"But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing." (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
"Suddenly It's 1960!" was the advertising slogan Chrysler Corporation used to enthusiastically promote its 1957 Plymouth automobile models. (Considering Chrysler hasn't even built Plymouth cars since 2001, I guess I need to mention that back in the late '50s, they marketed Plymouth cars to directly compete against Ford and Chevrolet cars.) In the late fifties, every auto manufacturer was trying to build cars that were longer, lower, wider, and bigger than their previous models and which gave the impression of being "ahead of their time". Thus, "Suddenly It's 1960!" was a brilliant slogan.
This piece is not about cars nor is it about marketing, however. It is about the year 1960. Recently, the "Memorable Entertainment Television" network (known as "ME TV") began showing reruns of the earliest episodes of the Fred MacMurray classic sitcom known as, "My Three Sons". Most of us have seen the "later" episodes from around 1970 which are in color and which feature the three sons as Robbie, Chip, and Ernie, with "Uncle Charlie", a crusty older guy with (what I think is) a weird hairstyle, serving as the housekeeper. The original black & white episodes of, "My Three Sons", however, have the kids as, "Mike, Robbie, and Chip", and the housekeeper as "Bub", played by (of all people) William Frawley who was Fred Mertz on "I Love Lucy".
I've caught a few of these very early episodes of "My Three Sons" from the 1960-1961 television season recently. One thing that brought back memories from way back when I was a six-year-old is that when they roll the credits at the end of the show, they feature a 1961 Chevrolet Impala and a 1961 Corvair driving on a highway. I hadn't seen or thought about that in well over fifty years, but as soon as those Chevys appeared on the screen I felt a little teary eyed as I remembered seeing those "new" cars when those shows were first shown. I guess "My Three Sons" must have been sponsored by Chevrolet in the show's early days.
That's not all that has struck me about the very early episodes of "My Three Sons." A couple of weeks ago, ME TV ran the Thanksgiving 1960 episode. Wow. If you don't think America has changed since 1960 and if you don't think America has (frankly) lost a lot of its character since 1960, watch that episode! Now, granted, some of it was what I'd call, "a little hokey". An American Indian friend of the family who insists he's a direct descendant of Squanto of the Wampanoag Indian Tribe (who befriended the Pilgrims in the 1620s) comes and spends Thanksgiving dinner with the Douglas family. If he's really a Wampanoag, I don't know why he was dressed like a Plains Indian Chief! On second thought, I think I do- because this was all "cooked up" (no pun intended on Thanksgiving dinner) by Hollywood. And, the American Indian visitor spoke just like the Ameican Indians of the "westerns" of that period; you know, saying things like: "Heap big," and "Many moons ago". Despite all of that (somewhat silly) stuff, this episode deeply moved me.
Why did it move me?
On that Thanksgiving episode, the family (including old William Frawley) all express their deep thankfulness and faith by singing, "We Gather Together". I suspect that seventy-five percent of my readers who are under age forty won't even know what "We Gather Together" is! It's a Thanksgiving hymn about God's faithful blessings despite the fact that the Pilgrims had been persecuted by, "the wicked oppressing..."
Listen, they sang the song, all verses included!
Can you imagine any of today's network sitcoms featuring a scene such as that?! The only situation comedy I can think of that might even remotely consider it is (a favorite of mine) ABC's "The Middle", but in this day and age, I very seriously doubt they'd do it. If they did, Axl would probably refuse to sing it and would make fun of it and that would be that!
I'm sure many of my readers from the political left will want to take me to task for loving that world of 1960. I'm sure they'd want to point out that women and minorities (especially groups such as African-Americans) were very badly and very disgracefully treated in those days. Listen, it's true- they were. I admit, as much as I'd take the world of 1960 or 1961 over the world of 2017 and I would, I would never want to see women and minorities discriminated against again as they were at that time. But, remember that The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who provided such desperately needed prophetic, practical, and selfless leadership in that era was not an atheist nor was he a secular humanist, nor was he a self-absorbed greedy materialist. Not at all. King was a devout Baptist Christian who lived his faith in ways that very few Christians have. His speeches were laced with Bible verses and his actions were akin to men like Moses and John the Baptist. Dr. King never acted ashamed of his faith. He was not ashamed to pray. He was not ashamed to quote Scripture. He was not ashamed to stand against evil, even if it meant he'd lose his life, and of course, he did. He rightly deserves a national holiday.
Too often in our day, men and women who stand for prayer and Scripture and God's way are mocked, ridiculed, and rejected. How sad.
Did you ever watch the film, "Thirteen Days"? That's such a powerful movie and well worth seeing. The world of October 1962 stood at the brink of an all-out nuclear war. A brief but powerful scene in that film shows people lined up to get into a church building and (presumably) get right with God. That was the world of the early 1960s. The idea of going into a church and "getting right with God" was not seen as all that crazy. In fact, I remember that in those early days of the Cold War, the United States Post Office routinely used a postmark which stamped the words, "Pray For Peace" on pieces of mail, directly over each stamp as it was postmarked. Do you suppose we could have the U.S. Postal Service do that in our day? Well, of course not! It's not politically correct! It's "too religious"! It's "too offensive"!
See what I mean?
You may think the culture and values of America of 2017 are superior to the culture and values of America of the past, but I'm glad I can at least turn on my television set and once in awhile, "Suddenly It's 1960!"