I remember my first New Year of the change of a decade. It was the end of the 1950’s – December 31, 1959. We had great anticipation for 1960. Lots of hype about “Go like 60!” That was even a slogan for some advertisers. There was a hamburger place in Cincinnati called the “Sixty Second Shop” and they too tagged on to the new decade with the jingle. The 1960’s were going to be an exciting time! The 1950’s were going to be over.
Little did we know what the 1960’s were really going to be like, but when you were 9, going on 10 years old, it was really very cool time to be alive. There was a Presidential election coming up, and it looked like this young, good-looking fellow named John F. Kennedy, a Catholic Democrat, would be running for the office. My family was totally behind this guy.
Of course, he was elected in November, 1960, and he served until that fateful day- November 22, 1963. That was the real end of the 1950’s.
Much has been written about the historical effects of his assassination, and I can tell you that the impact of that act affected our country in ways we cannot really comprehend or document. It was the end of an innocent age. The 1950’s were the days of post-war America where we defined ourselves as a country. Post-war periods seem to have peculiar effects on countries. The economy, the international worldview, the desire for a new start, all combined to define an era that cannot ever be recaptured- only looked at wistfully.
The day that John F. Kennedy was slain, people of a certain age can tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. They can tell you what they were feeling, what they were thinking, and how their lives were changed. Everything changed. The world was no longer the safe predictable place we had grown up in. Yes, the Cold War had been on for years, but Kennedy had helped steer us through the Cuban missile crisis, and life was again safe and predictable. But on November 22, 1963, that all changed. That was the day the 1950’s really ended. It was the end of the “feel good”, carefree era. Technically, the 1950’s ended on December 31, 1959.
But for many of us, looking back, the 1950’s ended that terrible day in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.