The American Culture Explosion – The Open Mind – January 1965 – NBC – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
By all accounts, America was apparently hot in the grips of a cultural explosion in 1965. People were devouring Books, Records and Art at an all-time high. Symphony concerts were selling out entire seasons in advance. Art Museums were overwhelmed with eager mavens and Publishing companies were selling books almost faster than they could print them.
So what happened? America had been notoriously passive when it came to the cultural aspects of day-to-day life. It was primarily regarded as something only the wealthy or upper echelons of American Society could afford to enjoy were interested in. And even then it was more a status symbol than actually a human experience-enhancing tool.
For one thing – the Middle Class was at the forefront of this Cultural explosion. With an increase in wages, more leisure time and the booming population and the resulting Suburbia, you could pretty much put your finger on where all the noise and consumption was coming from.
But that wasn’t it entirely. Technology was making huge strides in mass production. Paperback Books were no longer viewed with derision but rather were embraced because Art and Culture were the birthright of everyone, no matter what your means. The same with Education. America was becoming an Educated Society because school, and in particular Colleges and Universities, were now within the financial grasp of everyone who wanted to take their lives a few steps further. Education was for everyone – books were for everyone, and with posters and lithographs becoming the staple of Art on the walls of most American homes, Culture was something everyone had access to.
In this episode of the talk program Open Mind, which was broadcast sometime in January 1965, the question of America’s Culture Explosion in the 1960s was fodder for an animated and, at times heated conversation.
What’s interesting to note is how little of this explosion has continued in 2022 – but rather, how it morphed into other aspects. In 1965 there was no Internet, no personal computers. The cost of a higher education has become prohibitive for most, save the wealthy or those with the financial means to stay a minimum of four years at any College. In 1965 we were still playing records in mono, with Stereo a relatively new and limited phenomenon. The voracious reading appetite pinned on most Americans in 1965 has gone back to its roots in Europe, as reading in America is relegated to Kindle or spoken-word books or simply ignored and abandoned.
It’s hard to imagine a time when Arts, Culture and higher Education were predominant forces in our society; but they were. And the slow extinction of the Middle Class has put us just about where we were in the 1890s when Culture was an aspect of our society experienced by a few.
So to get some idea of where we were as a society in the early 1960s, this episode of Open Mind is as close in explaining what was right as well as what was wrong with us as we ever got.
1965 has been described as a pivotal year in the development of our society in America – the pivot covered much ground.
And a lot of it is coming back to haunt us.
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