Remember Hopalong Cassidy on 1950s black-and-white TV?
Remember Hopalong Cassidy's Creed?
Hopalong was in the news this week, A press release from the University of Wyoming noted that the archives at the American Heritage Center contain hundreds of items from the mythic cowboy's career in TV, radio and movies: LP records, photos, scripts, personal memorabilia, copies of the creed and all of the rest.
Wholesomeness was crucial. Hopalong was the “epitome of gallantry and fair play” and his creed reflected that. Honesty, cleanliness, respect for parents, love of country, etc. All great things. We recited the creed along with our TV cowboy hero -- and meant it. If you've lost your copy of the creed, get a copy at Hoppy's web site.
The 1950s were filled with creeds, oaths and pledges for us Boomer kids.
I was a Catholic, too. That meant memorizing the Ten Commandments and various prayers, including the Hail Mary, the Prayer to Saint Francis and the Apostles' Creed. The liturgy still was in Latin, but the nuns and priests and parents had mercy on us and let us memorize prayers in the vernacular. The Apostles' Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost....
We always said "Holy Ghost" back then instead of "Holy Spirit." I still like saying it. Holy Ghost!
I was a Cub Scout, too. At meetings held at our den mother's house, we recited the oath before launching into various crappy crafts activities. We always wanted to go outside, play tag, shoot BB guns at squirrels, throw snowballs at cars and engage in other healthy outdoor activities. We did like the snacks. They were all-American 1950s snacks. Hostess Twinkees, Snoballs, homemade chocolate chip cookies, Kool-Aid, fat-rich milk, and all the rest. No carrot sticks, apple slices or chia-infused organic juices for us. This was the beginning of the plaque build-up in my coronary arteries. Thanks a lot, Mrs. Lemon.
At school, we recited The Pledge of Allegiance every morning, hand over our hearts.
We were good kids. We meant what we said.
To borrow a few lines from Catch-22 (remember Major Major?): When adults told us to look before we leapt, we looked and then leapt. When they said don't take candy from strangers, we didn't take any candy from strangers -- unless it was chocolate. When they said don't take any wooden nickels, I didn't take any wooden nickels.
It was only later, in the 1960s, when we learned that those creeds and oaths and pledges could not protect us from some things. Heartache, for one. No known creed protects against a broken heart. There may be a "I Will Never Love Anyone" creed but I never heard it. I've heard plenty of friends say they were never going to fall in love again. I've said it. Next thing you know, that friend is up to his eyeballs in love and there's not a thing to be done for it. Love stinks, hell yeah, but it's also a drug. Go figure.
We pledged out troth to institutions: The Church, Boy Scouts, U.S.A. They all betrayed us. The worst betrayal came at the hands of our government. It tried to send all of us to Southeast Asia to get killed for a lie. We know that now, and most of us suspected it then. Problem is, it seemed as if we would betray all of our institutions if we didn't do our duty and go to war. All those creeds and oaths and pledges! I didn't go, but that was only through the luck of the draw and strange circumstances. Some of my peers felt it was their duty to fight communism in Vietnam, to help stop the dominoes from falling. They had pledged loyalty to their government and now their government told them it was time to fulfill that pledge. We all took another oath, even us ROTC types, that said we would defend the constitution of the United States, so help us God.
God help us.
It's a long time gone, as the song says. But some of us still remember what it was like to feel betrayed. It caused some of my pals to take a hard right and blame the gubment for all of their ills. I don't blame them, really. I'm a liberal, though, one of those people who tend to put their faith in institutions. But that faith comes with a skeptical eye. Being a Boomer during Vietnam should have left us all with a bit of skepticism. The war was a lie and the draft lottery was rigged. Our elders would tell us anything to sway us to their righteous cause. Can't really blame then, either, as they had made their own pledges, fought in the war, and been rewarded with peace and prosperity. Why were their children such ingrates?
Generations bang up against each other, sometimes in violent ways. At this moment, we are undoubtedly betraying our children and grandchildren. Some conservatives still bemoan the loose morals of their Boomer peers, blaming all of our present ills on those darn sixties. We lefties tend to regret the scourges of pollution and global warming. Sorry, kids, but you'll be underwater by 2200, maybe sooner. Not in Wyoming, but here in Cheyenne we'll have all of those coastal immigrants to worry about. Wonder if we'll be putting up a fence to keep out fleeing Californians and Carolinians?
If only we could come up with a pledge to save us from ourselves.