I am engulfed by the 1960s. Not only am I thinking and writing about the 60s, but the culture is awash with nostalgia of the 60s. I am reminded of the 60s each time I venture into Seattle, the home of the Space Needle – one of the more easily recognizable icons from period.
Network and Cable TV, as well as the internet, air the original shows from that time period. You can watch I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, Get Smart, Bonanza – all available from somewhere. Currently produced show such as Vegas and Mad Men lift the vinyl table-cloth on the seedier side of life in that period. And there’s always a market for the movies and books on the Kennedy Family. I imagine that should we live thru the Mayan “end of the world’, the 1960s will, at some point, be referred to as the Kennedy Period.
I suppose it stands to reason that all this 60s interest is prevalent because the period is now 50 years behind us in history.
Adults from that period are dead or dying. Larry Hagman’s obituary was just recently in the paper (Yes, I read the paper on newsprint.) Before he was the powerful patriarch of Dallas, Mr. Hagman was the astronaut with his very own beautiful genie. Some adults have written their memoirs. In his book In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Viet Nam, Robert MacNamara attempts to examine and explain his architectural role in the Viet Nam War. Janet Groth’s memoir The Receptionist, recounts her 20 years answering phones at the New York Times. While Neil Armstrong did not catalog his astronautical experience, he did leave his footprint on the moon for us to ponder and contemplate. I am writing my own remembrances of that period.
Those of us who lived during that period, adult or child, powerful, quietly influential, or seemingly invisible, we have our own takes on this period of time. There is no one Truth about this time; but there is truth – each of our experiences contributes a prism to the chandelier of understanding that reflects the reality and known history of the 1960s. What is missing in the telling of these tales is the truth that is not told.
Currently the media is hyping the BBC’s production of Downton Abbey. I, too, love this show – the dresses, the table settings, the opulence, the maids, the flowers. The Edwardian Period is remote enough for me to be aware of the inequalities of the upstairs-downstairs parties without having to be overly concerned about living with its ramifications and realities. I can enjoy the gossip, the romance, the beautiful scenes. And the seedier side is hidden under the cover of the silver soup tureen. And aside from one bathtub scene, no one – neither servant nor master EVER needs to find a water closet to relieve him or herself. I have to give this one to the current 60s drama, Mad Men. One character does use the toilet on-screen. Fortunately, her big poofy crinoline and shirtwaist skirt covers everything quite nicely.
With the distance of time, we are easily led to think that Downton or Mad Men might reflect Truth about the period. Some truth, some interpretation, surely. But not Truth. There are very few still living who remember the realities of the Edwardian period who might correct our misconstrual. I have found myself wishing to have experienced life at Downton. My daughter, just 30, considers the 60s, with their own fashions and glamour, in a similar light and would love to have experienced that life. I have my doubts about that.
The 1960s are not romantic to me. Nostalgia paints the pictures we wish to remember, not the experiences we wish to forget. It is somewhat similar two phrases I learned in my 1960s childhood: “Never speak ill of the dead” and “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” For those of us who lived during the time, reality exists more truthfully in that which is not said.
It’s interesting to consider that someday someone might think our present days a romantic era in which to live. They may attempt to explicate life in the 20-teens in a media presentation. I wonder what they will not say.