There is a tendency for most of us to spend an inordinate amount of time longing for "the good old days." Children hear about them all the time. The good old days tested you more. There was a greater distance to walk, the weather was worse, the teachers were harder and problems were harder to solve.

All of that was good, however. It produced better, healthier, more resilient human beings. At least that is what we tell our kids. Strangely enough, it's pointless to tell them, because they see through it immediately. They don't believe any of it.Since my own kids seem incapable of walking more than 100 feet, I cannot resist giving them long dissertations about how far I walked to elementary school no matter what the weather.

Because they insist on being driven everywhere, I try to explain to them that "in my day" there was never a car around for simple transportation needs. My dad took the car to work very early in the morning, and Mom, who couldn't drive anyway, was on her own.

So we learned to ride the bus for long distances and a bicycle for shorter distances. But my kids remain unimpressed. They just smirk and make wisecracks about what a "long time ago" that actually was. "I didn't know they even HAD cars in those days, Dad!"

And they say these things without any fear at all that we will be mortally offended and refuse to drive them ANYWHERE. The sad thing is that they're right. We continue to run an exceptionally flexible taxi service to and from school, to the gym so that they can build their muscles, to the mall so that they can spend our money, to various friends' houses, to activities and to millions of other things.

And I keep longing for those good old days. The most popular good old days in the country were the 1950s. In the 1980s we have singled out the '50s for special treatment as THE outstanding decade in history. The leaders were better, the activities more fun, the fashions more interesting, the celebrities more genuine and more talented - YOU NAME IT!

So we have '50s dances, make movies about the '50s, write books about the '50s, try to pattern our lives after the '50s - all in an insanely unrealistic example of nostalgic pandering.

Actually, I was in high school in the late '50s, and my memories say that it WAS a pretty good period. High school seemed to have many more interesting activities than my own kids have now.

Eisenhower was president, and he was well accepted by members of both political parties as a hero figure from World War II. He was a very boring speaker, but he seemed like a father figure, someone you could trust, and he made no attempt to completely reform or restructure the federal system.

The biggest political joke was the "Eisenhower doll" - wind it up and it does absolutely nothing for eight years!

But the country had been subjected to depression and war and new federal programs and the aggressive and lofty leadership of Franklin Roosevelt, president for life after 1932. Harry Truman was a different figure than FDR, but his conception of government was similar, and so he was an active president.

Revisionist historians tell us that Ike was much more active than we realized, that he did things behind the scenes because he didn't need the credit for accomplishments. He was, after all, a hero.

In any case, he seemed low-key and comfortable. He reflected the spirit of the time - a need to slow down, to appreciate life for what it was. It was the '50s.

However much truth there was in that approach, the fact was that many people in those "good old days" longed for the Golden Twenties. My mother, who was in her teens in the '20s, used to tell me long stories about the more interesting, exciting times of those days. The '20s generated more exuberance than the '50s. It was a reckless, exciting time.

But there HAD to have been people then who longed for some other bygone era. Nostalgia is taking us over as we try every means possible to escape to the good old days.