When 2020 rolled around, I realized that I was living in my ninth decade. Born in the 40s, I was one of the early baby boomers, part of the legion of post-war newborns. I don’t remember much of the 40s, because I was too young, but I remember clearly the succeeding decades. Let me take you on a trip down memory lane and share some history as I remember it.
I started school in the 50s, in a segregated first grade classroom in Georgia. The following year, however, I was in a different state when I started second grade in 1955. You might remember that this was the year after Brown v Board of Education and desegregation. Interestingly, this does didn’t seem abnormal to me since, as a six-year-old, I really hadn’t paid attention to the racial make up of my lily white class. The only previous experience I’d had with a person of color was a black lady named Katy, who looked after me when I was a three year old in Mississippi.
We school children of the 50s learned how to duck and cover, a drill that we practiced in the event of a nuclear war. The world back then was a very tense place, particularly between the Soviets and the US. Every public building displayed a sign that indicated its capacity as a fallout shelter. As children we didn’t know what what all this meant. We just made a game of it.
Other things of note in the 50s include the interstate system, built by my parents’ generation and inspired by President Eisenhower, for whom it’s named. All I can remember growing up was two lane US highways, which had really cool speed limit signs that read 60 during the day, but 55 at night. I was always fascinated by these.
This is the decade you millennials are probably most interested in. Arguably the most tumultuous decade in the 20th century, we who lived through it were both alarmed and fascinated by this era.
The 60s gave us JFK, LBJ, and Tricky Dick Nixon. But it also gave us others: John, Paul, George, and Ringo, Mick Jagger, the lovely and talented Keith Richards, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, James Brown, The Beach Boys, and the throngs of bands that comprised the British Invasion.
Speaking of the British invasion, I saw that coming first hand. I watched the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 on black-and-white live TV. Seeing all this pandemonium, replete with fainting teeny boppers on the RCA screen, one didn’t have to consult a psychic to see what was coming next.
Yes, I lived through the greatest decade of music ever. Come on. You know you agree.
Let me quickly take you year-by-year through the 60s, as I remember them.
1960 - JFK elected
1961 - Bay of Pigs fiasco
1962 - John Glenn orbited earth. I started high school. Norma Jean died.
1963 - Kennedy assassinated.
1964 - The Mop-haired Liverpudlians
1965 - Ground troops sent to Vietnam
1966 - Antiwar protests. I graduated high school.
1967 - Jimi released Experienced. My world changed in a purple haze.
1968 - LBJ announces that he won’t seek re-election. MLK assassinated. I flunked out of college and Uncle Sam snatched me up. 1 million boots on the ground in Nam, assuming everyone had two feet.
1969 - Woodstock. Abbey Road. Nixon inaugurated. The Jets won the Super Bowl, the Mets won the World Series, and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. All firsts. And I graduated from Army officer candidate school as a 2d lieutenant.
There’s not much to say about the 70s except that I went to Vietnam, music creativity took a nose dive, with maybe the exception of the Eagles and Harry Chapin, Nixon got us out of Vietnam, and also committed the greatest cover-up of any president in history with Watergate.
Three things to note: MTV, VH1, and hair bands. Plus Wham, Culture Club, and Reagan. “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” And who remembers pop up videos?
My eldest graduated college, my youngest graduated high school, and my first grandchild was born. What more is there to say? I’m sure other things happened.
The Y2K scare freaked the world.
So did Dubya.
We went to Afghanistan and Iraq.
BLM, Trump and Hillary, Occupy Wall Street, recession.
We’re still in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Who knows? More division and discord? I pray not. I’d like to be around for the 30s.