They had no pension, 401k's, or Roth IRAs. They had banks, but no FDIC insurance. The only people that could retire would be those who could find a way to bring in passive income on a regular basis. It sounds like some things never change.
If you want to retire before the age of 59.5 than you need to look at it the same way. It's more of a question of cash flow rather than assets. See my "fuck you money" singular equation for more detail.