That’s the year I heard the gravel crunch in the driveway of our Pennsylvania farm as my parents drove me and a few worldly possessions to Eastern Mennonite College.
Today I’m suddenly curious about the world I lived in then and alert to the many other windows to the past currently online. Today I’ll share two visitations from the past that struck me this week.
The 1964 Worlds’ Fair
Two years earlier New York City had hosted a world’s fair full of optimism for the future (to listen to the fascinating Planet Money program, click the link).
The makers of the 1964 world’s fair envisioned themselves as working on a project of historic significance. They tried to see past the twentieth century to project the kind of world we live in today. They saw undersea hotels, but were more entranced by Selectric typewriters than by computers. They overlooked the major social issues about to sweep the country — Civil Rights and the Vietnam War. It was a Jetson view of the future based on a Pat Boone image of the present.
Pat Boone: Icon for an “Anglo-Saxon Jew”
Sue William Silverman, one of my writing teachers at the Bear River Writers Workshop a few years ago, has written a fabulous memoir that unfortunately still sits on the table next to my bed. But I know I’ll read it because of this blog post and this quotation from The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew (American Lives):
Even though I’m now an adult, Pat Boone still reminds me of those innocent all-American teenage summers at Palisades Park, Bermuda shorts and girls in shirtwaist dresses, corner drugstores, pearly nail polish, prom corsages, rain-scented lilacs, chenille bedspreads and chiffon scarves, jukebox rock and roll spilling across humid evenings…. He is Ivory soap, grape popsicles, screened porches at the Jersey shore, bathing suits hung to dry, the smell of must and mildew tempered by sun and salt. He is a boardwalk Ferris wheel, its spinning lights filling dark spaces between stars. He remains all the things that, as you age, you miss—the memory of this past smelling sweeter than honeysuckle on the Fourth of July….
These vivid images from the 1960s dazzled me, too. They were part of the “glittering world” I wanted to learn more about when I went to college. I was curious about a lot more than these things, but I had not escaped their influence.
When I finally read this book, will I feel like an Anglo-Saxon Swiss-German Mennonite? Stay tuned. I’ll report back.
Were the mid-1960’s a time of innocence and optimism for you? Do they “smell sweeter than honeysuckle on the Fourth of July” now? Did they as you lived them? Do tell!