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THE DECADE OF THE SIXTIES

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          FACTS about this Decade

  • Population 177,830,000
  • Unemployment 3,852,000
  • National Debt 286.3 Billion    
  • Average Salary $4,743
  • Teacher's Salary $5,174
  • Minimum Wage $1.00
  • Life Expectancy 66 years/Men 73 years/Women
  • Auto deaths 21.3 per 100,000
  • An estimated 850,000 "war baby" freshmen
    enter college; emergency living quarters are
    set up in dorm lounges, hotels and trailer camps.
     

    The sixties were the age of youth, as 70 million children from the post-war baby boom became teenagers and young adults.  The movement away from the conservative fifties continued and eventually resulted in revolutionary ways of thinking and real change in the cultural fabric of American life.  No longer content to be images of the generation ahead of them, young people wanted change. The changes affected education, values, lifestyles, laws, and entertainment.  Many of the revolutionary ideas which began in the sixties are continuing to evolve today. 
     During the sixties, college campuses became centers of debate and scenes of protest more than ever before.  Great numbers (statistics)  of young adults, baby boomers, reaching military draft age (selective service) and not yet voting age (minimum voting age did not become 18 until 1971), caused a struggle which played out on many campuses as the country became more involved  (timeline) in the Vietnam War.
     In 1966, James S. Coleman   commissioned by the government, published Equality of Educational Opportunity, a landmark study that led the way to forced integration and bussing in the 1970's.
     Problems in secondary schools, discovered in the fifties, were being addressed in books such as James B. Conant's The American High School Today.  A return to the teaching of basic thinking skills was seen to be part of the solution.  In grade schools across the nation, phonetics made a come back as reading specialists try to fix what was wrong in American education in the fifties.
     Youth predominated the culture of the 1960's.  The post World War II Baby Boom had created 70 million teenagers for the sixties, and these youth swayed the fashion, the fads and the politics of the decade. California surfers took to skateboards as a way to stay fit out of season, and by 1963, the fad had spread across the country.   Barbie dolls, introduced by Mattel in 1959, became a huge success in the sixties, so much so that rival toy manufacturer Hasbro came up with G. I. Joe, 12 inches tall and the first action figure for boys.  Another doll, the troll or Dammit doll (named for it's creator, Joseph Dam) was a good luck symbol for all ages.   Slot cars overtook toy trains in popularity.
     The 1960's began with crew cuts on men and bouffant hairstyles on women.  Men's casual shirts were often plaid and buttoned down the front, while knee-length dresses were required wear for women in most public places.  By mid-decade, miniskirts or hot pants, often worn with go-go boots, were revealing legs, bodywear was revealing curves, and women's hair was either very short or long and lanky.  Men's hair became longer and wider, with beards and moustaches. Men's wear had a renaissance.  Bright colors, double-breasted sports jackets, polyester pants suits with Nehru jackets, and turtlenecks were in vogue.  By the end of the decade, ties, when worn, were up to 5" wide, patterned even when worn with stripes.  Women wore peasant skirts or granny dresses and chunky shoes.  Unisex dressing was popular, featuring bell bottomed jeans, love beads, and embellished t-shirts.  Clothing was as likely to be purchased at surplus stores as boutiques.  Blacks of both genders wore their hair in an afro.
     The Civil Rights movement made great changes in society in the 1960's.  The movement began peacefully, with Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael leading sit-ins and peaceful protests, joined by whites and Jews. Malcolm X preached black superiority, and by the end of the decade the Black Panthers were advocating black separatism, violence and anti-semitism.  The term "blacks" became socially acceptable, replacing "Negroes."  The number of Hispanic Americans tripled during the decade and became recognized as an oppressed minority.  Cesar Chavez organized Hispanics in the United Farm Workers AssociationAmerican Indians, facing unemployment rates of 50% and a life expectancy only two-thirds that of whites, began to assert themselves in the courts and in violent protests.  The Presidential Commission of the Status of Women (1963) presented disturbing facts about women's place in our society.   Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinham(National Organization of Women) questioning unequal treatment of women, giving birth to Women's Lib, and discovered the "glass ceiling." The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was amended to include gender.  The birth control pill became widely available and abortion for cause was legalized in Colorado in 1967.  In 1967, both abortion and artificial insemination became legal in some states.
