Monday, January 29, 2018


This is a fun thing people are tweeting out, and both my older sons have done it, for 1979 and 1983, to humorous effect. One was from the Muppets, the other from Star Wars.I went looking for what might be interesting from 1953 to follow suit.

Nothing from 1953 resonated with me, and I scoffed "Of course it didn't! I didn't watch those movies and TV shows or listen to those songs then. I was an infant! Now, if they had brought something out from 1959 or later I might warm up to that." Yet my two children were quite familiar with gifs from their birth year. What is the difference?

Movies and TV shows are available to the general public almost immediately now, but even in the 1980's, the world had already changed from my own childhood. You could rent or buy a movie a year or so after it had closed in the theaters.  Disney held its material out longer than most, but eventually came into alignment with what everyone else was doing. TV channels came along that were devoted to reruns, so some more popular series and episodes could be found. However, one had to wait until it came around in the rotation. And for less-popular series, they just couldn't be found. College film studies courses had libraries of old movies, but you couldn't check them out unless you were in the class, and TV stations guarded their archives closely.

One fared better with music, if one had bought the record, but if you didn't pick it up in the first year or two it became difficult to find. There were giant record stores in big cities that kept thousands of albums in stock, but you had to make a pilgrimage to such shrines if you wanted anything but the best sellers in any category. More likely, there would small sections that just said "Blues," or "Classical" at your local record store. Radio stations that played popular music only occasionally broke it up with "Good Guy GOLD" from a few years before, but even classical and easy listeners were at the mercy of their local station.

Even books. If a book went out of print you just couldn't get it without a lot of effort. You hoped your own library had it, because there was no inter-library loan or cross-membership unless you paid for it as an out-of-towner. Failing that you went to "Used and Rare," or even specialty shops. They sometimes had catalogues, or more often, knew other booksellers who might have that sort of thing because they specialised in military history or theology. 

Popular culture came and went.  It was evanescent but ephemeral. If you were trying to remember a line or a phrase, you just had to wait, or you had to ask around. I joke that search engines and Wikipedia made me obsolete, because I was always one of the go-to people that you called when you were haunted by a missing bit of fact. Yet there is a lot of truth in that. Not only did we know tidbits from a hundred forgotten lanes and cowpaths, but we tended to have similar friends, and like the booksellers, knew who might know what year the Charlotte Hornets started. We've been put out to pasture on that now, but as we are the deepest appreciators of what a luxury is the information-availability of the modern internet I'll call that a small price. I know more (in quantity) about popular culture 1953-1973 than I did while living through it.  There are nuances, placements, effects and understandings one can't capture from Youtube, but hell, I might have those wrong anyway.

So this is a gif from the year I was born.  It has absolutely no meaning for me, because it has never been part of my culture, in any year.  However, when I put a bing on this, I'm pretty sure it's from "How To Marry A Millionaire."


Texan99 said...

"Control click" gives me a drop-menu with "find image on Google." Sure enough, "How to Marry a Millionaire." Do you know, I don't think I've ever watched that movie? I probably would enjoy it.

Of course now I can just go grab it, most likely. I remember waiting every year for the one evening they would re-air "The Wizard of Oz."

BB-Idaho said...

Later in the year I was born, Pearl Harbor was bombed.
Sorry, no GIF! High culture back then was Mares eat oats and does it oats, etc.

Donna B. said...

I remember when buying a print of the front page of the NYTimes for someone's birthday was a thing. The older one was, the more of a thing it was. That's partly because old(er) people are harder to buy for.

It was my 40th birthday that my daughters drug out "over the hill" and tombstone decorations and gave me something about the headlines on that day. Apparently it's now $140 to get an 11 x 17 framed print of that day's NYTimes now, and I don't think that's what they gave me. I do remember that at least one of the headlines was about McCarthy.

Considering my age, JFK's assassination *should* be my first political memory, but it is actually of the Kennedy/Nixon debates and my parents' arguments. My younger sister thinks our parents were both full-blooded lifetime Democrats, but I remember my father's support of Nixon... and a few other actions/reactions of his when I was a teenager. I hate to admit it... I hate to say it, but it was racism that led him to become a Democrat. I acknowledge that my mother was also racist, but in a kinder, more... in her case, maternalistic way.