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In 1961, the world was a different place.
There was no Google yet. Or Yahoo.
In 1961, the year of your birth, the top selling movie was One Hundred and One Dalmatians. People buying the popcorn in the cinema lobby had glazing eyes when looking at the poster.
Remember, that was before there were DVDs. Heck, even before there was VHS. People were indeed watching movies in the cinema, and not downloading them online. Imagine the packed seats, the laughter, the excitement, the novelty. And mostly all of that without 3D computer effects.
Do you know who won the Oscars that year? The academy award for the best movie went to West Side Story. The Oscar for best foreign movie that year went to Through a Glass Darkly. The top actor was Maximilian Schell for his role as Hans Rolfe in Judgment at Nuremberg. The top actress was Sophia Loren for her role as Cesira in Two Women. The best director? Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins for West Side Story.
In the year 1961, the time when you arrived on this planet, books were still popularly read on paper, not on digital devices. Trees were felled to get the word out. The number one US bestseller of the time was The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone. Oh, that’s many years ago. Have you read that book? Have you heard of it?
In 1961… In France, a referendum supports Charles de Gaulle’s policies on independence for Algeria. B-52 Stratofortress, with two nuclear bombs, crashes near Goldsboro, North Carolina. Musician Bob Dylan reportedly makes his way to New York City after bumming a ride in Madison, Wisconsin. Dylan is likely on his way to visit his idol Woody Guthrie. He later finds fame in the Greenwich Village protest folk music scene. President John F. Kennedy delivers his first State of the Union Address. The United States launches its first test of the Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile. Black and white £5 notes cease to be legal tender in the UK. U.S. Freedom Riders begin interstate bus rides to test the new U.S. Supreme Court integration decision. Briton George Blake is sentenced to 42 years imprisonment for spying. The Soviet submarine K-19 reactor leak occurs in the North Atlantic. The British protectorate ends in Kuwait and it becomes an emirate. The Six Flags over Texas theme park officially opens to the public.
That was the world you were born into. Since then, you and others have changed it.
The Nobel prize for Literature that year went to Ivo Andric’. The Nobel Peace prize went to Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld. The Nobel prize for physics went to Robert Hofstadter from the United States for his pioneering studies of electron scattering in atomic nuclei and for his thereby achieved discoveries concerning the structure of the nucleons. The sensation this created was big. But it didn’t stop the planets from spinning, on and on, year by year. Years in which you would grow bigger, older, smarter, and, if you were lucky, sometimes wiser. Years in which you also lost some things. Possessions got misplaced. Memories faded. Friends parted ways. The best friends, you tried to hold on. This is what counts in life, isn’t it?
The 1960s were indeed a special decade. The Swinging Sixties saw the rise of counterculture. There was recreational drug use and casual sex. Many countries gained independence from their colonial rulers. Several governments turned to the left. In Britain, the Labour Party gains power. The Vietnam War continues. The Algerian War comes to a close. In the US, Hispanics fight to end racial discrimination and socioeconomic disparity. Feminism keeps rising. Art House films make it to theaters. The Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones play their music. The US and Soviet Union come close to a military confrontation during the Cuba missile crisis. Nixon becomes US president. Man lands on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission of the United States. The first heart transplantation occurs. The first computer game, Spacewar, is created.
Do you remember the movie that was all the rage when you were 15? The Omen. Do you still remember the songs playing on the radio when you were 15? Maybe it was Don’t Go Breaking My Heart by Elton John and Kiki Dee. Were you in love? Who were you in love with, do you remember?
In 1961, 15 years earlier, a long time ago, the year when you were born, the song Tossin’ and Turnin’ by Bobby Lewis topped the US charts. Do you know the lyrics? Do you know the tune? Sing along.
I couldn’t sleep at all last night
Got to thinkin’ of you
Baby things weren’t right
Well I was tossin’ and turnin’
Turnin’ and tossin’
a-tossin’ and turnin’ all night
There’s a kid outside, shouting, playing. It doesn’t care about time. It doesn’t know about time. It shouts and it plays and thinks time is forever. You were once that kid.
When you were 9, the movie Valerie and Her Week of Wonders was playing. When you were 8, there was The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.
6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… it’s 1961. There’s TV noise coming from the second floor. Someone turned up the volume way too high. The sun is burning from above. These were different times. The show playing on TV is The Guiding Light. The sun goes down. Someone switches channels. There’s Armchair Theatre on now. That’s the world you were born in.
Progress, year after year. Do you wonder where the world is heading towards? The technology available today would have blown your mind in 1961. Do you know what was invented in the year you were born? The Optical Disc. The Cochlear Implant. Human Spaceflight.
And in the Bay of Pigs in 1961
Havana fought the playboy in the Cuban sun
For Castro is a color is a redder than red
Those Washington bullets want Castro dead
That’s from the song Washington Bullets by The Clash.
In 1961, a new character entered the world of comic books: Bat-Girl. Bang! Boom! But that’s just fiction, right? In the real world, in 1961, Eddie Murphy was born. And Heather Locklear. Barack Obama, too. And you, of course. Everyone an individual. Everyone special. Everyone taking a different path through life.
The world is a different place.
What path have you taken?