     The Supreme Court decided in 1962 that prayer in the public schools was unconstitutional.  As the 1960's progressed, many young people turned from mainstream Protestant religions to mystic eastern religions such as Transcendental Meditation(Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) or Zen Buddhism.  Respect for authority declined among the youth, and crime rates soared to nine times the rate of the 1950's.  Marijuana use soared.  Respected figures such as Timothy Leary encouraged the use of LSD as a mind-opening drug.  The hippie movement endorsed drugs, rock music, mystic religions and sexual freedom.  They opposed violence.  The Woodstock Festival at which 400,000 young people gathered in a spirit of love and sharing, represents the pinnacle of the hippie movement.  Many hippies moved to Haight Ashbury in San Francisco, East Village in New York City, or lived in communes.
     When Fidel Castro, soon after overtaking Cuba, declared that he was a communist, the United States broke off diplomatic relations.  Castro seized American property.  The CIA attacked Cuba in an ill-fated mission at the Bay of Pigs.  In 1962, a spy plane identified long range missiles in Cuba.  President John F. Kennedy readied troops to invade Cuba, and the Soviet Union prepared to fire at US cities if we made a move.
     John F. Kennedy was young and charismatic, and his brief reign as president was known as Camelot.  He was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. His Vice President, Lyndon B. Johnson became president, and was reelected the following year.  To prevent communist North Vietnam from overtaking South Vietnam, the United States sent military advisors and then soldiers.  It was largely a secret war until 1965, when massive troop buildups were ordered to put an end to the conflict.  The draft was accelerated and anti-war sentiment grew in the US.  College students organized anti-war protests, draft dodgers fled to Canada, and many soldiers reflected the growing disrespect for authority, shooting their officers rather than follow orders.  Johnson, blamed by many for the war and the racial unrest in the country, did not run for reelection in 1968.  John Kennedy's brother, Robert campaigned for the nomination for President and he, too was killed. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 and Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.
     The Space Race, begun by the Soviets in 1957, was highlighted by Alan Shepherd, the first American in space in 1961.  In 1963, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth.  Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in Apollo XI, were the first men to walk on the moon in 1969.  The surgeon general determined that smoking was a health hazard, and in 1965 required cigarette manufacturers to place warnings on all packages and in all ads.  The first clone of a vertebrate, a South African tree frog, was produced in 1967.  Dr. Denton Cooley implanted the first artificial heart in a human, and it kept the patient alive for three days until a human heart could be transplanted.
     People became more concerned with their health and their environment. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring awakened the environmental movement and the Sierra Club gained a following.  Ralph Nader's book, Unsafe at any Speed, led to the consumer movement.
     In 1960, Elvis returned to the music scene from the US Army, joining the other white male vocalists at the top of the charts; Bobby Darin, Neil Sedaka, Jerry Lee Lewis, Paul Anka, Del Shannon and Frankie Avalon. America, however, was ready for a change.  The Tamla Motown Record Company came on the scene, specializing in black rhythm and blues, aided in the emergence of female groups such as Gladys Knight and the Pips, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes, and Aretha Franklin, as well as some black men, including Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and the Temptations. Bob Dylan helped bring about a folk music revival, along with Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary.  The Beach Boys began recording music that appealed to high schoolers.  The Beatles, from England, burst into popularity with innovative rock music that appealed to all ages.
