Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Early '60s

My profuse thanks to Jaime over at Something Old, Nothing New for linking this article in the Wilson Quarterly. The early 1960s were great years for me. The author of the article says that "Today, the early 1960s seem remote: . . . ." But to me, those days are as close as yesterday. Maybe closer. I can see them in my mind's eye as clearly as I see the computer screen in front of me. They were they years in which I attended college, got my undergraduate degree, turned twenty-one, started my teaching career, got married. Here are a few of what were for me the defining moments of the time:

I attended the funeral of the last surviving veteran of the Civil War in Franklin, Texas.

On the Monday after the Beatles' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, a student in one of my English classes at Corsicana High School showed up with a completely new hair style. He'd washed his hair and dried it and then let it fall as it would.

I was talking that same class when the school secretary called me to the door to tell me that John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. (I had seen Kennedy in person a couple of years earlier when he spoke on the steps of the Texas capitol building in Austin and had inadvertently become a part of his motorcade afterward. But that's another story.)

Here's something else the author of the article says, and I couldn't agree more:
"[T]he respectably middlebrow common culture of the early 1960s is only a memory, as is the pipe dream of an America enchanted by serious literature and classical music; instead we have American mass culture, a worldwide economic powerhouse that transforms almost everything it touches. And though that mass culture is, admittedly, large and diverse—and fragmented—enough to include many bright spots, it also has staggering depths of vulgarity, is aimed (largely) at 12-year-olds, and has little regard for intelligence, seriousness, or wit. The early 1960s’ naiveté may be gone, but philistinism and ignorance thrive unashamed. In a time when many Americans appear far more eager to be coarsened than to be edified, the early 1960s look very attractive indeed."

2 comments:

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

For me, the fifties were the best decade, but they extended through 1961. The rest of the sixties were up and down. Junior high and high school pretty much sucked but the Beatles were great. The Army sucked although Nam wasn't bad, and my first year in California (1969) marked my entrance into fandom and started my writing life, such as it is. I suppose I prefer the fifties because I was a child then and I rather enjoyed my childhood. So much so that I'm still clinging to it about a half a century later.

Andy J said...

I too am often nostagic for the simpler, unhurried days of the 50s and 60s when you could expect a reasonable standard of living (and sanity), unlike today when you'll soon need to be a captain of industry just to afford a house. Life is spinning just a little too fast for me, and it's unsettling to me to think that twenty five years from now (hopefully) we'll be thinking of today as unhurried (all memories of the 50s and 60s having long since vanished). Maybe I'd better start that daily journal now!