Was My Life Better Back Then? Why We Escape to the Past

"Such good old days are often talked about in passing, and most people agree how much better it would be if only we could return. We don’t realize the damage at stake in allowing our brains and hearts to live in this imagined land of yesteryear." - Desiring God

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Joeb's picture

My memories are from the early 60s but I grew up in my early years in Cedar Rapids Iowa and consider it an extension of the 50s.  I have the best memories of those times.  I lived in the City of Cedar Rapids but on the City Limits.  My brother and I would ride the buses downtown and bikes everywhere  I went to church at what I thought was a big church at the time Calvary Baptist. I went to the City School which was Erskine Elementary School.  Things were simpler then and more prosperous at least from my view and Safer.  

My father had a boat and we brought it to church and put on are bathing suits after church and off we'd go to Lake Coralville for water skiing.  Like a wonderful life but even then my mother suffered health problems.  We would spend the whole weekends water skiing and at night the adults would hook up their boats together in a cove and we'd eat and swim into night.  Very fun when your 8 to 10 years old. 

Cedar Rapids was a predominately Lilly White city but there were black families around.  The Swedish Baptist Church from my memories were not RACIST as other Evangelical Churches   I even recall going to an ordination at a WHITE CHURCH of a mixed race couple who were going to the Mission Field.  Something the GARBC AND ABWE banned right into the mid 80s.  So my exposure to racism came later in life.  My parents made every effort to befriend black families.  So I did not grow up in Racism and was rather uniformed you might say until we moved to the east coast.

My worst experience was going to Princeton High School in NJ. Back then the Princeton rich people sent their kids to the high end private schools.  I lived in an adjoining township which was considered a bunch of chicken farmers. Princeton had a small African American Community who had a lot of family ties in Trenton NJ.  So people in Trenton sent their kids to live with family in Princeton NJ. The whites mostly were very LIBERAL and turned a blind eye to it.  Plus they didn't want to spend a nickel on the public schools full of White Hicks and Inner City African Americans.  The High School was 35 % African American. My first 2 years were full of race riots.

 I went to a school in one of the Richest towns in NJ which for all intensive purposes had an inner city school that sucked. It got better later but the academics sucked.  Of course later when the private schools got expensive so all of a sudden the residents wanted to spend money on the Public Schools. Now it's one of the best Public Schools in the Country.  

The racism was the downside of the 1950s.  So if you were a black child or a young black man their  perception of the 1950s needs to kept  in mind.  I had to correct a Sunday School Teacher in my church who started crowing about how great the 1950s were when are Government was Godly and people were more Godly.  This Bible Teacher said this in front of a friend of mine who was African American and a State Prison Guard. He  was also married to a white wife.  I stopped the Sunday School teacher while he was crowing and said yeah it was great if you were a White man.  The Teacher then realized he was speaking about this in front of a African American and he turned pale.  My buddy who did experience racism as a child had a great big smile on his face and started laughing.  So watch who you say that 50s stuff in front of because for some folks the 50s were not so great.  

However overall it was great and usually even down south the white kids and the African American kids were friends at a young age. We were all safer no doubt. My opinion is Racism was passed on later by White Male adults who leaned that way sadly.  The Midwest Swedes and other Scandinavians were Liberal but not as racist in my opinion. Jim being from Minnesota do you agree. My mother was from Marquette MI and I'm 52 % Swedish and the other half is French from the Alsace Loraine.

I still say we may be related Jim.  Oh did you  look up my Cousin in Minnesota Retired MLB Player Mike Kingery or go to their concerts of Gospel Bluegrass. The singing group is called the Kingery Family.  They  tour all through MINNNESOTA in the summer. Mostly at Churches. I believe they go to a GARB church.  Check them out.  They are really good.

My ties with the Kingery Family goes back 265 years and several family members intermarried with the Kingery Family. My family was from lower Berks County Pa and lived in the same neighborhood as Daniel Boone's Family and Abraham Lincoln's family. The Boones and the Lincoln's must have been close because the Lincolns moved to Boones Borough in Kentucky and then to Northwest Illinois where my family ended up. My family were a bunch of Criminals and losers. I'll leave it at that. After being here for 300 years in one form or another there is not one plug nickel left or any kind of land holdings.  They were all idiots except my father and one of his Uncles.  

Jim's picture

Joeb wrote:

The racism was the downside of the 1950s.

You're absolutely right on that. 

I think this story was from the early 60's in Cincinnati. There was a year end school activity (maybe when I was in the 5th or 6th grade). It was at a pool. No blacks allowed! We had one or two blacks in class and they were not permitted to attend. I was confused by it at the time.

The "n-word" was often heard. We referred to Brazil nuts via slang term.

dcbii's picture


At least in my own personal experience, it's a certain amount of age that makes you think about former days.  Up through my 20's, I didn't spend much time thinking about things being better in the past.  The older I get, the more it seems I have such thoughts.  Looking back, similar to Jim, my childhood and teens (60's-70's rather than 50's-60's) seem much more idyllic to me than living in today's world.  Of course, I also had a child's perspective then, and didn't see a lot of the ugliness one sees as an adult.

Ecclesiastes 7:10 tells us: 'Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”  For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.'  This verse has been particularly helpful for me when my thoughts want to dwell on the past, especially when some things were better in many ways then.  I have to remember that that's not what God has for me now.

