Teenagers in the era of Cold War, space and potential annihillation. A period of time to which there was an entire library of books, studies and treatises dedicated. That generation which came just prior to the Baby Boomers and just at the beginnings of. That generation which were part of the American Dream and embodiment of the American nightmare, all in one combustible package. This was the Youth of America which became the standard-bearers for the Misunderstood, the Disenfranchised, the Disappointed; the ones who acted out on the fears of “any-day-now” doom and obliteration from nuclear war – the dawn of wretched excess, of endless movies and magazine articles on neglected teenagers/over-coddled teenagers, broken homes, Momism (yes, there was a segment of society which blamed all the ills of youth on the mothers of the world), the rise of mental illness, the dawn of the age of introspection, self-entitlement and just plain old hate for everything and everyone in charge.
We hadn’t really had it quite this way before. We had previous generations which were actively engaged in social rebellion. But it was regarded by many as a rite of passage and that “they’d eventually grow out of it” school of “sowing wild oats”. Not this bunch – they were growing and they were angry and they were getting tired of the status quo.
This episode of the Sunday Chat program The Open Mind, first broadcast on May 21, 1959 discusses the issue of teenagers and delinquency in the world of 1959; it’s perceived causes, it’s assumed roots and it’s possible cures.
What’s interesting, is to parallel this with radio documentaries and discussions of the late 60s, where the issue grew from “violent, malcontent teenagers” to “drug-addled, anti-establishment hippies”. Same fears, same scratching of heads.
Look at the photo at the top of this page – see those kids? Think about it – they are your older brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents. They represent youth as its always been – eager for change and impatient for it.
Just like now – just like next week – just like forever.
But to get an idea of what sort of issues the elders of 1959 were dealing with, here is that episode of The Open Mind, as it was broadcast on May 21, 1959.
A reminder that, for better or worse, we have always been just a little screwed up. And, for better or worse, we’ve survived.