Yesterday I took a brief vacation from 2013 and paid a visit to the late 1960s. The convergence of events led me to believe it was 1968 specifically, but it probably could have been anywhere from about 1964 to 1969. I started by finding a store that sold Schlitz beer and then sitting down with a can to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey. Later I thought I had returned to the present day but the TV at the laundromat was showing the Batman series with Adam West, and then the original Star Trek was on after that – apparently the 60s weren’t quite ready to let me go.
The 50s and 60s have always fascinated me, and not just because that was a golden era for sci-fi movies and books featuring space ships and robots. In my spare time I’ve been looking through old issues of Life magazine on Google Books. Some of the articles are interesting – it’s cool to read about events in the space race and the Cold War as they were actually happening – but what I like most are the old advertisements. Those first couple of decades after World War II are where we started to see the beginnings of what we’d consider modern life in America – TV, highways, shopping malls, car culture, processed food, high tech appliances.
Some of those things have turned out to be not so good for us, but I like trying to put myself in the shoes of someone in that era and envisioning all the promise that sleek new kitchen gadgets, big cars, agricultural chemicals, TV dinners, and countless other wonders of chemistry and technology had to offer for a country coming off of years of WWII rationing and into a new period of boundless prosperity.
The 50s and 60s had their fair share of problems – civil rights struggles, the Cold War and, later, Vietnam, just to name a few. But there are times where, if only for a day, I could drive a Studebaker around the Troy of the 60s, listen to records on my back deck while drinking Schlitz, and flip through a crisp new Life magazine full of advertisements for things like automatic dishwashers and chicken pot pie in a can that promised to make my life better in ways I couldn’t have imagined.