It’s quite natural to long for the good ol’ days, when life was supposedly simpler and more serene. It’s rather like longing to live in England or France or somewhere that gives you a wonderful feeling of calm and beauty when you see it in movies.
Some fascinating people who love the ambiance of the 1950s (as I do), even live as though it still is the 1950s (which I don’t.) They don authentic vintage dresses, wear Bettie Bangs and have a kitchen fully equipped with 1950s kitchenalia and jadeite dishes.
But the only thing that makes the good ol’s days “good” is our imaginations.
My maternal grandmother was born in 1900. An innocent era of Gibson girls in ethereal white blouses and picture hats. Her father used to proposition his daughters, ordering them to “Come to my room tonight.” There the story ends as the family chooses to believe “nothing ever happened.”
When his children misbehaved or angered him, his favorite implement of discipline was a horsewhip. Great-grandma bore the scars for ninety-eight years. That story has an interesting codicil. In 1922, Great-Great-Grandpa developed appendicitis. The pain was so severe that, even when he was strapped to his hospital bed, his thrashing moved the bed all over the hospital room. When his appendix burst and he died, local schools were closed as the city mourned one of their leading citizens. But his family no longer lived in fear for their lives.
Still think it was the good ol’ days!?
When the moving pictures started around 1894, the Kinetoscope peepshows were considered scandalous. Women doing serpentine dances with high kicks! Women undressing before bed. I mean! Well actually, there was so much fabric involved that nothing, and I mean nothing of any interest showed. In fact, the only skin that showed was their faces and hands…but still! ð Only two years later, a woman stripped naked on camera. So in 1921, a code for what could or could not be shown, spoken or implied on screen was proposed. Including banning child nudity.
Still think it was the good ol’ days?
Most of the men I know are fascinated by the 1920s. Y’know, the fedora, pinstripe suit, flask of moonshine in the breast pocket and a Cadillac Sedan like Al Capon’s. Meanwhile, the hooch flowed, drug use soared and unwed births went through the roof.
But that was the good ol’ days.
The heads of the Hollywood studios in the Golden Era went out of their way to bring fairytales to the silver screen. In their philosophy (and the Hay’s Code rules), evil always gets its just desserts and the boy always gets the girl.
In reality, Hollywood needed the #metoo movement eighty years ago. The casting couch wasn’t just a clichÃ© or a wink-wink-nudge-nudge. No! Darryl Zanuck actually had a sofa in his office and precisely at 4 p.m. every afternoon, he bedded an actress. Probably one of many. Bette Davis once joked that Joan Crawford had slept with everyone in Hollywood except Lassie. That was probably true. But then again, Bette Davis shouldn’t talk!
The scandals in 1930s and 1940s Hollywoods range from studio funded brothels to what they then called lavender marriages (mixed-orientation marriages). From upppers and downers to forced abortion, suicides and murders hushed up.
Yeah, not exactly the good ol’ days.
My weakness, like Frasier Crane, is France. Anything French just seems somehow…better. The food. The language. The art. The architecture. All of it seems so elevated and sophisticated. Slap the word le in front of anything and I’m a sucker for it.
Until I read that France’s income tax rate averaged 51.92% for the past twenty-three years. Oh, la, la! I just couldn’t afford to be sophisticated.
Life for those who lived “back in the day” was just as tough and painful as it is for us now. Probably more so. (No Novocaine!) There’s nothing wrong with wearing 1950s fire engine red lipstick and nail polish, enjoying coq a vin or wearing a flowered hat to the Farmer’s Market. Just as long as we remember, “It’s not real and it never was.”