Halloween is right around the corner so I thought I would talk about something that’s so scary it’ll make you fearful of the future.
About 12 or 13 years ago, while Georgette and I were at a family function with our children, one of my sisters questioned my son Harry (who was a teenager at the time), about my parenting style and what restrictions I placed upon him. As her questioning progressed, it became obvious to her that I (her brother), was a much stricter parent than she was.
In wrapping up her questioning, she said to my son: “Your dad is a 50’s dad and I’m a 90’s mom,” implying that I was stuck in a 1950’s while she, being a modern-day mother, was more in tune with the times.
When my son came home and told me about the conversation, my immediate reaction was: “What was wrong with the1950’s?!”
Although I was born in 1957, while I was growing up I was heavily influenced by what most people would consider “old-fashioned Catholics” – my parents, grandparents, and the old nuns at St. Mark’s. It was because of their influence that I didn’t “buy into” the anti-establishment drug culture of the 1960’s. Instead, I developed a great affection for the 1950’s.
So I guess my sister was right, but I think even she would agree that there was one thing about the 1950’s that was better than the 1990’s… the music.
When I was growing up, I was a big fan of Elvis Presley, The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Elvis began his career in 1954 at the age of 19, and started recording for RCA in January of 1956. In September of that same year, he made his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, where he was seen by over 55 million viewers. After that, his career skyrocketed.
Twenty years later (October, 1976), when I was a sophomore in college, a friend and I drove to Chicago to attend an Elvis concert. My friend, who was an Elvis fanatic, was extremely disappointed with Elvis’ performance. At that time, Elvis was overweight and lethargic and during his performance, he forgot the lyrics to some of the songs. My friend complained about the performance during the entire ride back to college. To me, the performance was acceptable and I was thankful that we had the opportunity to see the “King” perform. I felt that we needed to cut Elvis some slack because, after all, he was 41 years old (which to me, a 19 year old kid, was “over-the-hill”). Unfortunately, Elvis died from a drug overdose 10 months after I saw him perform, a sad ending to such a gifted performer.
When it came to bands, even though my older brothers were big fans of The Beatles, I preferred The Beach Boys. The Beach Boys formed their rock band in 1961. According to Billboard magazine, because of their record breaking sales of singles and albums, The Beach Boys were the number one selling American band of all time, which earned them the title of: “America’s Band.” Fortunately for me, I was able to attend a Beach Boys concert the year after I went to the Elvis concert.
If you’re over the age of 40, you probably remember at least one of The Beach Boys’ first four hits: Surfin’ Safari (1962), Surfin’ USA (1963), Surfer Girl (1963), and Little Deuce Coupe (1963).
The Beach Boys’ music focused on the two most important things in the lives of the boys who grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s: girls and cars (not necessarily in that order).
Here are some of the lyrics to the song, Little Deuce Coupe: “Little deuce coupe, you don’t know what I got; Just a little deuce coupe with a flat head mill; But she’ll walk a Thunderbird like she’s standin’ still; She’s ported and relieved and she’s strokin’ four; She’ll do a hundred and forty in the top end floored; She’s my little deuce coupe, you don’t know what I got.” (Click here to see The Beach Boys sing Little Deuce Coupe. Check out how the members of the audience are dressed. The girls are wearing modest clothing and you won’t see any tattoos, tongue rings, or any other type of “body art.” Sigh.)
In Little Deuce Coupe, The Beach Boys sang about a car that was popular among boys who liked fast cars and drag racing – a 1932 Ford coupe roadster (the “2” in 1932 was the “deuce”). The deuce coupe was equipped with a flathead V-8 engine that was “ported” and “relieved,” which improved air flow through the engine ports – from intake to exhaust. To enhance performance, the engine was also “stroked” and “bored,” which allowed for larger cylinders and pistons, which in turn provided more thrust and power for the pistons. The modifications to the engine allowed for greater concentrations of air and gas, which produced the power to make the deuce coupe one of the fastest “muscle cars” on the road.
When the Beach Boys burst onto the scene, there were still a lot of large Catholic families with boys, and it seemed as though at least one boy from every one of those large families was into cars. In the family I grew up in (9 boys and 8 girls), it was my oldest brother Jerry. In my Uncle Harry and Aunt Gloria LaHood’s family (8 boys and 1 girl), it was my cousin Harry. In my Uncle Tony and Aunt Doll Couri’s family (6 boys and 2 girls), it was my cousin Chuck.
My cousin Harry owned two muscle cars by the time he was 14 (he started working for wages when he was 12). By the time he was 16, he owned 4 cars, all of which were purchased with his own money. During the summer Harry and I turned 15, on several different occasions, he got our cousin Chuck (who was a year older than us and had a driver’s license) to drive one of Harry’s cars so that we could all cruise Main Street together.
Even after becoming adults, every time my cousin Harry talked to my brother Jerry, they always ended up talking about their first love… cars.
Those were great years for America. Large, strong, solid Catholic families. A powerful and confident America with an economy that was growing by leaps and bounds. Muscle cars that took advantage of the abundant supply of gasoline – the more the better – so a driver could utilize the massive horsepower that was built into the engines.
So what happened? What went wrong? What happened to our Catholic families and our country?
We lost our way. We became selfish. We became so “educated” that we got too smart for our own good (and too smart for all of those “old men” who were running the Catholic Church). The “old religion” of Catholicism was discarded like an over-used, dirty, smelly rag. Now our schools teach our children the new religion of environmentalism. And it has become a grave “sin” to drive those evil “gas guzzlers.” We’re told that we should be ashamed of ourselves and that we all “need” to start driving those new little “cracker jack” sized cars, which provide no real safety and no real power.
Our beloved church is in shambles. A shell of what it once was. The ravages of birth control, abortion, and divorce have torn it apart. The “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s was the wrong kind of revolution – a revolution that cut the heart out of Catholic families and their church.
We should be scared. We should be very scared. In fact, we should be horrified. The decline of our country is a direct result (and is in direct proportion) to the decline of the Catholic Church. If we want our country back, there’s going to have to be a renewal of the Catholic faith. I’m not talking about the watered down version that has gained acceptance over the past 50 years. I’m talking about the faith-filled church our Lord left for us at the foot of the cross.
We have a choice. Is our future going to be filled with unimaginable horrors or are enough Catholics going to “wake up” and start living and spreading the one true faith? The answer starts with you and me… in our hearts, prayers, and actions. But we better hurry. We’re running out of time.