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The 60’s: The Age of Innocence… Guess Again!

Updated on May 6, 2017

The American Dream?

For the first few years of the 1960s, life was indeed innocent for the common person. The American Dream of owning a house with a white picket fence, having two kids playing in the yard, and having a job that allowed substantial income for necessities and time for family was definitely present. Kids had birthday parties, high school dances were sock hops and closely monitored by chaperones, and the big event in rural areas was the annual county fair and parade.

There were drive-in restaurants where your food would be brought to your car. Hamburgers were a quarter, Pork Tenderloins 65 cents, and milkshakes 60 cents. There were also drive-in movies (that gave lovers a place to enjoy something more than the movies) for $1.50 a car. If you weren’t old enough to go to the drive-in movies by yourself, the Saturday double feature matinee would cost 25 cents to get into, with popcorn costing a dime, candy bars a nickel, and cokes 15 cents.

Gas was 27.9 cents a gallon, oil changes with air filters five dollars, and cigarettes were 29 cents a pack for regulars, and 32 cents a pack for 100’s. A box of cherry Stag cigars with the plastic tips was 69 cents.

Events That Changed Us

Ike was out and President Kennedy had taken office and the country thought the first Catholic President could work out well. Of course, the Bay Of Pigs incident and civil rights speeches quickly changed that opinion. Lee Harvey Oswald was blamed for shooting the President in Dallas, and was quickly shot by Jack Ruby. Innocence was starting its departure.

Martin Luther King was bringing about change and discontent for racists with demonstrations and marches throughout the South. Malcom X was doing his part to discredit MLK and pull blacks over to his religious beliefs. Both ended up dying at the hands of murderers before their missions in life were complete as the 60’s continued their loss of innocence.

Vietnam was claiming more and more of America’s children as time went by. Most were from rural America and the slums, dying either because they thought it honorable to fight, or, because they had no money to go to college and get a deferment so they were drafted. As the bombing increased and tales of civilians being butchered were made public, society continued to change. And, President Johnson felt it necessary to show us a scar from a medical operation.

The respect for one’s elders began to wane as common sense told them to stop being naïve and think for themselves. The length of one’s hair, the style of dress, and the symbols worn separated the pro-war from the anti-war activists. When four died at Kent State, killed at the hands of National Guardsmen that were ordered to shoot upon the unarmed, innocence was slapped in the face and knocked even further out of the picture.

Country Joe & The Fish "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die-Rag"

Oh, kids still rode bikes. The Sting Ray, with its high rise handlebars, smaller wheels and banana seat proved to be the menace of many a kid attempting to pop wheelies while traveling at high rates of speed.

Family television shows had broadened out from Roy Rogers, My Friend Flicka, Sky King, and My Little Margie to the comedic Batman and Laugh In, the special effects loaded Lost In Space and Land of the Giants, the spy filled Man From U.N.C.L.E. , Secret Agent, and I Spy, and the variety shows of Ed Sullivan and The Smothers Brothers (later cancelled because of its political statements and anti-war sentiments).

The Beatles wanted to hold your hand, the Rolling Stones couldn't get no satisfaction, and The Troggs had singing hearts provided by Wild Thing. Music,also, reflected the changing times with songs of protest from Bob Dylan, CS&N, Mason Profit, and many others. Drugs became another way to experience the times and the electronic music of the day. Pot was the drug of choice, but speed, acid and downers quickly made their way into the culture. Mind expansion was the key and the Summer of Love the result. Groups like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane, as well as, artists including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, rode the drug train with acid rock masterpieces.

Movies got more extreme in both violence and semi nudity. The James Bond movies displayed action and sexuality as enticements, The Wild Bunch was the first adults only western because of violence, and Easy Rider gave us drug smuggling and using, love making, and violence as a lesson of life. And no one can forget the classic Valley of the Dolls, that showcased Sharon Tate (later murdered by followers of Charles Manson).

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young "Ohio"

Hopes of new beginnings were shattered when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Also, George Wallace was shot while campaigning, causing only a few tears to be shed after his activities of Gov. of Alabama. Richard M. Nixon became the new President and hopes of peace dwindled amidst the masses. Tricky Dick would prove to be the enemy of the peace movement for several years to come.

