Keith Wheeler’s Wheeler’s Wisdom | OPINION

HALF of Australians think life is better today compared to 50 years ago, said The Sydney Morning Herald story in December which was about a Pew Research Centre global survey of 43,000 citizens in 38 countries.

Given a closer look, the figures tell an interesting story. While 63 per cent of Australian 18-29 year olds thought that life had improved, only 41 per cent of the 50+ bracket agreed. 

In 1967 people were honest. We didn’t need to lock our homes or cars.

Technology was primitive. There were no mobile phones, no automatic telephone exchanges outside bigger towns, no automatic dialling of trunk calls, and no internet.

Many homes like mine at that time didn’t have a phone at all.

That sometimes meant that innovative excuses had to be found to contact that pretty girl that you needed to meet. Manners were important. Once met, there was no improper behaviour. Dress neatly, greet Mum and Dad, and have her home on time. 

“The pill” was available but not commonly accepted. Most country doctors would not prescribe the pill to an unmarried girl. There was no expectation of sex before marriage. It was wait until the wedding, and the marriage was meant to last!

A naughty young lad might get a condom by asking the chemist, who sometimes had some hidden out of sight under the counter. Asking would have been an embarrassing experience.

Many older readers will remember that hilarious scene in Carry on Camping where Sid James convinces his foolish mate to go on in, and ask the chemist. When an attractive young female pharmacist comes to the counter, Sid’s mate stutters and comes out with a tube of toothpaste!

Of course “it” did happen, I suppose. A couple of my acquaintances “had to get married”, but 50 years ago it was a time of honour, responsibility, and respect. So if a young lad did “get a girl into trouble” he was expected to “do the right thing” and arrange a quick trip to the church.

One wage would support a family so there was no pressure on wives to work. Children had two parents and were trained well at home. After paying the home loan, spare money would be saved to buy new Australian-made appliances for Mum, or a holiday at the beach.

It was reasonable to expect that you would have your job for life, very likely with the same company. Australia’s economy was prosperous. Wealth extended to country towns which in those days had plenty of jobs for young school leavers.

Shops closed at lunchtime on Saturday and most businesses didn’t open at all on weekends. Night shifts were rare so everyone had evenings and weekends for socialising, sport and family activities.

Family and community were important.

Life was predictable, positive and pleasant.

We only had two television channels. There was no filth or swearing. Commercials on Wagga’s RVN2 often featured local people, and there were locally produced programs. Because we all watched the same popular shows, conversation the next day was easy!

Few people had heard of drugs. Hotel hours were quite restricted. Yes, people got drunk, but young ladies were much more discrete. Rarely was a drunk girl seen in public.

Life may have “improved”, but Australia was a wonderful place 50 years ago, even if everything moved at a much slower pace.

KEITH WHEELER

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