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Eleven Things I Miss from When America Was Great

Paul spent the 1950s living in a suburb of Milwaukee and also on a small dairy farm in southeastern Wisconsin.

American Flag on Memorial Day


Making America Great Again

In 2016, President-elect Donald Trump successfully appealed to primarily rural mid-America voters with his slogan "to make America great again." This slogan resonated with older voters and especially with people like me who were born in the 1940s and 50s.

Having grown up in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s, I experienced living when America was truly great. Specifically, I pinpoint the years from 1953 through 1963. The United States had recently won World War II and it had also stopped North Korean aggression. Except for the beginning of a Cold War with the Soviet Union, there was peace again, and returning combat veterans were prepared and eager to make America great.

In this article, I recall eleven things that I miss from when America was great.

1. Pride in Being an American

From a very early age, my parents taught me to be proud to be an American. Schools reinforced this pride by having students recite the pledge of allegiance each morning and also stand and sing the national anthem. On Saturday mornings, my school in West Allis, Wisconsin, also gave students free tickets to see patriotic movies in a neighborhood movie theater.

2. Strong Nuclear Family and Stay at Home Moms

During the 1950s and early 1960s, I remember that there were very few one-parent families. The family was very strong and close. I grew up in a family with three younger sisters and one younger brother. While dad farmed and also worked a second outside job, mom was always at home helping on the farm and taking care of us. This was the same situation with our neighbors and all of our relatives. We all helped each other and very seldom would any member of the family get into any trouble.

3. Code of Chivalry for Boys and Men

At a very early age, I learned a code of chivalry which I practiced when with girls, women, and older people. This took the form of respecting the opposite sex and elders by opening doors, helping them get seated, carrying things, taking off, hanging up, putting on coats, and walking closest to the street when with a female. It was taboo to strike a member of the opposite sex or to use profane language and unwanted advances. In dealing with older people, I learned to be polite and as helpful as I could be.

4. Sexual Morality

In the 50s and early 60s, it was taboo to get a young woman pregnant and then abandon her. Back then we had "shotgun weddings" in which men were pressured to take responsibility and marry the woman they impregnated.

Very little public pornography existed and topless and strip clubs were nonexistent. There were no X-rated bookstores and little or no profanity and sex were shown on TV and in the movies.

When I attended college, women dressed modestly and lived in dormitories. If a co-ed was on a date, she had to be back to her dorm by 10:30 pm on Sunday through Thursday and by 12:45 on Friday and Saturday nights.

5. Importance of Moral Values in Society

When I was growing up, moral values were taught in the home and reinforced in schools. More love and compassion existed and mass shootings in society were unheard of. Young people respected their parents, law and authority, and elders. Kids learned the importance of honesty, hard work, and cooperation both at home and in school.

6. No Political Correctness or Affirmative Action

In the 50s and early 60s, political correctness and affirmative action did not exist as they do today. We called an Ace an Ace and a Spade a Spade without sugar-coating in fear of offending. Students could receive an "F" which meant failing and not an "E" or the statement "needs improvement." People who were admitted to medical school got in based on their ability and not due to gender or minority quotas.

7. Students Held Accountable in Schools

When I went to school, students were held accountable for their academic performance and behavior. Students who received more than one failing grade were held back and had to repeat a grade. The idea of social promotion did not exist. If a kid misbehaved in school, he or she received detention for misbehavior or breaking a rule. For extremely bad behavior, teachers paddled or boxed the ears of some students.

8. Positive Role Models

My first role models in the 1950s were cowboys like The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry. I also looked up to Superman and professional baseball players like Eddie Matthews and Stan Musial. These were my role models because they set good examples by fighting for truth and justice.

9. Law and Order

During the 50s and early 60s, there were few if any violent political demonstrations or riots against the police. People were generally law-abiding and those who broke the law had to suffer the consequences of their actions.

10. Proliferation of Small Businesses

Large chain businesses like McDonald's and Walmart were very few in the 50s. We had, instead, "mom and pop" grocery stores, department stores, and soda fountains in most towns and cities. These businesses were convenient to get to, and the service was very personable and helpful.

11. No Global Economy

In the 50s, the United States had a much more self-sufficient economy. Almost everything including steel, cars, clothing, shoes, and other goods were manufactured in the U.S. During the 1950s, much of the United States infrastructure in the form of roads and bridges was constructed with U.S. products. People were generally working and no one lost their job due to a factory being relocated outside of the States.


I miss the 1950s and early 1960s when the United States was great. I especially miss the public pride of being American, moral values, and a strong nuclear family with stay-at-home moms.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn


Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 28, 2017:

Back then the only thing that was really scary was the Cold War. I agree that America will never be what it was before. Thanks for commenting.

BODYLEVIVE from Alabama, USA on January 28, 2017:

I grew up in the 50's as well. Things were not as gloom as they are today. America will NEVER be what it use to be no matter what is done. It's gone to far to turn around.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on December 16, 2016:

Firstly, you are reacting to the LIE that women have voluntary abortions during the last trimester. They do not. 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions are only done for HEALTH reasons. Either the mother's health is at risk, or the fetal health is not viable.