As kids, the comic section reading was first, but the front pages continued to provide news that stopped the laughter. The death tolls from Vietnam were headline news. Richard Speck (killing eight nurses in Chicago) and Charles Whitman (shooting from the University of Texas Tower killing 14 and injuring numerous others) proved there were real monsters in our world. And, late in the decade, perhaps the most notorious criminal of the century, Charles Manson, directed his followers to two nights of merciless killing in California and gave everyone nightmares.

We knew that in school, we were safe from the outside world. Basketball games were held in gyms filled to capacity with screaming fans. Football games were our greatest concern of injury. Teenagers pushed limits of handholding, hugging and kissing in the high school hallways. Yet, what awaited us after school was somewhat disheartening and different than what we’d been led to believe. Again, innocence was leaving us as we aged with the times.

You needed to be "groovy to be with it in the in crowd", where it was "cool to be a freak." Also, it was "outasite to be far out". “The government is filled with crooks”, “The police are pigs”, and “Don’t trust anyone over the age of thirty” were our cries of anguish. “Live for Today”, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”, and “Man made alcohol and God made marijuana, who do you trust” were our statements of hope!

Man on the moon and Woodstock were tied for the greatest event of the decade. One displayed man’s greatest technical achievement and the other the ability of the youth of the day to show the world that thousands could get together and practice the Peace, Love, Dove that they preached. As Three Dog Night would later sing, "Joy To The World".

Steppenwolf "Draft Resister"

An Afterthought

Each person that lived in the 60’s will have their own memories of both the good and bad times they experienced. And, not a soul that truly remembers this time in the life of America can forget the rules and lessons learned from these times.

1) Belief in government, or those motivated by political or monetary goals were and are not to be trusted. This is a lesson more of us need to remember in today’s world. The common man is only a tool to be utilized to achieve greatness in the eyes of those that do not know what being common is like.

2) All men are created equal. This doesn’t mean that one group is superior to another, nor does it mean that one owes the other anything. It means we have all been given the ability to succeed if we use what we were born with...intelligence and common sense. Those that expect something for nothing, feel as though they are owed because of trials and tribulations endured by past generations, or those that feel they are superior because of financial status need to take a second look at themselves and change their attitude. Love your brother and we’re all brothers.

3) We can change the thought pattern of society if we all stick together and utilize common sense. We don’t need groups like the Weathermen, S.L.A., or others that utilize violence as extreme measures. It’s simply a matter of making our voices heard loud enough and in enough communication avenues that they can no longer be ignored.

Those were three lessons learned over fifty years ago that need reviving today.

No one can deny the changes that took place in the 60’s began the loss of innocence of America. Maybe it was because we opened our eyes and saw what was taking place and refused to accept it as the inevitable.

“Fool me once, shame on you,

Fool me twice, shame on me”

©Copyright RCRUMPLE2012. All Rights Reserved.

Mason Proffit "Two Hangmen" (One of the overlooked GREAT Protest Songs)


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    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 

      4 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I was only a babe ( turning 13 in 1969). And I moved from Louisiana to Los Angeles in 1966 (talk about culture shock.) It was a time of change, for sure.

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky


      Everyone always talks about how great life was in the 60's. Well, it was and it wasn't. It was more family oriented and simple, but there was a lot of things occurring that the media was able to present to us in television that previous generations had not been able to witness. Perhaps, ignorance is bliss, as it seems the more we know about our government and time, the less satisfied we become. Again, thanks for your comments and kindness. Greatly appreciated!

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      europewalker -

      So good to meet you!

      Our school wouldn't allow vending machine privileges until the high school years or I would have joined you, for sure! Walter was a stable in my home too, but my stays with grandparents brought the Huntley Brinkley Report into the picture. Death tolls were never pleasing, especially when you knew some of your friends were included.

      Thanks for commenting! Peace, my friend!

