For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Growing Up In The 1950s

As the Cold War raged, the postwar economy was booming. Men went to work and women were happy homemakers who smoked, drank cocktails, raised children, and wore girdles. Working-class families aspired to move to the suburbs and have a two-car garage. Everything was hunky-dory. Meanwhile, the fear of a nuclear war was ever present: children wore dog tags around their necks and every school had 'duck and cover' air raid drills. Loyalty oaths had to be signed in workplaces and schools.

Segregation was a way of life. In The South, water fountains were clearly marked For White and For Colored. Black and white musicians on tour in the same band couldn't stay in the same hotel. Even hugely successful African American performers were subjected to these indignities.

I grew up in that 1950s lockdown on anything that deviated from the pastel norm. Fear of 'the other', that dark cloud looming over the shiny chrome of a sleek new car, ready to sully it, ruled the day. Communists were behind Negroes' demands for equality. Rhythm and blues and rock and roll were torrid and sweaty the way Pat Boone and his ilk could never be. Beat poets and James Dean were stoking rebellion and delivering angst to an eager audience. For a kid like me, who grew up hiding, knowing I came from 'the other', it was a relief to find some company on the big screen and in the streets. And those who knew in their lonely souls that something else had to be out there finally found what they were looking for and shed their pastels for indigo.

The times would soon be a-changin':

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times, they are a-changin'.


(From A Freewheelin' Time: A Memoir Of Greenwich Village In The Sixties by Suze Rotolo.)

5 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

Loved this blog. Did you see that Helen Suzman had died aged 91 in South Africa - probably, next to Nelson Mandela, the most stalwart fighter for non-segregation. The times have indeed changed since those days.

am said...

"For a kid like me, who grew up hiding . . ."

"And those who knew in their lonely souls that something else had to be out there . . ."

(Suze Rotolo)

It was heartening for me to hear Suze's clear strong voice in her writing. I treasure her book. Loved the interview with her in Martin Scorsese's film, too. No wonder that Bob Dylan was drawn to her. The older sister I wished I for.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I am disturbed by ignorance or small-mindedness in my neigbours I am tempted to put on Bob Dylan really loud

"please get outta the way if you can't lend a hand, cos the times they are a rapidly fading..."

Instead I hum it to myself and smile that a song a few decades old can still be significant.

Bella

The Solitary Walker said...

Helen Suzman RIP. You did so much.

Yes, Suze Rotolo - her voice clear & strong. She writes well.

Bella, that is indeed a timeless song.

Anonymous said...

Oh, at the risk of being pedantic, my previous post did confuse slightly the wording of the Bob Dylan song. Sorry to myself and other Bob fans!