The Political Meaning of “Those Were the Days” (from “All in the Family”)

Stephen P. Watkins
5 min readMar 8, 2021

….a half-century memorial

Written by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse — Those Were the Days lyrics copyright Sony/ATV Music Publ., LLC
  1. Boy, the way Glenn Miller played,

Songs that made the Hit Parade,

Guys like us, we had it made,

Those were the days.

2. Didn’t need no welfare state,

Everybody pulled his weight,

Gee, our old LaSalle ran great,

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.

3. People seemed to be content.

Fifty dollars paid the rent.

Freaks were in a circus tent,

Those were the days.


Take a little Sunday spin

Go to watch the Dodgers win.

Have yourself a dandy day that cost you under a fin!

4. Hair was short and skirts were long.

Kate Smith really sold a song.

I don’t know just what went wrong.

Those were the days!

It’s hard to believe, but Norman Lear’s All in the Family debuted on CBS on January 12, 1971. Outrageously funny, provocative, touching all the hot-button issues of the day, who could imagine that the show was still as relevant today as it was 50 years ago?

Historically, the specifics have changed since 1971, and what we say to describe them has changed, too. Regardless, the cultural fault lines and hot-button topics all have modern equivalents. Racial, ethnic and sexual upheaval? Check. Inflation and unemployment? Double check. Liberal/conservative rancor? And how. Terrorism and war? You better believe it, buddy. (In a 1972 episode, Archie delivered a pro-gun TV editorial that sounded eerily like actual proposals made after 9/11. The solution to skyjackings, Archie told…

Stephen P. Watkins

Top Writer in Politics. Author of “The ‘Plenty’ Book — the Answer to the Question: What Can I do to Make This a Better World?,” available on