• By Bill O'Reilly

    The death of 70-year-old Annette Funicello yesterday, a red flag to the baby boom generation. Annette gained fame at age 13 as one of the leading members of the iconic Mickey Mouse Club.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    ANNOUNCER: "Roll call."

    ANNETTE FUNICELLO: Annette.

    MOUSEKETEER ENSEMBLE: We're the Mouseketeers. We want to say hell! And give three cheers for all of you who see us every day, you're ok. So welcome to our mouse club by the way.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    O'REILLY: About 50 years after the Mickey Mouse Club debuted, it is still etched deeply in the memories of many Americans. The question tonight though is this... were we back in the 1950s and early '60s a better country, a better people than we are today? There is no question that for minority Americans things were generally awful back then. If you don't believe me read my book "Killing Kennedy" where I document that in vivid detail.

    So on the civil rights issue America is much improved today. In the economic realm, the unemployment rate averaged 4.5 percent in the 1950s, very low, even though the high school dropout rate back then was 27 percent; very high. Today only seven percent of Americans do not complete high school. Poverty rate in `59, 22 percent today is 15 percent. Per capita income $17,659, when adjusted for today's inflation 2012 per capita income $43,700.

    So you can see that Americans have more income today, but the big ticket items like homes take a lot more money. On social issues, in 1959, only five percent of American babies are born out of wedlock, five percent. And abortion very rare. Today, about 41 percent, that's a shocking turn of events. In the 1950s drug use was rare. Although the alcoholism rate is about the same as it is today.

    Another interesting category, innocence. In the `50s and `60's, premarital sex and explicit behavior even in the media was kept kind of quiet. As Annette Funicello demonstrated social interaction was kind of innocent.

    (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

    FRANKIE AVALON: Take a blanket made for two now.

    ANNETTE FUNICELLO: Add a boy and a girl.

    FRANKIE AVALON: That's the game for me and you now. Yeah, let's give it a whirl! Beach blanket bingo, beach blanket bingo beach blanket bingo, that's the name of the game.

    (END VIDEO CLIP)

    O'REILLY: They never got wet.

    Now dumb, no question. But the `50s were wholesome, especially by today's anything goes standards. American baby boomers tend to glorify their youth, we all know that, even the turbulent late `60s and early `70s. But there was a different attitude in America after World War II. Because we had won a hellacious war, white America was kind of unified and standards of behaviour were very similar. That unification made it easier for society to function. There was respect for teachers, for cops, for clerics. Now that's gone. The mantra today being, "Where is mine?"

    And that's "The Memo."

    - You can catch Bill O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" weeknights at 8 and 11 p.m. ET on the Fox News Channel and any time on foxnews.com/oreilly. Send your comments to: oreilly@foxnews.com.