I remember watching a news reel on my girlfriend's television--black and white, of course--of when the Beatles landed in New York City. My family didn't own a television. Some afternoons my mom let me go to my friend's apartment to watch television and "work on homework". The Beatles were subversive, disrespectful, and furthermore, they had long hair.
In case you think I'm referring to their later stages in life, you're wrong. I'm talking about when they first burst on the world stage with their trademark bowl cuts. At the time, they were wildly exotic. Their hair was quite long compared to the way all the other young men wore their hair. Nowdays we would call it a military cut, but back when I was in high school, everyone wore their hair that way. Certainly no young man would wear a hairstyle with bangs (fringe for you Aussies).
Ah yes, the arrival of the Beatles was the beginning of the great slide into the pit of excess. Shortly after their appearance, Fashion magazines started displaying pictures of Twiggy, a tall, incredibly skinny model in miniskirts. Real miniskirts that required a matching panty.
When I went to high school, all girls wore skirts, regardless of weather. I lived in Chicago and whether it was rain, snow, freezing blizzards, girls wore skirts. Knee length A-line heather skirts with a matching cardigan, knee socks and a print blouse. And a panty girdle underneath. Everyday. But after the advent of Twiggy in her barely there micro-minis, the skirt hems crept up until you were hard pressed to decide whether the girl was wearing a really short dress or a long shirt. One famous disc jockey was fired from a Chicago radio station for making a joke about skirt lengths so short they were above the water line. Unlike the shock jocks of the current day, that DJ was never heard from again.
The year after I graduated from high school, the rules were changed. The authorities capitulated when the girls' skirts were so short that they proved to be a major distraction for the male teachers, some of whom charged that some of the young ladies were omitting their underwear when they dressed in the morning.
In my day a President, a senator, a governor, and a civil rights leader were all shot in a in a shockingly short period of time. Peace demonstrations were almost a daily part of life. The National Guard was regularly called out to deal with the demonstrators. Every night on television, the body count for the war was displayed in the upper left corner of the television screen during the news. And our young men went off to fight wars in the jungles of Vietnam.
At the Democratic Convention in Chicago, rioting broke out. Eight prominent rioters were arrested and a highly publicized trial for the Chicago Eight was news fodder for both television and newspapers.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, rioting raged in the cities for days as large sections of the cities burned. Businesses were looted. My fellow workers and I were evacuated from the company where I was employed in armored buses.
When my older children were teenagers, one of them made the mistake of commenting about the dull existence their father and I must have led as teenagers and young adults. Isn't it funny how each generation believes that theirs is the most volatile and difficult? They believe that their music and clothing styles are the most innovative and creative. Their youthful rebellion is a daring new ideal.
The only thing new is the next generation and their chance to make a difference in the world. My generation gave us the nuclear bomb, space travel, hippies, personal computers and heart transplants. What will the next generation produce?