Things Were Much Better in the Fifties
It’s easy to say “Things were much better in the ‘50’s” because so much time has passed and the memory of those distant years, over time, becomes wrapped in sweet nostalgia as if wrapped in a soft and gentle decorous georgette saree, but not a saree that covers your body so much as one that dwells restlessly without a body to cover, and in your mind.
Recently, however, I watched an episode of Superman which demonstrated in vivid detail precisely how unsettling the ‘50s really were. Back then, everybody who went on vacation went to places like Moose Island, Maine. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, if you think so, try asking Jimmy Olsen how nice it is. First of all, back then, if you were to have an aunt, she would appear secretive and sinister. Your cousin, we’ll call him Chris, would wear one of those Joe Palooka beanies and wouldn’t look at you and wouldn’t greet you by shaking your hand. He wouldn’t have a bit of it. Nope. And the housekeeper? Beautiful, but also deaf and dumb. Scary, huh? But that’s not all. If you were to take a pleasant vacation stroll in the woods, you would hear a haunting voice scream “Help me! I’m drowning!” and the lighthouse that would have been abandoned–well, its lights would become mysteriously illuminated at night. And don’t forget Matt, who is about as nice as Chris in the Joe Palooka beanie and would suddenly appear out of nowhere and put a knife to your throat and tell you to stay away from the lighthouse! And even if you were to mind your own business and stay in your room, you would receive mysterious notes from your aunt, slipped surreptitiously under your door and pleading for help–and the hand-writing would be different from her handwriting on her recipes for her delicious blueberry muffins! Try to escape your so-called ‘vacation house’ and you will find yourself face down in a cave with the tide rising in the cave and you will be drowning–drowning, that is, until Superman comes and bends the cave bars (they used to have them back in the ‘50s) and he would do that with his mighty arms which he would then use to kill Matt, hold Chris up in the air dangling by the scruff of his shirt collar and then bend one of those bars around his torso and then give Matt’s pistol to your real aunt–the one who really did write the recipe for her delicious blueberry muffins–so that she could personally apprehend the pretend aunt and bring her to justice with a pistol, which would be a good thing since she is really just a petty smuggler or arms dealer or something in cahoots with Chris and Matt who are also criminals who probably aren’t giving their real names anyway and because your aunt secretly likes the idea of holding a loaded gun and pointing it at an arms smuggler, and when she does, her eyes would dance playfully, like those of a little girl. I know that this part sounds like fun, but while you consider the fun part, don’t forget the rest of it: Chris’ sullenness, Matt’s knife at your throat, the damp and misty New England air, the “Help me! I’m drowning!” person, the Edsel, the Korean War, Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, The Clutter Family, etc. You can’t be too romantic about the 50’s–you can be gentle to them, but try to be realistic. It really wasn’t that great–even though they had Moose Island, Maine, and even though, at least for a while, they had Superman.