An average day in the average life of the average American – March 26, 1958. Sixty years ago – the dim-distant past. If you were there, you’ve been around the block a few times. If you weren’t – if you missed it by “that” much or weren’t even born in that century, listening to this slice of life from March 26, 1958 will seem downright strange and a little unsettling to you.
First, there is almost nothing going on today to compare it to. Technology is different – we no longer listen to the radio as we once did – music is unbelievably different – people wore different clothes – said different things – feared different fears.
One thing that hasn’t changed is Nuclear War, or the threat of it. In 1958 we were knee-deep in a Cold War – the Russians were the enemy – the Chinese were too, but that’s changed. We were motivated by fear then – we’re motivated by fear now. We were reasonably complacent – the American dream was attainable – it’s not now. We were naive then – we’re cynical now, but mostly still naive. We believed in magic then – we believe in magical thinking now. Rock n’ Roll was new then – we sample Exotica and Bachelor Pad now. TV Dinners were new then – Microwave is a given now.
In the hour that this sample runs – this nightly radio program called Nightline (not to be confused with the Ted Koppel TV Nightline) takes a look at the world on a specific night – sampling comedy, news and even a Presidential Press Conference that went on earlier in the day. It was delivered in an hour – back when “Going Places and Doing Things” was a virtue and was repeated five nights a week. This was what most people listened to before Rock n’ Roll dominated the airwaves. Rock was what kids were listening to – the adults were still in charge and The Four Lads were the be-all/end-all. At least for the next few years.
But one thing stands out – an interview; random questions to several passersby. The question for this evening was “Is the Past Better Or is It Better Now?” The overwhelming majority said the past was awful – there was no such thing as “the good old days” that all we really had was the future.
True then – true now.
But a little time travel never hurt anybody – so buckle up and leave your preconceived notions on the dining room table. They’ll still be there when you get back.