The Register's “Times They Are A-Changin’” series will be taking a look back 40 years to cultural milestones in the 1960s and assessing their impact.
Nov. 22, 1963, will always be noted as the day President John F. Kennedy was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas. The following is a sampling of what else was on the scene that year.
• A massive number of baby-boomer teen-agers needed entertaining. What to do on Saturday night? No drugs, just rocking and rolling to chart-toppers such as “He's So Fine” and “My Boyfriend's Back,” and dancing the Twist and the Mashed Potato. But — move over Ronettes and Chiffons — the British invasion began in America that year with the release of 10 Beatles songs. Elvis was no longer the only object of swooning.
“Beatlemania” helped solidify music's new central character-forming role in the lives of teen-agers. The authority of the traditional parent-centered family in matters of faith and morals was headed for a shake-up.
• “The Beverly Hillbillies” was the top-rated show with “Bonanza,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Petticoat Junction” not far behind. Playing in the movie theaters was Jerry Lewis' “Nutty Professor” and “Tom Jones.” Cable, home computers and cell phones were science-fiction fodder. The new communication revolution of the year? Zip codes.
• In the world of fashion, ladylike was still definitely the way to go. (Guys still wore the basic male uniform.) The day dress was in, as were poofy hair and prom dresses. No short skirts, just A-line, please. Gloves were still worn in the evenings and for special occasions. Hats were a must, and Jacqueline Kennedy's pillbox was the rage.
Traditional female dress and roles had a tough adversary, however. Feminist revolution was taking root that year with the publication of Betty Friedan's movement-inspiring The Feminine Mystique. Friedan argued against traditional female roles — and that happiness for women would be found at the office, not with the kids at home.
• Political tensions were simmering. Especially in the South, racial conflict and the movement for civil rights for blacks was taking center stage. Just three months before the Kennedy assassination, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. Congress was working on what was to become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Racial issues were lighting a fire under a substantial realignment in the Democratic Party that would leave many Catholics and other middle-American traditional families behind. The party was becoming the political vehicle for social revolution.
• Internationally, Kennedy had just stood down the Soviets over the Cuban Missile Crisis. The threat communism posed to democracy, faith and traditional culture was very much on the minds of most Americans.
— Marjorie Dannenfelser