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The Swinging Sixties, Who Remembers Them?

Updated on June 18, 2015

Notable from the Decade

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Aftermath of CamilleDr Barnyard and the first heart recipient in 1967 (who only lived for 18 days)perhaps the iconic photo of the Sixties, the BeatlesMe arriving in Oz on the HimalayaMauresmo and wife, Silvie...still don't know who is dad!The political battle of the Decade, JFK and R. NixonThe Vietnam war was unpopular word wide and was indeed a great tragedy
Aftermath of Camille
Aftermath of Camille
Dr Barnyard and the first heart recipient in 1967 (who only lived for 18 days)
Dr Barnyard and the first heart recipient in 1967 (who only lived for 18 days)
perhaps the iconic photo of the Sixties, the Beatles
perhaps the iconic photo of the Sixties, the Beatles
Me arriving in Oz on the Himalaya
Me arriving in Oz on the Himalaya
Mauresmo and wife, Silvie...still don't know who is dad!
Mauresmo and wife, Silvie...still don't know who is dad!
The political battle of the Decade, JFK and R. Nixon
The political battle of the Decade, JFK and R. Nixon
The Vietnam war was unpopular word wide and was indeed a great tragedy
The Vietnam war was unpopular word wide and was indeed a great tragedy

!960 to 1969 a fascinating time

The 1960's were a long time ago. I mean, you would have to be at least 60 today to even remember them. And even at 60-years-old, in 2015 you would have only been five years old when the 60's arrived, hardly mature enough to enjoy what the period offered, at least at the beginning.

This gnarly old word-smith is 76 this year, so in 1960, maths 101 would enable you to calculate I was 21 when the Sixties arrived, perhaps the perfect age to embrace what has been perceived as “swinging” and a time of free love: anything goes; “soft” drugs and pleasurable decadence. As I was just out of the navy, I was somewhat world-wise – or thought I was – and had just begun to fulfil my desire for “sex 'n' rock 'n' roll!

Of course, those of us actually there in 1960 and on, we had no idea we were actually in a swinging period; that girls were apparently bestowing their favours on all and sundry; that we could be pot smoking hippies like the chaps over the pond in Greenwich Village. In fact, most young people of my age in Britain seemed more concerned with what they were going to do to earn a crust and keep the wolf from the door, along with other handy adages.

But what there was back then was opportunity, denied to all but the wealthy in the Third Millennium, by 2015. You could buy a decent house in the UK for £3000 (about $12000 then). The same pad in 2015 would set you back about half a million dollars!

Emigration and immigration was not the worry (apart from deciding how to spell the words) it would be shortly. Administrations in the huge, far away countries were begging Europe's young to come out and become citizens of the New World, and thousands took up the offer. Australia, for example, offered free return passage to British youths to come and work in Oz for two years. In 1965 I was one of the Brits. who had had enough of Europe's weather and iffy prospects, (and the draconian laws of entitlement by birth) and departed on the liner, S.S. Himalaya, to Sydney. But I bought my own ticket, not liking the ideas of having to surrender my passport for two years, and the fare was only £200 (about $400 back then) for 30 hedonistic days at sea with all found. A huge loss today are all the great ships then making passage cheaply over the seven seas; today's cruise ships are expensive and are not point-to-point passage makers, and airports and airline flights at tourist level are nothing but dreary torture.

I stayed in Oz right up to the end of the decade and in 1969 left for the USA.

Life in Australia didn't change much in the 1960's. It was always pretty free and easy, but mostly drug-free and decent under clear skies and what seemed like permanent sunshine. Aussies are the most open and honest of people and tolerated the wave of pimply British arrivals as long as they didn't “whinge” (complain and 'bitch) or find fault with Australia. They called us “Pommies” and to be a “Whingeing Pom” was the worst condemnation a UK immigrant, albeit temporary, could acquire. In fact, many of those with the two-year toe in Aussie waters, stayed on after the complimentary visit, or returned to the UK, missed the sunshine and cold beer, and headed back to Oz in a hurry! Not so today, very hard to get there to live. (I stayed for eight years incidently).

