Saturday, November 17, 2007

Women in the fifties

I was just a tot in the fifties. But apparently, Caucasian White men were treated wonderfully during this decade. Your wife stayed at home, cleaning your house during the day, ironing your shirts, did the family shopping and chores, taking care of the kids and cooking you and yours nutritious home cooked meals.

At work you were addressed as Mr. So and so while the women at work were girls and were addressed by their first names. The women made you coffee and brought in home made streudel for you to sample.

Of course most housewives didn't have it that bad either. They stayed home. Coffee clutched with their neighbors, smoked, played cards, and watched Arthur Godfrey during the day. After the kids came home they made sure they did their homework and allowed no shenanigans.

Women were limited to women only professions. This created a supply and demand advantage for education and nursing. A principal could choose the pick of the litter from the local normal school and the town would have a dedicated, smart, hard working, non-unionized teacher for life, or at least until the sounding of wedding bells. The hospital administrators could in turn get hard working non-unionized nurses for a song. America was the envy of the world for it's schools and health care system.

Bachelor men were pampered at work and even the ugliest of them were looked up to by the ladies. His social card was filled with dinner engagements. He was considered "eligible" and was constantly being given home made baked goods by the eligible bachelorettes at the office. Keeping his waistline was a problem for a bachelor in an office setting.
After work he could pick and choose the apples off the tree. As this was before "the pill" he had to be ginger in choosing his apples as otherwise, he might have to acquire a plant for his backyard.

In the sixties everything changed. It turns out that bra burning was an urban myth. Women didn't burn their bras but various women's groups were created and demands were made for equal pay and equal rights for women. For men, life was never the same.

editor's note: to be continued.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer

I should have loved Norman Mailer. Worshiped at the feet of the co-founder of the Village Voice, and author of the Naked and the Dead. Actually his writing is not bad. One day I'll finish the Executioner's Song.
As a baby boomer, a pseudo-intellectual, and someone from the New York Metropolitan area, demographically, I should have been Norman Mailer's biggest fan. But I was too young. Norman Mailer was the god of my teachers in the English Department of Rutgers in the 70's. But not of my crowd. He would have scoffed at young men who didn't know the rules of boxing or betting at the racetrack.

He was a man's man. He was a working class intellectural. He was welcomed at the bars he frequented. He knew how to order a drink, play pool at the bar table and fight a man when he had too. He knew how to flirt with the pretty girl at the party. He was sort of the Jewish New Yorker's Ernest Hemingway. He fought Rip Torn.

The younger baby boomers couldn't always relate to him. He was your older brother or your TA's favorite writer. He had a pre-Pre Beatles sensibility and did not tranlate as well as, say, Allen Ginsberg. He was too old school.
editor's note: for a hilarious account from Jimmy Breslin on the 1969 Mailer for Mayor campaign click on Mailer segment on this page.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


The dream of the fifties for most Americans was to move from the crowded cities and buy a home in the suburbs. The GI bill, the interstate highway and developments like Levittown New York made this transformation from ethnic urban dwellers to suburban nuclear families the norm. Of course, with the sixties, baby boomers rediscovered the cities. Here they could become independent of Mom and Dad (receiving the occasional Care package) and indulge in bohemian lifestyles in older urban housing, that was in the beginning, low in rent.

As more baby boomers moved to the inner cities, Gentrification took place. Over the years, renters became homeowners and the urban fixer upper became the pet child of the baby boomer of the sixties and beyond. This Old House has its roots in this movement.

At the other extreme was the back to the land movement. Here young baby boomers flocked to join rural communes. They ate squash that they raised, made their own organic toothpaste, and lived like modern day Shakers, but with sex. Wavy Gravy's Hog Farm is an example of a hippie commune.
The young person in 1969 faced a number of choices. He could move to a commune, move to the city and live on the streets, or take the path of least resistance and go to college.

Most of us took the path of least resistance with the acknowledgement that we were simply passing through the academic world on our way somewhere else. We liked to think our final destinations was an ashram in India or a carpenter shop in New Hope. Yeah, right.

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