Dave Barnhart

Don Johnson's picture

I had no bills

i got summer holidays (and in central Alberta could stay out late because it was light until about 10 pm)

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Kevin Miller's picture

Jim wrote:

The "n-word" was often heard. We referred to Brazil nuts via slang term.

My dad had a story regarding that. He was born in 1928. When he was a kid, he asked a store clerk for some of those nuts using the slang name. A black man behind him leaned over and said, "Them's Brazil nuts, boy."

Dave White's picture

Things that are better (over 50 years ago):

  • Healthcare and medicine much improved. People are surviving cancer. One can survive HIV. Covid vaccines (too soon?)
  • Wealth has increased dramatically 
  • Technology - massive advances
  • IFB has improved b/c congregants are better informed.
    • KJVOnlism on the decline
    • While there are less schools, the survivors are stronger.
    • BJU is a much better school (I suppose debatable)
Joeb's picture

Dave the only thing I disagree with you on is the wealth.  The middle class has been hollowed out.  Housing has become to expensive and out of reach for most young middle class families.  There is a few areas that buck that trend but there are no jobs.  Cheaper housing usually means less opportunities.  

You rang the bell with BJU.  They went through the fire and came out on the other side by obeying God's word and repenting. Sadly they are one of the few lights in the storm shining for Righteousness.  The others are caught up in obvious sin with many connected to those MONSTER and SATANIC PASTORS the SBC Report has exposed.  The White Evangelicals deserve everything that's coming to them for seeking total political power over Christ.  I'm very thankful for BJU and other institutions standing for Christ and not harming people as a practice. 

I at one time was looking to the future for our Country due to the absolutely interesting advancement in technology we are making. It's encouraging.   However now all I hear from the White Evangelicals and the Right is we are going to get our Guns & take what we want because the election was stolen.  Over and over and over again while I'm dealing with severe medical problems with my 34 year old daughter and while our County is still going through COVID.  

All these things may be God's will but is it not interesting that the United States may fall due to the pure sinfulness of White Evangelical Christians. You got the judges but they want it all even if the demographics are against them.  

I'm to the point now that if the Fulton County DA indicts that GODLY ORANGEMAN and all those fine Believers show up with their AR 15s and threaten violence and end up rushing the DA's office I hope if they disregard the warnings and go for it they get cut in half by deadly force legally so this nonsense can be put to bed.  

Sorry guys but enough is enough and the church needs to speak truth on this.  Very sad. However if the Orangeman becomes a Dictator as in Rome I'll do as the Roman's do hail Vlad Putin Trump. Only if his White Supremacists don't try to bring Jim Crow back and harm the African Americans. Then will I join them in revolting   Hopefully we can get through these differences and the Church will puts its attention where it belongs changing hearts and minds for Christ instead of Christian Nationalism.

Additionally. my Chinese Son In Law and his father who are both believers and grew up under real communism  in China.  I can't believe how American Christians can be so so hateful to their fellow Americans over politics and call the LEFT COMMUNISTS.  

Reality check we are being by passed by the Europeans because we now fight over baloney due to ONE MAN. They are out building us and out spending us with their economies.  Italy which was once a financial joke is spending 18 Billion to put 4 new rail tunnels through the Alps.  Norway is doing the same to connect to the main part of Europe by road and rail.  Billions.  They do their projects on time and on budget   They have a long history of encouraging the Trades and getting along with the Unions.

Once the Ukraine war is over they are going to bypass us along with China and we deserve it.  The US left wants to spend to much and the Right doesn't want to spend a plug nickel. If we did things better poor Bert would be working himself to death due to the shortage of Engineers and SMART GUYS like Bert.

Oh well sorry Bert you may not able to retire when you want to.  That Japanese guy in my Bible Study whose real smart like you just retired.  ETS where he worked is after him all the time to do consulting work.  I expect that things like that for people like you Bert will only get worse. The number of young people going into Engineering in the US is shrinking which like I said BERT they'll throw all kinds of money at you to keep you working.  

dgszweda's picture

Joeb wrote:

 Housing has become to expensive and out of reach for most young middle class families.  There is a few areas that buck that trend but there are no jobs.  Cheaper housing usually means less opportunities.  

To a degree yes.  But in the last 3 years (including this weekend), every single wedding we have gone to, the couples had already purchased a house for themselves to move into.  When I got married in the early '90's my wife and I could barely afford the $300 rent for our place in Greenville.  I have seen the numbers in the housing market, but I am blown away that all of these kids can afford a house before they even got married (these are not young professionals, these are college graduates with sometimes only one having a job).

G. N. Barkman's picture

It seems pretty clear to me that young adults today are more wealthy than young adults in my day.  By the standards of today, we were really poor when we got married, but we didn't know it, because most of our friends were also poor.  In other words, we were poor in comparison to today's young adults, but not in comparison with our contemporary friends.  No question in my mind that the general level of wealth has increased significantly over the past fifty years.

G. N. Barkman

Joeb's picture

If your talking about Indiana Iowa Missouri Michigan North Dakota Ohio NC TN Kentucky AR AK etc.   Big difference than the North East and the West Coast and say Chicago.   That's what I'm basing my opinion on and how many people have been left behind.  If I go to the Anthracite Belt up in Pottsville PA I could afford three homes.  It's all relative.