Women Do NOT have their babies RIPPED out of them because they want to do this. It is an extremely painful and PERSONAL decision that has no benefit from being LEGISLATED!

These medical decisions should be between the mother and her doctor!

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on December 16, 2016:

Austinstar, Please tell me, I want to know. Just because I am not a women, does not mean I can't use my brain... If you can make a convincing argument, I will listen. With all the medical procedures and contraception and morning after pills... why does any women choose to have an abortion in the last trimester? Why wait till the baby is viable? It is not any one's rights but the rights of the individual. Our Constitution gives everyone to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. "

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on December 11, 2016:

Jacklee, you can never know. You are not a woman. It has to do with WOMEN'S rights! Not fetus rights.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on December 11, 2016:

Austinstar, When does your rights end and the right of your fetus in your womb begin? That is at the crux of the abortion debate. This should have been addressed by the people back in 1973 and not by the Supreme court IMHO. Hence this is still a topic of debate today, in 2016. When the Supreme Court ruled on this, it was not a blank check for abortion on demand. Please go back and read the decision, you claim to do your own research. How did the ruling became abortion up to and include partial birth? I truthly like to know.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 11, 2016:

Thank you very much for your comments, Paula. I really appreciate your understanding.

Suzie from Carson City on December 10, 2016:

Paul....I suspect that I have commented often enough on your site, that you have a fairly good grasp on the fact that you & I are from the same era and quite the same "world." I know for certain we share the same degree of disdain for the insanity of PC. & the egregious damage it has done to so many in numerous areas of our lives. (NO Thank you, you will NOT coerce me to take care not to offend people who savagely kill & are savages from the dark ages.)

I don't think I need to feel guilty for having had a nearly idyllic upbringing and childhood. I do know how very fortunate we were and have always been grateful. Of course I'm not unaware that not everyone had similar experiences back then. At no time in history has everything been wonderful for everyone....

I did my time and paid my dues during other periods of my life. None of us get out of this world totally unscathed.

However, in at least the last decade and a half, I have felt a stranger in my own country. Because I didn't "keep up with changes?" or continue to learn and grow? No, absolutely not. In fact, I make it a point to be abreast with as much as concerns us, as much and as often as possible.

It's not even possible to expand on most of the drastic changes that have shocked me and given me a bit of disillusionment of what I've "experienced (seen and heard) and had to deal with.

Let me just say that I hear you, Paul and clearly understand what you have written here. Thank you. Paula

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 10, 2016:

Austinstar, my morality which is based on the gospel values of love, honesty, hard work, cooperation, compassion and others was learned in the home and nurtured during my education in Catholic schools. These morals are correct in my world and as a confirmed Christian soldier I must make them known to others. Yes, we have freedoms that many people in other countries don't have. The problem is that sometimes we have too much freedom leading to destruction of public and private property by protestors. Trump doesn't want to eliminate our first amendment rights. He only wants people to act more responsibly in following laws. I originally moved to Thailand about ten years ago to be with and marry my Thai wife. If she wants to live in the States, I have no problem with that idea as long as she is happy.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on December 10, 2016:

Jacklee, I was addressing Paul. No, i don't listen to fake news, I am a journalist and look for the who, what, when, where, and why of things beyond the headlines.

I can't convince you that Trump is an authoritaritan other than to point to his words and deeds. You need to watch him, not argue here on HP.

He wants to force women to have rape babies. That's one freedom women will lose. They will lose the freedom to choose control over their bodies.

He wants to control freedom of the press. Do you want to lose your first ammendment freedoms?

And there is so much more.

And please don't post links. I won't be following them. I do my own research.

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on December 10, 2016:

Is this what you mean?

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on December 10, 2016:

Austinstar, what freedoms does Trump want to eliminate? Where are you getting these ideas? Are you watching or reading "fake news"?

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on December 10, 2016:

Paul, do you find it hard to believe that slave owners found their moral upbringing to be in error? Or do you think they only went along with freeing the slaves because of change in society?

Does it matter?

Morality is set by those that can be in error every bit as much as the next man. Your upbringing came with certain morals. But as an adult, you have the intelligence to decide if those morals are correct or not. And remember, they may only be correct in your world, not in everyone's world.

America is great because we can legally protest against harm to our people. Not because we are so much more "moral than the rest of the world." We are free to be adults about our own lives.

Trump wants to eliminate that freedom and make America an authoritarian state.

Why everyone can't see this is beyond me.

Why did you move to Thailand?

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 10, 2016:

Thank you very much for your comments, Peggy. Compared to today, life was less hectic and a lot more innocent in the 50s. I'm glad you can relate to my views.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 10, 2016:

Thank you very much for your great comments. I agree that America is great in many ways today, but has lost some of its greatness with the decay of the family and society. Undoubtedly I don't have the same rights I would have in the States while living in Thailand. You are correct in pointing out that change is constant in life. The problem I have is with change that goes against my moral upbringing. Thanks for pinning this article.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 10, 2016:

Like you Paul, I had a wonderful childhood and teen years in the 50s and 60s so I can relate to what you wrote. Not everyone was as fortunate. I do think that people were more patriotic back then on average and there were many more stay at home moms. Things seen on television and at the movies had built in morality lessons in many cases. Now G and PG movies are outnumbered by those that are more sexual or violent in nature.