By the end of the decade, I was in the US and then Mexico, both, for me, sort of on par with Oz in terms of 'desirability, and I had really discovered drugs, rock and roll and booze big time.

Back in the UK, the Sixties meant “Mods and Rockers,” and later, “Skin Heads.” It was the decade of Elvis, the Beach Boys and Bill Haley; much of Britain's youth culture was adopted across the pond and even more found its way from the US to Britain, as in the music scene when Europe's rock bands aped the Detroit sound, and deep south country music, adding a more ferocious beat. The Rolling Stones took much softer US music and added the bump and grind, powering the 'Stones front-man, Jagger into becoming the world's leading sex symbol, a position, wrinkled and stringy, he clings onto today, aided by a string of nubile younger dishwater blonde wives.

That musical phenomena, the Beatles, nasal Liverpool accents and all, took the world music scene by storm, and they became multi-millionaires in short order, their often beautiful and usually original rock ballads still being played today. (The assassination of John Lennon in the 1980's was mourned world wide and associated with thousands of suicides by fans who couldn't “Live in a world without Love,”).

Of course, several large volumes would be needed to record all that went on in this hectic decade, even in the US and the UK. Most of us have heard about – and some of us lived through – the hedonism of the period. But how many remember, apart from Vietnam, all the minor wars and conflicts as well as natural disasters?

The Vietnam war began with the US sending 500 advisers there in 1961; often the sad opening gambit for more modern conflicts. By 1966, there were 500,000 troops battling the awful conditions and the stubborn North Vietnamese.

After years or trying, Nixon finally achieved the Oval Office in 1968; his old adversary, JFK, long under the sod after the Dallas horror in 1963.

The 1961 infamous Bay of Pigs scare in Cuba nearly involved the world in a nuclear holocaust. 1961 was also the year East Germany (read Russia) decided to revengefully part German into West and East, erecting the hated Berlin wall, which would last until 1992.

Meanwhile, Portugal was fighting in many African states; In 1965, the Indian/Pakistan conflict flared and was never really resolved to the satisfaction of all parties; the result has been Pakistan becoming a hotbed of jihad sympathizers and India emerging as the world's most populous land, many wealthy as Croesus, yet unable to support its billion poor.

By 1967, Nigeria was involved in bitter civil war; the Northern Irish were bombing one another as well as the hated British, the situation carrying on until an uneasy peace, which has just been won.

Not to be outdone, homosexuals were now to be known as “Gays,”* (see footnote) and began vociferously demanding their “Rights.” The success they finally obtained is obvious today as countries all over the world allow them to marry and adopt children. (I was bewildered to see a self- confessed lesbian, Amelie Mauresmo, now the coach of top 5 tennis player, Murray, is now pregnant. The father's name has not been disclosed).

Talking of starting things with a bang, as it were, France manufactured and tested its first atom bomb. In 1964, China followed suit and both are now proud owners of the H-bomb; if that horror is ever used I am sure it will spell the beginning of the end for man on this planet.

The decade also had its full share of natural disasters, such as the earthquake in Valdivia, Chile, which reached an unbelievable 9.5 on the Richter scale, killed 6000, and is still the largest such event ever recorded by a country mile.

Environmentalists were impelled to take up cudgels when the Cuya Hoga River in Ohio caught fire due to oil and chemical pollutants. This led to the formation of FEPA and rather cleaner rivers.

In 1969, Hurricane Camille became the windiest monster to ever strike land around Mississippi, with wind speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour and the resulting loss of life (around 300) and damage.

Not to be outdone, there were seven fatal air crashes killing more than 1000 passengers and crew, etc.

By the end of the decade, girls had been on “The Pill” since 1960, abortions became commonly legal, and unwanted pregnancies should have been a thing of the past despite 100 million chemical contraceptive users by 2015. Unfortunately, evolution dictated otherwise and this is a huge problem in our times.

Of course, all these events and many more are recorded online in sites like Wiki, etc., and to give more details herein wouldn't make sense.

If anyone wants to comment on this article, please tell me what were their outstanding memories – or those of their parents – from the 'Sixties. Mine was getting on the ship to Australia, a place I never should have left!

