Conversation: The Good Life – Mid Century – November 29, 1956 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
What constitutes The Good Life? In mid-century America it ran the gamut. In 1956 we were hot in the throes of conspicuous consumption, and the Good Life to many people meant more of everything; more leisure time, more money, more toys. To others it meant personal accomplishments and doing what you loved. There was no single definition of what the Good Life meant.
In the 59 years since this broadcast discussion, the definition has grown less clear, more muddled and harder to achieve. In what we thought would make us happy has, in fact made us more miserable. In our quest for more of everything, we are overloaded to the point of implosion with things we don’t need, and the endless drumbeat of consumption has turned us into a society seeking escape. Leisure time either means unemployment or is a foreign concept – and the cost of sustaining life on a day to day basis has become astronomically more expensive than it was in 1956.
So this discussion, part of the Conversation radio program in 1956, features Columbia University Dean of Graduate Faculties Jacques Barzin and TV, Stage and Screen personality Nancy Kelly, who was starring in the Broadway production of The Bad Seed, along with host Clifton Fadiman. The discussion begins with a look at what constituted The Good Life in ancient Greece and how it compared to life in 1956. It’s interesting to note that, in 1956 Credit Cards weren’t in general public use – not until 1958 when the concept of revolving credit came about and the first (BankAmericard) cards were issued. It’s safe to say the Good Life in the “quick-fix” sense became easier to obtain in the early 1960s, at least temporarily.
An interesting program that puts a perspective on where perceptions of value and worth in our society – and how much it’s changed by comparison – and how much it had changed, even in 1956.
Time marches on – though not necessarily in unison.
Here is that broadcast of Conversation: The Good Life, Mid-Century from November 29. 1956.