Monday, June 10, 2013

Culture 101 (part 9) - Father Knows Best

Father Knows Best - 1957

As Father's Day is upon us, I wax nostalgic. Though Dad had passed away over 20 years ago, I have many fond memories of him.

Hello, Daddy!

In the 1950s and 1960s, my father ran a small gas station, and we lived behind it. Those days, my mother had worked part-time and often was not home when I got back from school.  It usually worked out that Dad was the first person I met when I got home.  He was always there least when I was a child.

1960s latchkey kid?

When I grew up, I was told later that I was a "latchkey kid" - though I did not know it at the time.  But as a baby boomer, I grew up in a situation in the early 1960s of two working parents that had been more the exception than the rule.

The Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers

The parents of the baby boomers - coined the Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw - had already been through the wringer - coming of age during the Great Depression and living through World War Two.  And after that, most just wanted to put that behind them and give their children a better life.  And mostly they did.

Age of Innocence

In the 1950s, two parent families seemed to be the norm - working dad, stay-at-home mom.  The children seemed to have no real serious problems that plague kids today (teen pregnancy, drugs, stalking, cyber-bullying, broken homes).  Post World War Two seemed to be more innocent days.  I can attest to that in that we had no locks on the doors of our house and never felt a need to have them.

Father Knows Best - the Pop Culture of the times

The spirit of those times was reflected in the popular culture on TV of the day, such as this gem -   Father Knows Best (1954 - 1960), as shown in the clip below:

This program, as so many others on television, showed an idyllic family life, and the message in the end that the kids can always turn to father for - Father Knows Best.  Yet, the pop culture back then didn't tell the real story and the pain behind those white picket fences.  Family life was never ideal.  Even in the 1950s.

Yet in the past, families seemed to be more together and have had more the support of the extended family.  Remember The Waltons?

What about the 2010s?

Fifty, sixty years later, it seems the two parent family is being replaced by the one parent household.  Marriage is not so clearly defined.  And if there are two parent households, more often than naught both work outside the home. And the ideal of the 1950s family - seems to be an anomaly, if not a fantasy.

Volumes could be written about this - but here are a few thought gleaned from history and literature.

Both parents worked to provide for their families

Back in the days of my grandparents, both spouses worked inside and outside the home, doing what was necessary to survive. And so had the previous generations.

In my family's case, my grandparents homesteaded and that meant my grandmother worked everyday on the ranch.   And everyday was take your child to work day because the children worked along side the parents.  So my father told me ... that and what they did without during the Great Depression.

One parent families have been around for ages

Before modern medicine, the mother often died in child birth.  And the surviving children grew up with a single dad - unless he remarried then - voila! - you have the precursor to The Brady Bunch.

Likewise, men were at risk not only from dangerous jobs (before work safety laws were in place and enforced), but also during times of war.  Thus, many wives were widowed, their children fatherless.  And, most unfortunate, some parents deserted their spouses and children - and that has not changed.

Many stories in literature have been written about the challenge of single parents.  One such is Les Miserables.   Fantine was a single mother, who  struggled to provide for her illegitimate child, Cosette.  After Fantine's death, the protagonist, Jean Valjean rescued the child from cruel guardians and raised her as his own as a single father.

A great example in real life is Audie Murphy.  His father had deserted his family, his mother died the next year.  And Audie as a teenager stepped in to take care of his siblings.  He later enlisted in the Army when he just turned 18 and fought in World War Two to become the most decorated combat soldier in American history.

The Single Dad in modern times

Single parents throughout the ages have had their challenges - but they persevered and did all right.  And they still do okay.  They are an inspiration.

In the spirit of Father's Day, this ad from MassMutual salutes the single dad, doing his best to raise his girls - who matter the most to him:

Salute to Dad!

This Father's Day, I remember my Dad, the parent I greeted first when I came home from school.  And a big salute all the Dads, who sacrifice and make a real difference in the lives of your children.

And in the eyes of your children ...

Father Knows Best!


Previous post on Father's Day:

Fathers are so important! (2010)


Previous posts in the Culture 101 series:

Culture 101 (part 1) - Reagan's Challenge (2012)

Culture 101 (part 2) - Easter Eucatastrophe (2012)

Culture 101 (part 3) - Paul Revere's Ride (2012)

Culture 101 (part 4) - Gold Diggers and the Great Depression (2012)

Culture 101 (part 5) - Blue Bloods and 9/11 (2012)

Culture 101 (part 6) - Gilligan's Island and Breast Cancer Awareness (2012)

Culture 101 (part 7) - Band of Brothers  (2013)

Culture 101 (part 8) - Snow White (2013)


 Photo from Wikipeida - Father Knows Best 1957

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