Longing For The Red Pop Of The Past

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz,

Oh what a relief it is,

Plop, plop, fizz, fizz,

Oh what a relief it is,

Oh what a relief … it is.

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.

You ate the whole thing.

I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.

Comic books and Sunday nights,

Roller skates and yo-yos

Pony rides and snowball fights,

Climbing through the window

Remember when you were a kid?

Well part of you still is,

And that’s why we make Faygo.

Faygo remembers,

Do you, remember?

I was perusing some of the old TV commercials from the 1970s with my 17-year-old the other night. I couldn’t help but notice he kind of snickered at the innocence of our material back then. When he saw the guy come into his girlfriend’s apartment wearing Hai Karate Cologne and how he had to fend off her advances with karate moves because he smelled so good, he was rolling on the floor. “What the heck is that?” I mean hey, I admit I was using his generation’s internet to re-see all these wonderful “blasts from my past”; truly his medium, but as I gazed into yesteryear and those old faded images came on the screen I was filled with melancholy. I really miss those days when things were so much simpler.

And so as this modern world marches onto more global conflict and as our world gets smaller and smaller because of the interconnectedness of technology, I wanted to pause a minute and look back to acknowledge one very important point. That is, we baby boomers and most of the post-Depression era people still living on this planet were probably treated to the decades that displayed the best America ever had to offer and very possibly the best she ever will.

All the movie stars my parents idolized and often their parents, too, were the ones from the Golden Age of television and film. Bob Hope, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwick, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, and a whole long line of others were the kind of Hollywood stars that fascinated us with their magical lives.

Our athletes were real and touchable. They didn’t charge money for autographs or switch teams every year depending on the contract. We had hometown heroes and actually, the press did their best to help cover up their very human side to enable them to look super-human. Drinking problems, infidelity, contract disputes; those were topics the press knew about and kept within their community. Not so much a cover-up, but more a positive spin and veneer. Much like a kid who hides the fact that his dad had become unemployed; partially out of pride and partially out of the trust that dad would fight back and get on his feet again, kids of my era kept their family secrets a secret. Every single thought or comeuppance was not advertised on a Facebook-like medium. You did your dirty laundry at home.

Our presidents had a sort of halo over their heads, too, and men followed their fashion trend-setting and women did the same with the first lady. So many of our family photos show my dad looking like Jack Kennedy or Frank Sinatra and my mom wearing Jackie “O” knock offs. There are old pictures of me in tuxedos and dinner jackets and I wasn’t even 5 years old; serving as ring-bearer, door-greeter and a lot of other formal roles. Dressing your kids up helped them get used to a day when they would honor special occasions. I never see kids dressed in church or at nice restaurants anymore; sweats, T-shirts and shorts seem appropriately accepted everywhere.

And you know what else? Every buddy I had wanted to be an astronaut. There was nothing more American-heroic than that. The space program stood for everything that was good in our country and we sucked it in like oxygen. It was something we all hoped to aspire to.

Yes, there was sort of a “suspended fantasy” to our lives during that period. We saw ourselves as the privileged Americans and the things we did exemplified that. Now that we sit here with our global economy and our worldwide web, I have to wonder if the perpetual positive spin based on the fantasy was really any worse than the cold, hard, depressing realities of today.

I think the “watershed” moment was the Watergate scandal that exposed a side of our government that we could no longer pretend we didn’t see. The stark reality of it all was like being told there is no Santa Claus; you kind of always knew but were happy to pretend you didn’t. Then once everyone knows that you know, there’s no going back.

As the seventies gave way to the eighties, I was a freshman in college (high school class of 1979). What I started to see fade away were things that were once pillars of a solid home in my youth. The first loss I noticed was the homes that were being built without a front porch. It had been replaced by the highly mobile mini-van. Do you guys remember what a mainstay the front porch was in the 1960s and 70s?  When dinner was done and the dishes were soaking in the sink, mom and dad would pour a cup of coffee and retire to the front porch. The neighbors out for a walk would stop by and chat. The kids would ride their bikes up and down the sidewalks staying within mom’s sight. The guy across the street would pop over with a couple ripe tomatoes from his garden; he was so proud and so interested in sharing his talents. My sisters would practice singing songs and my dog would lie there in the cool grass without a leash and with casual indifference when other dogs walked by. There was a general feeling of being content and the walk of life had an easy gait to it. The breeze that came blowing up the sidewalk was as good as any air-conditioner that runs your electric bill up today. We didn’t know what was happening in Iraq or Afghanistan because we figured they have their problems, we have ours.

My parent’s investment portfolio had one line. It was called “paying off your house.” See, back then real estate was the no-brainer of life. You couldn’t go wrong if you owned property. Another fantasy we carried until 2007, huh?

Bottom line is this, the memories we treasure most seem to have been derived from the simplicity of living a humble life. We weren’t so careful about every decision because we trusted our integrity and we knew the “net” of friends and family wouldn’t let us fall too far. Today, we are all supposedly interconnected at a higher rate than ever before but I submit that we are further apart despite that. We don’t think like a team anymore. We think like individuals and I think it was that interdependence that made the difference; a feeling of all being in it together. That was then and like it or not, this is now.

Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.