     There was a major change in popular music in the mid-1960's, caused in part by the drug scene.  Acid Rock, highly amplified and improvisational, and the more mellow psychedelic rock gained prominence.  When the Beatles turned to acid rock, their audience narrowed to the young. Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead grew out of the counterculture in 1967.  The musical phenomena of the decade was Woodstock, a three day music festival that drew 400,000 hippies and featured peace, love, and happiness...and LSD.
     The modular synthesizer, developed in 1960 by Robert Moog and Donald Buchla, marked a major change in serious music.  Innovative composers were already experimenting with electroacoustic music.  Now they were able to go further with John Cage's 0'0 (Zero Silence) to be performed by anyone in anyway; Morton Subotnik's Silver Apples of the Moon; the Sonic Arts Union's Wolfman.  In 1967, Alvin Lucier, one of the co-founders of the Sonic Arts Union, created "Music for a Solo Performance," in which electrodes were attached to the performer's scalp.  His alpha waves, controlled by his concentration, resonated from loudspeakers, accompanied by occasional percussion.  Computers were used in music composition and sound synthesis, notably Max Mathews' Music 4 and Music 5.  By the end of the decade, popular music was also using synthesizers and other electronic devices.
     By 1960, Broadway productions had become prohibitively expensive for adventurous offerings, and producers resorted to musicals and works proven elsewhere.  It was a great decade for musicals, including Camelot, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Man of La Mancha, Hair,and Funny Girl.  Even Off-Broadway was feeling the economic pinch. leading to the advent of off-off-Broadway, where innovative shows and new writers could get a start.  Theater expanded outside New York City, and by 1966 for the first time, more actors were employed outside New York City than in it.  The most prestigious playwright of the sixties is Edward Albee, who wrote Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
     Musicals that proved popular on Broadway were made into movies, including Sound of Music and My Fair Lady.  After Marilyn Monroe died, Audrey Hepburn, star of My Fair Lady and Wait until Dark, was the idol of young girls.  Disney offered family entertainment in 101 Dalmatians and Pinocchio.  Movies became more political, commenting on the arms race as in Dr. Strangelove.  Sex became more explicit, and occasionally nontraditional,  as in Midnight Cowboy, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, and the Graduate.  Six James Bond Movies, including Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger, combined sex and violence and were enormously popular.  Previous taboos on sex, violence and language, were ignored, resulting in the need for a new film code.
     Radio continued to be the primary means of listening to music.  The major development was a change from primarily AM to FM  .  Radio was supplemented by American Bandstand , watched by teens from coast to coast.  They not only learned the latest music, but how to dance to it.  When Chubby Checker introduced the twist  on the show in 1961, a new craze was born, and dancing became an individual activity.  The  Mashed Potato, the Swim, the Watusi, the Monkey and the Jerk followed the Twist, mimicking their namesakes.  Each new dance often lasted for just a song or two before the next one came along.  Eventually the names and stylized mimicry ceased and the dancers just moved however they wanted.  For those who preferred watching the dancers, Go-go girls, on stages or in bird cages, danced above the crowd.
     Television offered the second prime time cartoon show,  the Flintstones , in 1960.  (The first was Rocky and his Friends in 1959.)  It appealed to both children and adults and set off a trend that included  Alvin & the Chipmunks , the Jetsons , and Mr. Magoo.  The  Andy Griffith Show  was the epitome of prime time family television, and ran for most of the decade.  The Beverly Hillbillies  heralded the rise of the sitcom.  The supernatural and science fiction blended in many of the popular shows, including  Bewitched, The Addams Family,My Favorite Martian , I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, the Outer Limits , and the Twilight Zone.

      All information on this page is from The Kingwood College Library

IF YOU ARE AN ALUMNI OF THIS DECADE AND HAVE NOT CONTRIBUTED YOUR INFO YET PLEASE CONSIDER DOING SO TODAY.  THERE ARE SO MANY OF YOUR CLASSMATES AND FRIENDS WHO WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU               ~~ COYOTE UPDATE ~~