The Sixties in Rearview
In 1960 I was in my third year in college. It was a quiet time in America. The Korean War was behind us and several of my classmates were getting their education on the GI Bill. They seemed older and wiser, somehow.
The Sixties turned out to be anything but quiet. Russia put Berlin under siege and they tried to put nuclear tipped rockets into Cuba. John and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated while trying to lead our country. We got into another war in Vietnam. National Guard troops fired on students at an Ohio university. Police beat up protesters in Chicago with sticks. Young men defected to Canada to avoid the draft. A street intersection, Haight/Ashbury, in San Francisco became a symbol of free love and defiance. Citizens in the Watts suburb of Los Angeles burned their own neighborhood to the ground in protest. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Young people all over America were burning their draft cards and bras and smoking pot in the streets. Young people staged a rock festival and “love in” at Woodstock in New York State. Many of the younger generation were in full revolt.
Many teenagers of the Sixties were products of a generation of parents who grew up during the Depression and World War II and were determined that their children would have a better life. As a result, their children expected to live their lives as they pleased. What they got was hard work in low paying jobs and demands for discipline at the universities. They were harassed by police and chastised by their elders. Their entry into the world was a shock they were totally unprepared for.
The turmoil of the Sixties changed America. Kids of the Sixties became part of the fabric of America. Many of them grew up to be our leaders. They shaped our education system. They ran, and many still run, our industries and our government. Some became the leaders who reshaped our national defense into the strongest, most efficient force in the world. They occupy our rest homes and our retirement communities, and more and more of them are passing.
In 1969 I was back at my alma mater getting an education on the GI Bill, older and much wiser.