More than highways have changed

Ned Cantwell

Times were simpler in 1950s New Mexico. Back then, wide ribbons of concrete didn’t connect the town dots east and west, north and south. Those were the happy days, the Fonz days. Families were different, too.
Want a dramatic illustration how life has changed from that simple era to the confusion of modern materialism?
Following are direct quotes from a recent Newsweek cover story (“She Works, He Doesn’t”) interspersed with advice for young brides printed in an actual 1950s Home Economics textbook.
Newsweek: “Laurie (Earp) has become the breadwinner. On a recent evening their son, Dylan, 5, skipped through their home … praising how well his stay-at-home dad cares for him.”
Textbook: “Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal — on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him, and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome they need.”
Newsweek: “ ‘This is not the life I wanted,’ ” says Laurie, who’s heading off to an after-dinner meeting with clients.
Textbook: “Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.”
Newsweek. “Jonathan spends his days doing housework and preparing badly-cooked dinners. ‘I hate it all,’ he says.”
Textbook: “Clear away clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.”
Newsweek: “Like several million American families, the Earps are experiencing the quiet, often painful transformation that takes place when Dad comes home with a severance package.”
Textbook: “Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces if they are small, comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.”
Newsweek: “The good news, at least for the 1.7 million unemployed men who are married, is that their wives are better equipped than any generation in history to pick up the financial slack.”
Textbook: “Minimize the noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.”
Newsweek: “Women are currently earning more college degrees and M.B.A.s than men.”
Textbook: “Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lay down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.”
More than highways have changed since the ’50s.

Ned Cantwell of Ruidoso is a retired newspaper publisher and member of the New Mexico Press Association Hall of Fame. E-mail him at:
ncantwell@charter.net