Quick – what happened the year you were born?
This was the question I set out to answer when I started 1957 Time Capsule, a chronicle of a year in the life of a nation – the United States – and the world. What I’ve found has been a fascinating look at a time when the pace of change was accelerating, optimism predominated, and Elvis and the Beav coexisted peacefully.
Russia and the United States, however, did not coexist peacefully; the Cold War was in full swing. Tensions also existed between white Americans and African-Americans; the Civil Rights Movement polarized neighborhoods, cities, and states. Technology made great advances, but citizens and scientists worried whether our discoveries would be used to advance civilization or to destroy it. The atom had been harnessed, rockets were going up, and schoolchildren were learning to drop and cover.
Housewives used new, time-saving gadgets, television invaded living rooms, rock and roll started a “whole lot of shaking”, and Cuba was a fizzing bottle rocket soon to be aimed at the United States.
Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon, a baby girl was born to a farm-raised Army veteran of World War II and a city-bred former sorority girl, who met in Freshman English at Oregon State University. Yup, me. Welcome to my journey back. I’m discovering that 1957 was a great year.