Nostalgia for the 1930s

Nostalgia for the 1930s as seen from 1962 - why the decade of the Great Depression being viewed wistfully was baffling to most.

Nostalgia for the 1930s
Nostalgia for the 1930s as seen from 1962 – why the decade of the Great Depression being viewed wistfully seemed baffling to most.

Nostalgia For The 1930s – Open Mind Program – January 31, 1962 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Feeling a sense of nostalgia for a decade other than the one you are currently in is a pretty common feeling. Usually the decade in question is often the one a person came of age in – the period of time that creates an imprint on you, the lasting impression. Listening to this program, an episode of The Open Mind from January 31, 1962, and the panel, which consisted of, among others, musician Benny Goodman, artist Ben Shahn and New York Congressman Hamilton Fish,  all individuals who did not come of age in the 1930s. In fact, they represented the ones who created that lasting impression on those born a decade later; who came of age during the 1930s. So naturally, their question would be “it was a pretty rotten decade, what’s to be so nostalgic about it?”.

Fact of the matter was, the period of 1930-1939 was rather dismal; you had The Great Depression, the rise of Nazism and Fascism, The Civil War in Spain, The Japanese invasion of China, The Munich Crisis – all events which spelled fear, turmoil and unease in the world. But if you were a kid; turning say, 10 in 1930, it would be a great time to be alive for you – because you have no frame of reference to judge otherwise, and because you were a kid,  you lived very much in the now.

So the ones feeling a pang of nostalgia for the 1930s in 1962 were themselves coming of age in the 1930s – and the ones expressing bafflement were no doubt feeling nostalgic for the earlier decades of the 20th century, since they were born in the last gasps of the 19th. All confusing if you were someone not born in either era, or are hearing something like this for the first time. But it explains a lot – and sheds light on that universal disparity; the generation gap. It also gives some indication the lasting but selective influence Popular Culture has had on our Society for centuries.

Just remember – 30 years from now, there will be a massive wave of nostalgia for Cardi B and much of what is horrifying to those of us born during the last decades of the 20th century will seem downright quaint by then.

In the words of that mostly forgotten and largely ignored iconic figure of the early 20th century Noel Coward; “strange how potent cheap music is”.

As a reminder, here is that episode of The Open Mind, first broadcast on January 31, 1962.

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