* Dating back to the 12th Century, “Gay” has been a word in English, originating in the French “Gai,” I believe, meaning light, bright and happy, full of life, etc., but even back then and onwards it began to take on the connotations of which would finally see the word usurped completely by the homosexual community to describe them and their lifestyles. Gay today means one thing only. Gay was a nice descriptive word once, much used by poets. All is not lost, the abstraction, Gaiety, is still used as it once was to mean celebratory merriment. And I must admit, it is a much nicer word than others previously used to describe gays.


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    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks, sujaya


    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 

      3 years ago

      enjoyed the Hub

    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Yes, BR, I've heard that old chestnut, but the drugs were mainly weed and a few whites (amphetamines) coke, crack and heroin (here) etc., came much later.

      I never smoked much weed because I hate smoking so much, I did get on coke for a while in the states in the 1980's, including buying in Colombia, but have been drug free for years. Even booze, which was mu downfall for 30 years is but a memory now. Good to see you back


    • BobbiRant profile image


      3 years ago from New York

      Great article. But, isn't it said: "If you remember the 60's you really didn't live them? LOL due to all the extensive drug use I suppose they may have been a blur. Thoroughly enjoyed this article a lot. Keep up the great work my Friend.

    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from UK and Mexico Well, apart from a few dumb Micks!

    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Yeah: All those fun years without the threat of terrorism. We were spoiled weren't we?

      Thanks for visit


    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Even though I was born in 1957, I remember the Cuban Missile Crises(we had to be alert to hearing "air raid," so we could crawl under our school desks with our arms over our heads. What good would THAT have done. I also remember the assassination of President Kennedy and how we went home from school. The biggest thing, I think, was the arrival of The Beatles in America.

    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Thanks Will. Those days are sure long ago...I don't recognize the bloke looking in my bathroom mirror every day!

      I think the beauty of the sixties was the innocence that went along with the decadence. After this, the violence and drug world took over.



    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi OP:

      I did have a few frenetic years in the UK before going to Oz, but I was never into the drugs/music scene and discovered booze a bit later (as a 30-year drunk).

      We may have had similar lives.


    • diogenes profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Misty: I have always felt ambivalent about abortion. It's women's business and the individual's needs really.

      I know all about Texas!

      Hope all is well with you...

      Bob x

    • WillStarr profile image


      4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I'm three years your junior, Bob, so the 60's my most memorable period. It was the decade that saw America shift from Leave it to Beaver to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. When it began, our rockets were all blowing up on the launch pad. When it ended, we had been to the Moon and back...twice. When it began, most mom's worked at home. When it ended, such mom's were in the minority and scorned as Suzie Homemakers while workplace affairs, divorces, and out-of-wedlock marriages soared. It was quite a decade.

      Super Hub from a superior wordsmith.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 

      4 years ago

      Bob - I got out of the Army in 1962 after spending 3 fun filled years in Germany. I got back to the US with money in my pocket, no need to find a job immediately, and set about enjoying what the 60's had to offer and enjoyed life to the max.

      Thinking back on my lifestyle in the 60's, I'm rather amazed I am still enjoying life even today. Those who missed living in the 60's will never know what they missed.

      Great to see you still writing.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      4 years ago from North Texas

      A bit of a walk down memory lane for you, Bobby. Abortion isn't so readily available nowadays here in the states as you might like to believe. Laws are slowly encroaching on it. Here in Texas new laws will force most abortion clinics to close leaving only a half dozen or so at most around the state. By the same token, many employers are refusing to pay for birth control pills through health insurance saying it's against their religious beliefs, yet they happily provide Cialis and the like for men.

      I heard some of the drugs from the "sexy sixties" weren't so soft. LSD was actually legal until October 1966, and even then it was only illegal in California. The other states followed suit and by sometime in 1967 all states had banned LSD.

      Some of the drugs, like cocaine that used to be an ingredient in Coca Cola, as well as LSD, were readily available from one's local drug store long before the 60s.

      Agree that it's too bad the word 'gay' has been comandeered. A lot of words are being taken over for meanings they never had before. Junk, for instance. I wish they would invent new words for their purposes because I liked the old ones as they were.

      Good to see you around again, Bobby. Take care . . . x


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