Memories of (not-so-great) years past

Overbearing, cussing dads and tired, put-upon moms were a hallmark of the ’60s, writes Joe Banks. Thankfully, he says, weíve come a long way since then – except when it comes to fashion.

dads-corner-banks-may2014They say that everything old becomes new again. If that’s true, the eyeglass industry is right on schedule. They’ve either hit a wall in new design, or they are unable to overcome the cultural tsunami known as Mad Men that has made chunky eyeglasses somehow cool.

But don’t take my word for it. I have copies of my mom’s eight-millimetre home movies to prove it is all folly. We laugh at them every time there’s a family viewing; not because we’re merrily walking down memory lane, but because of the now-comical fashions and the haircuts.

There’s old Jack from across the street doing a jig at our living room at the 1966 Christmas party, orange shirt and yellow tie — not so bad if it weren’t for the checked brown suit and matching cigarette pants.

His horn rims perch precariously from his nose, making poor Jack look as if he’s sporting one of those plastic joke store Groucho masks.

And there’s dear Margaret with a butt in her mouth and smeared greasy bright red lipstick, toasting the camera with a stubby brand of Labatt 50. Her pointy glasses are adorned with sparkling fins not unlike an Elvis-style ’59 Cadillac. (I remember Margaret with terror. She’d try and smooch my brothers and I during every visit, prompting us to flee in fear, in case one of those outriggers would take an eye out in the process).

Is this what we’ve come to, here in the future? Repeating the fashion errors of the past with such blind abandon that we’re in danger of being our adult kids’ source of laughter in 30 or 40 years?

There are signs. I’m fairly regularly asked by my students, barely out of their teens, what that decade was like. They have this Woodstock-fueled idea of flower power, peace, love and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

I tell them they’re way better off now, in this, their own time. And that growing up in a typical southern Ontario town was a life of dreary blandness governed by the 9-to-5 clock, to be followed by a predictable supper of boiled potatoes, canned corn and fried hamburger. Oh, and five TV channels, three of which were American.

Overbearing, cussing dads who extolled the virtues of short hair and working midnights were the norm on our street. Moms were constantly tired, put-upon and confined their private dreams of a career and travel to themselves or to the street coffee circle. Their night out would be a trip to the school staff room for the monthly parent-teacher committee meeting.

But the fashions were the worst. In the latter half of the decade, pants sported patterns that looked as though they were inspired by cottage mattresses. I see paisley-patterned shirts are making a comeback among some of my students.

To anyone who loves it, all I can say is there’s a reason the fashion industry abandoned it 50 years ago. Clearly, it has not rested in peace.

The era actually sucked. Everybody smoked, and chided people who didn’t. Cars had steel dashboards when seatbelts were considered an expensive option. And girls were second-class kids who were taught to confine their ambitions to nursing or home-making.

And everybody had an aunt who could put out your eye with a pointy rim.

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