Spanning Two Decade's:
The 50's to the 60's
Similar? Or Distinctly different?
"The postwar years are remembered as a time of affluence, consumerism, conformity, and stability, a time when American enjoyed an optimistic faith in progress and technology."(Heretta, pg.779) These words best describe the decade that Americas experienced in the 1950's. It was age of dad's always-right attitude and a culture that was family centered. The standard of living for American's was the best in the world. The times just looked to perfect lives were lived to privately. This private enjoyment was centered on the family, leisure, and consumerism. Soon everyone tried to become to "Leave it to Beaver" type of family and culture exploded. The explosion is what everyone considers to be the 1960's. Kids that grew up in the fifties were becoming teenagers. The pressures from their parents turned the sixties generation onto conceptual thoughts and radical behavior. This affected the ideals of politics, racial/gender discrimination, and family values. The differences between the fifties and the sixties are extremely evident but you must closely sort through the decade to find the definite similarities. The similarities and differences come in many political values, and behaviors.
What does the word "consensus" refers to? "It is the conformity to social norms, authority, and the status quo." (Henretta, pg. 790) It best refers to the decade of the 1950's, where families were attempting to escape into "old home grown" households, away from the Red Scare, and out of the corporate jungle. To do this, these families flocked to the suburban area. Early in the fifties a massive "Baby Boom" occurred. With the high birth rate the need for churches caused the ideas affluence, consumption and conformity to swell in importance. With the war in the past, the fifties generation looked towards the church. Families started to make Sundays a priority in their lives. "Church membership rose from 49 percent of the population in 1940 to 69 percent in 1960"(Henretta,792). All denominations from Catholics to Jews rose in membership. Even separation between church and state became less define when in 1956 they added "In God We Trust" to coins and "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance. One of the major use of religion was not only to reach savior but also to help deal with the stresses of everyday life. The church also instilled good values into families. This created marriages that were very stable. In turn the divorce rate was at a constant low. The Reverend Billy Graham used television and other media outlets to increase the popularity of the Evangelical religious experience. The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventisits grew in moderate numbers during this time also. "Although critics suggested that middle-class interest in religion stemmed more from conformity then spirituality, the revival nonetheless spoke to Americans' search for spiritual meaning in uncertain times"(Henretta, pg.792) The Average life span rose with better federal and local medical assistance. Parents were becoming more aware of health problems and where to go to get help. They were also socially forced to keep certain gender roles that were consistent with the media.
With religion playing an important role in the average Americans lives, consumerism began to grow in the white and blue-collar workers. Their families started to spend extra cash instead of saving it. Washing machines, dryers, and new cars became commonly bought items. The Homeowner who needed some extra cash, but couldn't work enough hours to purchase that item when he needed it, started to use personal credit. This began the craze of credit cards. "The Diner Club" introduced the first credit card in 1950: By the 1970s the ubiquitous plastic credit card had revolutionized personal and family finance"(Henretta, pg.790). The awareness of addition free time was aware to consumers and also to the market place...
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