I heard of Woodstock but certainly did not attend it. The assassination of JFK and then others was a total shock. Those kinds of things were not supposed to happen in America. We did practice "Duck and Cover" in scho0ls because of the threat of war with Russia...but somehow it seemed not quite real. We had never been attacked on our homeland. Those with more money and space were building bomb shelters. The Bay of Pigs incident seemed more of a real threat at the time.

As to the experiences of Austinstar and appears that you, me and many others really had it good back then. I wish everyone could have had it as good as we did.

C E Clark from North Texas on December 10, 2016:

I've noticed several things on your list that are controlled entirely by the individual, so if they are no longer common one can only blame themselves. Political demonstration is a right we all have so long as it is done peacefully.

Time will never stand still. I'm sure if people from 1852 could have seen what a mess the new generations had made to this country and the world by 1952, they would have thought they needed to make things "Great" again, too. It's hard for some people, seemingly a lot of them, to keep up with technology and changing ideas and times.

A lot of people are no longer in their comfort zones with making allowance for equality of all persons regardless of color, ethnicity, sex, religion, etc. I have even heard several different people insist they want to go back to the original Constitution when women and people of color couldn’t vote, and African Americans were slaves considered subhuman — and just 3/5 of a human being. These are obviously people who have no idea what is in the original Constitution, or maybe they do. Maybe I give them too much credit and they really do want to silence women and people of color and hold slaves again.

From my perspective the U.S. with all of its flaws is still the greatest nation on the planet. The Founding Fathers made clear that our government and our country was an experiment in progress. That means it wasn’t perfect at the start and would likely aways have areas that need to improve.

The one constant is that change is inevitable and takes place all the time, guaranteed. One can never just sit back on their laurels, but must stay informed and keep learning or one will fall behind. That would seem to be what has happened to many Americans. They got lazy and fell behind the times and feel intimidated by computers, smart phones, and the idea that all humans are created by God and loved by God whether some people like it or not, and should have equal rights and equal opportunities.

Instead of trying to do the impossible task of turning back the clock to when life was easy because parents handled all the tough problems, start learning new things. There will always be new things to learn and to understand because no person, even if they lived to be 100 years old and in sound mind, and never had to sleep, could ever learn all there is to know about this world, let alone everything in it.

Everyone should do themselves a favor and learn to be comfortable with change because change is the only thing that is guaranteed in this world. As long as a person lives s/he will have to deal with change, so instead of griping about it, learn to adjust. Digging one’s heels in and refusing to accept change will only make one miserable as the world passes them by. It is a personal choice to be miserable in this case.

I don’t think we need to make America great again. So far as I know, it has always been great, especially if you look around and see all the rights and benefits we enjoy here that people in other countries can’t even imagine, much less dream about or actually experience.

I think the solution to some problems is not always something that can be legislated. Accepting and learning to deal with change is something we must all do, and we should be teaching our children this skill and setting a good example for them. We need not always change our own ideals and lifestyle, but we do have to accept that other people have the same rights as ourselves. Live and let live.

I would share this article with followers except that is no longer possible. I am pinning it to Awesome HubPages. I do agree with many of your points, but I have trouble with the idea that America, while not perfect, is somehow not great at this time.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 26, 2016:

I am very sorry for the sexual molestation which you experienced. I am living a comfortable life in Thailand now where I don't have to worry about violent political demonstrations and political correctness. If I lived in the United States now, especially in a urban area, I would have a horrible life.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 26, 2016:

I admit that I am looking back on this era from the perspective of a white youth who spent most of his time in a rural area. Yes, life was harder and darker for many people, but at least the American Dream was still alive then.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 26, 2016:

Thank you very much for your comment. I will make sure that I read and comment on your related article.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 26, 2016:

Yes, this is a nostalgic look at our past. The U.S.has come a long way with scientific and technological advances, however the moral fabric of our society has decayed over the years. Thanks for your comments.

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on November 26, 2016:

I grew up in the 50's and the 60's. My parents got divorced. We were constantly under threat of nuclear war. Austin, Texas had the first mass shooting. Kennedy was assassinated. I was sexually molested by a member of my own family. Church members tried to molest me and caused me to run away from home. The drug war started with the hippie movement.

Yep, those were the great years. Maybe for YOU. So sorry you have such a horrible life now that you want to go back to THAT!

Angelo52 on November 26, 2016:

I grew up in the late 50's and the 60's. Myself and thousands of other Americans would have loved to have lived in your world. The way of life I remember was much different than your nostalgic look at things. Let's just say that life was much harder and darker than you appear to have had. Guess I wasn't white enough.

Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on November 26, 2016:

I wrote a similar piece in "America Where Are You?"

Jack Lee from Yorktown NY on November 26, 2016:

Very nostalgic look at our past. I grew up here in the 1960's. We have come a long way since then. I miss the innocence of that time period. Thanks for a trip down memory lane.

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