Much Has Changed Since ‘Andy Of Mayberry Days’

By John J. Duncan Jr.

Last week I wrote about how so many things had changed since I grew up in “Andy of Mayberry Days” in the 50s and early 60s.

A few of the many examples I gave were that families ate almost all their meals at home, people wore their “Sunday best” to church, and no high school students had their own cars.

In those days most homes were not air-conditioned, and people sat on their porches after supper and watched children catch lightning bugs or play games outside.

My Dad once said (half-seriously, half-jokingly) that the problems of the country grew worse when they stopped putting front porches on houses.

Families have grown much smaller while the average home size has gone way up. This is one factor in what a researcher called an “epidemic of loneliness.” One doctor has written a new book saying loneliness is now a major cause of serious illness.

This great decrease in person-to-person human contact – people talking to each other – has been caused in part by video games, personal computers, iPads and 200 channels on cable television.

Most homes did not even have a television until the mid to late 50s, and then there were only two or three channels, and people had to actually get up and walk a few steps to change the channel.

Pickup trucks had no extras or luxuries, usually not even a radio or heater, and they were used only by real farmers. It was a common sight to see children riding safely in the truck bed.

Gasoline was 33 cents a gallon for regular and 37 cents for “Hi-Test” and even cheaper from independent or lesser-known brands. Sometimes there were gas “wars” and gas as low as 19 cents a gallon.

Baseball was the “national pastime” and pro-football and basketball were minor in comparison. The World Series was played during the day and was huge.

When I was in the seventh grade, I snuck a transistor radio into study hall to listen to part of a World Series game. Mr. Knisley, the largest teacher at our school, came rushing toward me with an angry look on his face, and I thought I was done for. Then he said in a gruff voice, “What’s the score?”

Chewing gum in school was a serious offense in those days, and marijuana and especially harder drugs were unheard of at Holston where I went from the seventh through the twelfth grades.

Costs explode on anything the federal government subsidizes because there are not enough pressures or incentives to hold down costs and/or to operate efficiently. This is especially true of medical costs and college expenses.

Newsweek had an article in August of 2021 about a medical professor who showed his students the bill from his hospital birth in December of 1955. This was a hospital in Kansas, and the charges were $27 for room, board, and nursing services; $15 for the delivery room; $6 for infant care; and $11.95 for drugs and medicine for a total hospital bill of $59.95 for three days.

The federal government can take what is a minor problem for a few and turn it into a major problem for everyone. Total medical costs were less than 5% of the GDP in 1960, five years before Medicare. Now medical costs are almost 20% of our GDP.

Tuition and fees were $90 a quarter when I started at UT in the fall of 1965, and students could work part-time and pay all their expenses. Almost no one got out with student loan debt.

I read an article a few years ago entitled “Student Loan Slaves,” and student loan debts now total $1.5 TRILLION. President Biden wants the taxpayers to now pay these debts.

Some things have gotten much better. Serious illnesses like polio and tuberculosis have just about been wiped out, and leukemia – a death sentence in the 50s and 60s – now has a 95% cure rate.

Smoking has gone from being suave and sophisticated to being done only by less educated, lower-income people. Many millions have quit smoking, but I have never understood why liberals think smoking tobacco is bad, but smoking marijuana is good.

In almost every scientific and technical way, things have gotten better, but in most personal and moral ways, things have gotten worse since prayer and Bible reading were taken out of public schools.

People living in the 50s would not have believed that a football coach in 2023 would have had to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to get approval to lead his players in a voluntary prayer at mid-field after a game.