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All in the Family… “THOSE WERE THE DAYS!”

Culture | October 3, 2017

Source: Getty Images

Television sitcom, All in the Family, was one of those shows that premiered in the early 1970’s intended to relate to “real,” and current social issues. Prior to its first airing in 1971, the television industry was best known for broadcasting programs that portrayed families who were the epidemy of everything that was wholesome and perfect. Instead of the family coming to the dinner table with clean hands, good manners and pleasant things to discuss, the Bunkers “let it all hang out!”

The Bunker family, who lived in Queens, NY, consisted of, husband/father, Archie (Carroll O’Connor), wife/mother, Edith (Jean Stapleton) and one daughter, Gloria (Sally Struthers). Archie was a white, working-class bigot who couldn’t see past the end of his own nose. He was extremely self-centered and if anyone disagreed with him, he was skeptical about their credibility and/or intentions. Edith was a doting wife who was ever mindful that her one and only role in life was to please her husband. Gloria was kind hearted like her mother but stubborn like her father.  

In Archie’s mind, all was well. Enter, Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner), who was the posterchild for the 1960’s counterculture movement. He was a staunch liberal and fun-loving, Polish-American hippie with no tolerance for authority. He challenged everything that Archie knew was good and right! Gloria and Mike fell in love, married and proceeded to continuously torture Archie with their progressive thinking. Mike refused to be boxed into the traditional, socially acceptable role that was expected of him. Because he was a full-time college student, he lacked the earning capacity to provide for himself and his wife, so they lived with Archie and Edith for years to save money. Gloria was the main breadwinner of the couple and that didn’t go over well with Archie. To add insult to injury, Archie was supporting a man who stood for everything he despised, which was another source of contention for him. Not only was Mike, who he referred to as either, Meathead and/or Pollack, a liberal thinker, influencing his one and only child, but he was also living under his roof and eating his food. Edith did her best to run interference between the two ideologies but was always just short of making it happen.  

Archie never saw Edith as his equal. She was, admittedly, naïve and he often referred to her as, “Dingbat.” However disrespectful that was, she never challenged him on it. He was the man of the house and he saw Edith as his subordinate. She was a dutiful wife and did her best to please him, although she did occasionally assert her opinion. Often Edith’s opinions were not always well received but at times they were considered; not that Archie would ever admit it.  

Despite the fact that Archie Bunker didn’t always think as much of his wife as he should have, he though less of others. He found himself living in the same neighborhood as Hispanics and African Americans, who he didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to. He eventually realized that he had to live in harmony with his neighbors but wanted to be true to himself as well. He often stuck his foot in his mouth while trying to maneuver his way around this dilemma.

Prior to the end of the series in 1979, Mike finally graduated college and became a teacher. Mike, Gloria and their son, Joey, moved into their own house, although they didn’t go far at first. They bought the house right next door to Archie and Edith, which previously belonged to George and Louise Jefferson (but that’s another story altogether). They later moved to California, after which, their marriage sadly crumbled.

Reviews of the first season of All in the Family were guarded. This was due to the nature of the topics depicted. Conventional America was on the edge of accepting (or not) racy topics that challenged conformity. The show often portrayed social issues that were previously considered controversial and/or unacceptable for public television. Despite the bumps in the road of the first season, the program became a huge hit; probably because people were ready to, “get real.” The show eventually even ranked No. 1 in the Nielson ratings for 5 years. Whether people liked the show or not, it definitely had everyone talking!

Each episode began with Archie and Edith sitting at their piano singing, “Those Were The Days,” which came to be their signature song.

Those Were The Days

Boy, the way Glenn Miller played,

Songs that made the Hit Parade,

Guys like us, we had it made

Those were the days!

And you knew who you were then

Girls were girls, and men were men

Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again

Didn't need no welfare state

Everybody pulled his weight

Gee, our old LaSalle ran great

Those were the days!

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.