    • europewalker profile image


      6 years ago

      Great read. Brought back lots of memories. I sure miss the 27 cent gas and drive-in movies. I didn't like the school lunch so I would buy Hostess cupcakes and a coke for 25 cents. During dinner our tv was on the evening news with Walter Cronkite, it was sad to see the daily death toll of our soldiers. Well done rcrumple, peace:)

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Alecia -

      Thanks so much for reading!

      The 60's were the beginning of the end. Never in our history had so many leaders been shot or killed. Kennedy was the most shocking because he was the first of the decade. Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy all followed in death. Violence had reared it's ugly head and grabbed a foothold, that, unfortunately spread far and wide. Civil Rights, Vietnam, the battle in cultural mores, it all began here. Scary, but really quite true.

      Appreciate you commenting. Many Thanks!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      6 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I feel like I got a comprehensive glimpse into the 1960s. My parents were young and they've said a lot of the same things. JFK dying for them was like 9/11 for my generation- it's like a turning point where everything went from simple innocence to concerned awareness.

      This was a really interesting hub and I enjoyed reading it.

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Stephanie -

      Good to see you!

      I couldn't agree more. Perhaps, that is why so many were shocked. Prior, all evil seemed to take place on foreign shores. All of a sudden, the U.S. seemed to be the hotbed of unwanted action.

      I appreciate your comments and compliments. Many Thanks!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      I was a young adult in the '60s, and the memories you stirred with your article are all too clear. I think that the '50s and early '60s were innocent times, and that is why the events like the Kennedy shootings and Kent State were all the more shocking. It definitely was a time of high emotion and turbulence, and you've captured the feel and flavor of the decade.

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      Thomas -

      Good to see you, sir!

      I was in class the day he was shot (just to eliminate all doubt) and remember the teacher going to the door to be told the news. She then relayed the info to the class. Most of the girls broke down crying. Not involved in the political nature of things in elementary school, I sat back in wonderment of how this could create such emotion. Actually, I still do. I guess I'm the cold hearted person my wife has stated during heated discussions in the past.

      I'm glad you stopped by. Not one of my comedy hubs, but, I do try to be versatile.

      Many Thanks!

    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      6 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      Excellent look at those turbulent times. I was born one month to the day after President Kennedy was shot (Therefore I do have an alibi but I can't speak to mom's whereabouts) and so the 70s were more my stomping grounds. Needless to say...innocence was long gone by that time!



    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      I'm currently working for peanuts. Where's Ringling Brothers when you need them?

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Then elephants we are! It could be worse. I guess. Maybe not. ;)

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      They say an elephant never forgets! lol

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Haha! Good memory Gemini!! :)

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Kentucky

      I'm gonna say it was the day the world was graced with the presence of a future great one! (you told me the month and day of your birthday a couple of days ago, lol) Thanks Loads for the compliment! Much Appreciated!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      A blast from the past! Awesome hub Rich! 6/25/63 is my favorite day from the 60's. Can you guess why? :)

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Kentucky

      Thank you for your comments and insight! As the Brotherhood Of Man once sang, "United We Stand, Divided We Fall". Appreciate your comments!

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 

      7 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      An excellent telling of the flow of life and meaning in the sixties. Your recap of the most important lessons is right on - and is reason for both hope and despair now. May we come together, right now, to make love, not war.

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Kentucky

      Many thanks! I still remember being sprawled out on the living room floor and reading about it. I was mesmerized by the attrocities he demonstrated and amazed that one could survive by hiding under a bed. I remember clearly the picture of him and his tattoo "Born to raise hell". So sad. Thanks for the comments!

    • sweethearts2 profile image


      7 years ago from Northwest Indiana

      Absolutely, lessons learned that need to be relearned and taught. Liked your style of writing. This was my time of growing up I could relate to all of the above, especially Richard Speck as one of the girls was a classmate and Girl Scout companion. Voted up and useful, interesting.

    • rcrumple profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Kentucky

      Many thanks for your comment! Hopefully, we've learned from them. Again, I appreciate it!

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      7 years ago from Canada

      A well written recap of the highlights and significant events of the 1960s rcrumple. Regards, snakeslane


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