A boomer asks, Are the Good Old Days back?

The “good old days.” We boomers can wax nostalgic and for good reason. But Don Caplan of Canada’s Vancouver Island, and part of The Eighth Stage, sees both good and bad in those good old days.

What do the book “Secret Formula” (a history of Coca-Cola), a brochure about 1950, the 2016 Canadian Auto Show, and the U.S. presidential campaign have in common? Stay with me for a few words while I explain here.

Don Caplan

Don Caplan

Frederick Allen’s book about Coca-Cola is a fascinating read for a baby-boomer like me. It brought back memories of riding my bike to the old “variety” stores in Montreal in the 50s. (Those were the days when 7-11 was a gambling term, not a convenience store). Most storefronts and awnings were adorned with the iconic script of Coca-Cola. Upon entering the creaking screen door, there would be a red “ice-box” emblazoned with that same script in bright white. More than a fond memory, this is a reminder of a simpler, more optimistic, less cluttered era. In those days, Coke was a soft-drink, not a social scourge.

And that 1950 brochure? I recently bought my wife a “Where Were You When?” booklet for 1950 (her birth year), which reinforced my “more than nostalgia” feeling. In flipping through it, a lingering sadness came over me— almost an envy of the many now deceased who had the opportunity to experience, as adults, the post-war boom, the mid-century design innovations (now considered “chic”), and what I perceive as a less complex life all around.

coca-cola-66It was also a time when I was glued to the (black-and-white) TV watching the 1957 “all new re-designed” Chevy ads and listening to those ubiquitous “Things go better with Coca-Cola” jingles and other such commercial representations of the time. In the 1950s (and 60s), cars were identified by their design, power, and purpose; not by connectivity and complex, expensive gadgetry. More important, the family car was a place where conversations, both serious and frivolous, occurred face-to-face without the aid of built-in baby-sitting entertainment systems.

When reading Allen’s history of Coke and looking at that 1950 brochure, I longed for more simplicity, less clutter, and more optimism. However, my longing was mitigated by the fact that this bygone era was also a time when women were used as props in most advertisements; when any, ads other than those for household goods, were directed at men. Thank goodness we’re over that. Or are we?

The all new designed 1957 Chevy.

The all new designed 1957 Chevy.

Which brings me to the Auto Show. Today, while scanning the news online, I came across an array of photos from 2016 Canadian Auto Show in Toronto (where, by the way, very few Canadian-built cars are displayed). Lo and behold, 90% of them had women in tight, short dresses with their arms out Vanna White-like, pointing to a Subaru, or a Toyota, or some other “sensible” vehicle. I’d have expected them to be more socially aware, and less chauvinistic.

My journey through the online news was further destabilized when I read about a well-known American feminist who commented that the only reason one particular presidential candidate has more young women in his camp than his rival is, “That’s where the boys are.” What???

Maybe the “good old days” never left!

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