside essays by contemporary American writers. "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom to Worship," "Freedom from Want" and "Freedom from Fear" were so successful Rockwell went on to create 321 covers for the Post over 47 years, many portraying typical American life and values, through the 50s and well beyond. "The Saturday Evening Post" covers eventually became his greatest legacy.

In 1977 President Gerald R. Ford presented Rockwell with the country's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The award was given for Rockwell's "vivid and affectionate portraits of our country" during the good old days. In his own words, Rockwell said "Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed."

The 1950s were a decade in which television did not have a significant impact on our daily lives and, in school, children were taught reading, writing, arithmetic and history; not like today where television and educational institutions “indoctrinate” a dumbed-down citizenry toward a world view which does little to serve America’s best interests.

Today, in America, we are on the precipice of experiencing the polar opposite of what President Roosevelt had wished for all citizens everywhere "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom to Worship," "Freedom from Want" and "Freedom from Fear.” Those freedoms, quite simply, cannot co-exist with a socialist leaning government. As never before, it is time for change.

Will the good old days, when life was simpler, only remain a distant memory or is there hope that we will, one day, be fortunate enough to experience a rerun?

In an August 2004 article entitled “We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore” self-acknowledged Democrat Garrison Keillor said “This is a great country, and it wasn’t made so by angry people. We have a sacred duty to bequeath it to our grandchildren a country in better shape than however we found it. We have a long way to go and we’re not getting any younger… It’s a beautiful world, rain or shine, and there is more to life than winning.” (a reference to Roosevelt’s justification for World War II).

While we may not endorse Mr. Keillor’s entire liberal agenda can we not all agree that it is our duty to leave our country in better shape for our children that that which was passed along to us by our parents? In my case, those were the good old days.

As Sarah Palin said only yesterday “only dead fish go with the flow." So, let’s get out there and do something to restore America to a more realistic vision. Amen.

In his well-known masterpiece, Divine Comedy, thirteenth and fourteenth century poet, Dante (Alighieri) wrote “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”

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