Life seemed much simpler growing up in the 1950s.
For example, we never wore bicycle helmets. Apparently we were a tougher lot than the youth of today. Our reasoning was that falling off a bike was just a part of riding a bike. Then you had to be tough enough to gut out the injury. I do not remember anyone ever marketing or manufacturing a bicycle helmet in the 1950s. Your baseball cap was all the cranial protection that was needed!
I only fell off my bicycle once. It was due to stupidity. I was in a race with a couple of my buddies. I had a ‘country bike,’ which was heavier and had the wider tires for travelling on dirt roads. We lived on a dirt road. My buddies had the ‘town’ bikes. These were lighter and had the narrower tires for traveling on paved roads. They had the weight advantage of lighter bikes.
We began to race. Hoping to win one particular race, I cut through a ditch. Unfortunately for me, I ran straight into a culvert! To say that I flew ‘ass over teakettle’ would be an understatement. I was unhurt, but I had sliced the front tire and tube in half. I provided my two buddies with lots of yuks, as my pride was much more injured than my body. I did not win the race.
Now the real trouble was going to begin. I had to face Big Daddy G! Big Daddy G worked about a half mile from the ‘tire slashing, culvert hitting’ escapade. Our farm was at least another mile further. I had to face the humiliation of pushing my bike all the way to his workplace. Many of my friends saw me pushing, rather than riding, and this accentuated the humiliation. I finally arrived at Big Daddy G’s workplace, hoping for a little empathy from my father. What I got was my father and all his coworkers! Just what I needed—a frickin’ Super Bowl-sized audience! Or so it seemed.
“I had an accident. I hit a culvert.”
“What the hell were you doing in a ditch?”
At that point, being under parental scrutiny and in front of my father’s coworkers, I froze. I realized even at this young age, any words that came from my mouth would just add more fuel to this ’embarrassment’ fire. I just wanted this whole episode to end. After receiving what my father believed was proper admonishment, I then endured my very first ‘money does not grow on trees’ speech. These speeches became more frequent after I began driving.
But my dad, being the dad that he was, walked the 50 yards to the local hardware store and bought the new tire and tube for about $1.75. A princely sum at that time! It took him less than 10 minutes to replace the tire and send me home. Lesson learned.
The toys we were given in the 1950s would absolutely cause parental mass hysteria today!
Nearly every boy got a BB gun. It was just a matter at what age you received it. My dad said I could have a BB gun when I saved up enough money. He knew that I would never save enough, as that major purchase would cost me $6.99. One lucky Friday night, when I was just 7 years old, I won a $10 drawing at the local movie theater. Problem solved! My ‘weapon of mass destruction’ BB gun was purchased. Then the windows began getting shot out on the house. That BB gun mysteriously disappeared only to be found 50 years later. My grandfather hid it. Big Daddy G found it, refinished it, and presented it to me when I was promoted to Colonel. He now thought I was mature enough to handle the responsibility of the BB gun!
Every baby boomer boy is familiar with, and no doubt received, a ‘Handy Andy Tool Kit.’ This was a tool kit that included the very same tools that dad had, only smaller. When I say just like dad had, I mean just that. These tools were not plastic. They were metal! The little claw hammer was all metal, and could easily pound a nail. The little saw was also metal – and sharp! It would easily saw off a table leg or shorten one leg of your sister’s highchair! Not that I did either – just sayin’.
Parents today would have a fit before giving that toy! Just imagine the reaction to my chemistry set. I don’t need to go into much detail, but lets just say I became pretty adept at making gunpowder in the basement when I was 12 years old.
I digress. I begin by talking about the toys of my youth, when I really wanted to talk about our local churches. (After all, my blog is titled ‘Musings of an Old Fart.’ Excuse me for musing!)
My town had three churches. We had a Lutheran church. We had a Catholic church. We had my Methodist church. The Catholic church had all the ‘hot chicks.’ The Methodists had the ‘singers.’ I enjoyed the singing. The Lutherans – I don’t really remember what the Lutheran’s had besides lutefisk dinners.
It was all very simple, as we did not confuse the local population with any such churches as Baptist or Presbyterian. My out-of-town grandparents took me to a church called Grace Alliance. It had to have been some kind of Protestant hybrid.
In the 1960s, when I began to notice girls, the Catholic girls would not date non-Catholic boys. This would have been fine except that the Catholic boys were hitting on anything that moved. Catholic or not. What was up with that?
My Methodists were really the best, and loudest, singers off all three churches. The Catholics never sang. Their services were in Latin. We could drown out the Lutherans as their church was only a block away from ours. Apparently they were more concerned with poisoning non-Lutherans with their next lutefisk dinner, than with singing. (I am convinced the Lutherans had an inbred immunity to the effects of lutefisk!)
Even with three different Protestant churches in our town, our town had perfect religious harmony. We were a friendly, close-knit community.
My segue into the present is this: Why can’t three Islamic religions live in religious harmony like the three Protestant churches in my hometown? Have you been following what is currently happening in Iraq between the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds?
The United States got involved in Iraq in two wars. The first war involvement was because Suddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The second occurred because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction and planned to use them against our allies. Whether Suddam Hussein had WMDs or not is irrelevant to this particular blog. What this tyrant did do was kill an average of 40,000 of his own people every year he was in power.
The US got involved with two costly wars in an attempt to establish a self-governing democratic government in Iraq. For a while, it looked like we may have succeeded.
Now, the religious strife appears to be rearing its ugly head and will eventually nullify any gains made in establishing a democratic Iraq.
I am not sure what the primary differences are between the Sunni, Kurd and Shiite religions. It astounds me that they are so willing to kill each other over what appears to be minor differences.
As a country, the United States is naïve about these religions. We Americans were raised to believe that our first loyalty is to our country. U-S-A! U-S-A! We’re number one! We’re number one! We believe that religion is just something that can be freely practiced within the context of our country.
The Arabs don’t see things that way. Their first loyalty is to their religion. They do not have the national pride that most Christian-dominated countries have, nor do they really embrace a strong central government. They embrace their religion. Period.
My theory for quite some time is that the Muslim religions provide the excuse for conquest, which leads to wealth. Why are the revolutionaries capturing oil wells in Iraq? Why does the Taliban want Afghanistan? The oil wells bring money in the form of oil revenues. Afghanistan is the largest poppy growing nation in the world. This leads to opium, which leads to money.
Unfortunately, the wealth is in the hands of very few. 99% of the wealth in Saudi Arabia is in the hands of less than 1% of the population. This is not uncommon in many Islamic countries.
Another unfortunate event is that the least educated religions in the world are the Islamic religions. The religious leaders call for a jihad, and the uneducated followers willingly go to war in the name of Allah. Apparently one Allah is different than another Allah. You don’t see the educated Muslims becoming suicide bombers. Nor do you see Lutherans, Methodists, or Catholics becoming suicide bombers.
I shudder to think of what would have become of my quiet, peaceful hometown had the three Protestant churches fought like the Islamic religions are currently fighting in Iraq.
The United States has made a major investment in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t know how we will be able to disassociate ourselves from the malaise of either country.
After all, it has been going on for 1400 years.