Welcome to Following the Whispers blog

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit. Hope you enjoy your stay. I blog here whenever I feel the need. This blog was created at the time my memoir came out, in February, 2009. Its motto was: creating a life of inner peace and self-acceptance from the depths of despair. Now, my focus is sharing this journey we call life.

“Only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth, and that is not speaking it.” Naomi Wolf

“We are called human beings, not human doings.” Wes Nisker, Buddhist teacher

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…(And) if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Musings: Thoughts on the 1960's - Part I

Thoughts  on the 1960s’
In order to have a clear perspective about the sixties, I think I have to start in the 1950’s.   I was born in 1949 so I was just a little girl during this decade. This was only four years after the allies landed in Normandy, the few survivors of the concentration camps in Europe were liberated and the war ended. I grew up seeing images of emaciated people with haunted eyes staring from behind barbed wire fences. It wouldn’t be until years later that I would get to visit an actual concentration camp, but that’s a whole other story.
Dwight D. Eisenhower became President in 1952, blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe was the sex goddess of the century, along with her equally goddess-like co-star, Jane Russell. Both women were full-bodied, buxom, luscious women with curves. It wasn’t until Twiggy appeared on the scene in 196___ that women started believing they needed to be a size 2 or smaller, or something wrong with them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the 1950s, it was rare for a woman to work outside the home. World War II brought us Rosie the Riveter, women who took mens’ places in factories while men were off fighting Nazis. But as soon as the war ended, women went back to homemaker status. Our cultural values were shaped by a newcomer in the communications industry--television. Prior to TV, radio was the most common source of family entertainment. That little black box changed so much. The most popular shows in my household were: Bonanza, The Ed Sullivan Show, Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver, the Donna Reed Show, and Father Knows Best.
During those formative years of 1 through 10, I watched stories about a mother who stayed home, wore an apron and pearls in the kitchen, had a warm, delicious meal waiting for her husband when he came home from work, served milk and cookies to her children and their friends when they got home from school, never disagreed with what the father said,  and seemed to always be agreeable.  A 1970s movie, The Stepford Wives, pretty much got it right. Women might as well have been robots. Sex was something to be endured, not enjoyed. Heaven forbid a woman should have her own thoughts or try to change things. It wasn’t only children who got the message to be seen and not heard.
So, the 1950s ideal for a woman: grow up, get married to a good provider, have a house with a white picket fence, then have children, see that they are educated and that they marry and have children so you can have grandchildren. 
Part II coming soon: Along comes the 1960s and nothing is ever the same again.


Will Burke said...

I'm too young to remember the '60's but I'm nostalgic for the optimism they represent. My mom is nostalgic for what you've described here -- she hates work, and hates the Women's Revolution more for making her go every day. She loves the Lord, but would happily strangle every Hippy who ever drew breath with a bra.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Will's comment made me chuckle! We don't have kids, but I think my wife would much rather stay home.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

It's amazing how much has changed! I grew up with such different influences in the 70s and 80s. Thanks for this look back, Karen!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My mom didn't work until after I graduated from high school, so I grew up with the goal that I never wanted a J-O-B.

L.G.Smith said...

I had a slightly different view of things growing up, as I knew my grandmother had worked since she was seventeen as a teacher and saw my mother leave for work every day as well. I watched all those old shows of mothers staying home to take care of their children and envied the make-believe families.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

To me the 60s WAS for me my decade, I met and married my husband. Had two of my three children and the music well I was spoilt for choice .


Karen Walker said...

Will,I'm all for optimism however we can get it.
Alex, it's all about choices, isn't it.
Elizabeth, that is exactly what has struck me in thinking about the 60s - how much things have changed.
Diane, my mom did work, she had to. I was a latchkey kid, coming home to an empty house every day.
L.G., I envied those families as well, but they were fantasies. I know very few people who grew up like that.
Yvonne, the music was heaven.

Suze said...

My dad has very fond memories of the '50s. He sends stories to our emails always ending with, 'the '50s, a great time to be alive.'

He was one of seven siblings and very, very poor. But my grandma, though very strict and not always a loving, patient ideal in pearls, did always have a hot meal waiting on the stove for all her hungry kids. A humble meal, but a dependable one. And my father remembers the time as among the best in his life before he was shipped off to Vietnam and came back to a country he didn't recognize. From his words, I know, for certain, he still hasn't gotten over the shock, all these decades hence.

Very, very thought-provoking series, Karen. I am looking forward to more.

Carol Kilgore said...

Like every decade, people have different experiences with events and attitudes. What's good for one, maybe isn't so much for another. The fifties were very different from the 40's and the 60's, that's for sure.

Claudia Moser said...

More more please, very fascinating read!

Karen Walker said...

Suze, no one I know who came back from Vietnam came back the same, and the country was not the same either.
Carol, so true
Claudia, I'm trying - just can't find enough time to write more.

Anonymous said...

Just have to pipe in. YOU know I'm older than you, born in 1940...Being five when the war ended, I don't remember anything about it; just got it like you did through "images." But I think we "felt" the forties, and especially the fifties. I thought the latter was a fine decade :-). We're what is now called the Silent Generation. The Cold War decade. It didn't bother me how women were portrayed. That's just the way it was. Things certainly did change in the Sixties--for good and for bad.

And oh yes, that little black box--my favorite TV show was I Love Lucy.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

Jennifer Shirk said...

One of things I notice from the 1950's and even earlier decades(although I didn't go thru it)was that it seemed that teenagers and people in their 20's seemed to be more "mature". They got married younger, started having babies younger, etc...
I can't wait to hear about the sixties. It's very interesting to see how our culture has changed and is changing.

Karen Walker said...

Ann, I'd forgotten that - the Silent Generation. The Cold War was terrifying.
Jennifer, yes, people did get married younger, but I don't necessarily think that means they were more mature. I certainly wasn't.

Nancy said...

Like Ann Best, who commented earlier, I was born in 1940 and that has always given decades special significance for me. The 40s represented my childhood, the 50s covered my teen years, and I faced the challenges of my 20s from 1960-69. I think it's great that your readers who are too young to remember the 60s are eager to hear more about that era.

Jules said...

You have me beat by 10 years so I can't wait for the 60's. There is something else that black box took away from us... our innocence. And really outside technology we still have not grown much past those decades. The names have changed but the limitations, stereotypes and prejudices still exist.

Bring on the drug filled 60's :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Karen Walker said...

Yes, Nancy, me, too, although seems like their parents are our age.
Jules, that is just so sad, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

The mind boggling changes between the cultures of the 50s, 60s, and 70s is insane, especially for women. Great blog to read, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. I can relate to what you've said - except the tv programmes .. Bonanza definitely!

I don't remember much about role models as such .. we were away at school, or home when we were running around outside or visiting grandparents .. 3 (as my mother had been married early in the war - no children.

Great review though of that time frame .. it was a rough time, harsh economics (rations for us) .. thanks Hilary

Arlee Bird said...

I was there too and know what you're talking about. I kind of feel wistful for those times. They hold some great memories for me.

Tossing It Out