New Harmony: Kids today face challenges different from those of the 1950s

Published: Friday, May 16 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

As for kids today, I’m convinced the temptations and trials they face would have done in half the adults in our town, let alone the teens.

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Like many parents, I try to imagine myself at age 15, having to live with all the cultural shifts, availability of vice and ugly violence that teens today deal with, and I wonder if I’d be able to stay sane, let alone remain untainted.

Where I grew up, in 1950s Brigham City, it was easier to meet Annette Funicello than it was to sin.

Mormon Utah, in the ’50s, was tough on the devil.

He actually had to work overtime some days.

Break the Sabbath by shopping on Sunday?

Where?

There wasn’t a store open south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Buy beer?

How? From whom? Every store owner was either a bishop or knew your bishop.

Pornography?

Forget about it.

I remember a friend telling me about some guys finding an old 1950s Playboy magazine in the lilac bushes by the cemetery. He made it sound like they’d stumbled across the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

What's Playboy magazine? I asked.

Such was life in rural Utah before I-15 and television.

Sinning in 1950s Brigham City often took dedication and hard work.

I mean, in our town the telephone operator, Joyce Olsen, often refused to connect calls she felt might lead to shady relationships. She told me so.

Oh, I’m sure some teens, kids more wily and worldly, found ways to fall. But for me and probably 92 percent of my friends, most sins simply weren’t an option. And half the others we couldn’t commit because we'd never heard of them.

Such was life in rural Box Elder County.

Were we isolated in our little town?

Absolutely.

Were we insulated?

Like down parkas.

Were we naïve?

We were babes in the woods.

Do I regret that?

Not a bit.

I loved the blissful innocence of it all. And I look back on those days today with a lonesome feeling.

After all, the thing about sinning is, sooner or later, you always get a chance to catch up with other folks.

As for kids today, I’m convinced the temptations and trials they face would have done in half the adults in our town, let alone the teens.

Kids like me were lambs at play in the fields of the Lord.

And, news flash here, don’t kid yourself that those Eisenhower ’50s will ever be back. They're gone — like a cup of Ovaltine in a pool of lava.

Sorry, tea party.

Sorry, state isolationists and nabobs of nostalgia.

You're spinning your wheels.

Today, all old fuddy-duddies my age can do is try to help our grandkids get grounded so they can steer the future in a direction that doesn’t take the world off a ravine.

Remember Holden Caulfield in the J.D. Salinger novel “The Catcher in the Rye”?

He wanted to be that catcher in the rye; he wanted to stand in a field of rye where kids were playing and catch them before they fell off the cliff.

People my age don’t have what it takes to catch falling kids anymore.

Our best bet is to become coaches who help young folks turn into those catchers in the rye.

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com

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