Peter Costa will be attending his 50th high school reunion in the fall. This occasion has generated the following remembrances of the 1950s.


 

Peter Costa will be attending his 50th high school reunion in the fall. This occasion has generated the following remembrances of the 1950s.


In the 1950s, every working man wore a fedora. You can see this in old photographs of baseball games in which every ballpark contained 30,000 guys who looked like Frank Sinatra.


It was a simpler time when people were happy to conform and to follow the widely held American dream. Today the only universal belief is that things are just awful. (This may explain the feverish passion for reality TV shows.)


In the 1950s, the nation was rebounding from the worst world war in history. People were just delighted to get through a workday without news of some new, horrible disaster. People had faith in America’s industrial and economic strength. The world’s greatest superpower was busily churning out cars the size of pleasure boats and houses shining with chromium kitchens.


There was only one true enemy and it was Communism. It was the global evil that threatened to take over countries around the globe and turn them into autocratic states.


We focused on this one enemy and ignored a million potential demons.


People marveled over the incredible luck of geography and geology that was the United States. Protected by two vast oceans, it was a land of inestimable natural resources that eventually got fired and pounded into iron, steel and, later, titanium.


Television was a new medium offering variety shows, feel-good Westerns like Hopalong Cassidy and kids’ shows like “Howdy Doody.”


People were less sophisticated and less well-informed. News came in 15-minute television segments read by a solemn newscaster. The TV news set consisted of a newscaster sitting behind a big desk on which was a heavy black telephone. The backdrop was a flat map of the round world. It was Mercator projection of the world map. You know, the one in which tiny Greenland is the size of Asia.


I can remember participating in orderly fire drills and procedures for a nuclear blast in the 1950s in which we were told to “duck and cover” and hide under our desks. Someone forgot to tell the principal and the school nurse about nuclear radiation that lasts 100,000 years and a firebomb of several hundred million degrees, many times hotter than the 15 million degree surface of the sun.


But we believed our officials and had faith in the endless number of solutions provided by American technology.


I was like the millions of other schoolboys who avidly watched “Twenty One,” a wildly popular quiz show that aired each week.


“Wow, that Charles Van Doren is a genius,” we all thought. We discovered later that he had been given the questions and answers in advance. Those were the unsophisticated 1950s when we all exchanged hope for reason and prayed things would turn out just fine.


The 2010s are proving to be quite a different time. Not only do we have to worry about our treasured nation between two oceans but the Euro Zone and the global economy that connects and ensnares all of us.


Gone is our hero, Hopalong Cassidy, in his contrarian black hat. (Good guys usually wore white hats in early Hollywood productions.) Enter Barry Weiss of “Storage Wars,” who is betting on container No. 6 for the big bucks. I personally doff my hat to Barry.


Peter Costa is a columnist for GateHouse Media. His latest collection of humor columns, “Outrageous CostaLiving,” is available at amazon.com