Have you ever felt like you were born in the wrong era? I ask this because I know I do. The place that I consider beautiful is America, but please bear with me for a second and let me explain. I’m not talking about the America built on people who are famous for just being famous or the obese population produced by Mc Donald’s, I’m not even referring to the weather (yes I’m still bitter about the excuse of a “summer” we get in Ireland). To me America isn’t beautiful anymore but back in the 1940’s – 1960’s; well that’s a completely different picture.
I hold my hand up and say this image that I fantasise about has come from sappy chick flicks such as “the Notebook” and any of Marylyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn’s collections but as a history student I believe I can back myself up with a little knowledge of this beautiful place in time. I know how lucky I am to live in a time when thinking for oneself is replaced with “sure, google it” and one’s privacy has now ceased to exist due to one tweeting about the “amazeballs” time they’re having where ever they may be .
That may sound narky and I completely agree that life has gotten much easier and technology keeps us safer (or so we like to believe) nowadays but is it all necessary? I confess I’m writing this with an iphone glued to my hand and my eyes fixed on the computer and I would lose all ability to function without them by my side but it is this dependence on technology that disgusts me about the 21st century compared to my fantasy life in this past era. Life seemed so much more simple back then.
People knew their neighbours and not only talked to them but gave a helping hand anytime they could. The world seemed like such a big place that would take forever and a day to concur and kids were happy to play in the dirt and weren’t afraid to fall and break every bone in their little bodies. However it is not just the Stepford wives picture of the perfect family that I fantasise about. This was an era of music that will live forever (well for my ears anyways). This was the time of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Elvis, B.
B King, Jerry Lee-Lewis, Johnny Cash, Doris Day, Vera Lynn, and Billie Holiday, really I could go on forever but to me these are the some of the greats. As a child I found some reassurance while watching Lilo and Stich that I wasn’t the only kid listening to Elvis while my friends were all obsessed with Destiny’s Child and Westlife. I love to image sitting in some diner with a jukebox playing and it being socially acceptable to dance. There would be no alcohol needed just the sound of these greats filling the room and the ears of all the teenagers in the place.
There were dances that everyone knew and between the radio and social outings music was a huge aspect of a teenager’s life back in this era. I also imagine what it would have been like to have gone to a drive in movie. Although the boy racers try to recreate this idea on a Friday night around Centra (minus the movie) I believe that in the 1940-60s the idea of a drive in movie was a lot more sweet and romantic. This era was a time of glamour. Women and men cared about their appearance and what the world thought about them.
Back then women would not be caught dead in a nighty with their hair undone but nowadays it is socially acceptable to stroll around in your pyjamas with your hair looking like someone dragged you through a bush (a few times). I can’t say that I make the effort for everyday life either, I like to think I’m embracing the “natural look” but there was something so elegant yet down to earth about fashion in the 1940’s-60s that I love. I adore the idea of skirts and dresses being worn every day and getting dressed up for every.
I know that between these years the fashion changed but yet it still kept its elegance. From the I don’t know why I am so drawn to this style as my usual “look” is very plain and ordinary but hey, who doesn’t fantasise about looking like Marylyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn floating into a room. It is not only women’s fashion that catches my attention but also men’s. We all know men look better in suits but the men of the 1950’s also had a certain swag about them that added to the dapper look.
This certain swag brings me on the next reason I’m in love with this beautiful place in time. The 100 euro question still remains, when did good manners drop off the face of the earth? Of course this is also influenced by the sappy chick flicks as I have never seen them first hand but I fail to believe even the most committed feminist disliking a door to be opened for her or children being respectful instead of whiney spoilt brats. This is one of the most beautiful things I imagine about this 1950s. Today people stampede around, not caring who or what they barge into.
A lot of the world population’s motto is “Everyman for himself” and not a lot of consideration goes in to the wellbeing of anyone else. Manners are not just a pleasant characteristic to possess but they make people happier, as the saying goes “if you smile the whole world smiles with you”. l don’t understand how in the light of the cold war, racial oppression and sexist ways these manners could exist yet disappear when our problems such as not having enough money to buy that third house in the Bahamas set in.
This finally brings me on to my final reason of why I consider 1950s America a beautiful place. The war had ended and it so the cold war began. However I’m not talking about the cold war between America and Russia. The radical seeds of change were planted in the late 1950s feminism and civil rights were about to make serious changes in this era. These were due to serious problems in the society and people cared enough but not only that, they had the passion to actually do something about it.
To me this is exciting and in a way a beautiful trait that we have lost. I would love to have been alive to have heard Martin Luther telling everyone about his dream or to have strut into a male dominated office and change the idea of a woman’s place in society. To conclude, I would give anything just to go back for one day to this era, however I much prefer my idea of this time to remain in my head. I know that if I was ever to travel back in time this fantasy of mine would be crushed but believe me in my head nothing could compare to this beautiful place.