Sunday, June 05, 2005

Between the time GR submitted his first Star Trek proposal and (two pilots later) the fall of 1966 when the first episode aired, much of what would characterize the second half of the 60s was emerging.

As the decade of the 1960s began, many of the social mores of the 1950s and before held sway. Segregation and overt acts of racism were common throughout America. Though stereotypes based on ethnicity and "national origin" were fading, they were often still openly present. Women were expected to marry and be homemakers. If a woman over 21 even walked down a street alone with no department store in sight, she was in danger of being considered a "streetwalker" (a prostitute.)

Speaking of 21, that was the minimum voting and drinking age in most states. Men were eligible for the draft at 18, and required to register shortly after turning 18. There were deferements for college and graduate school but they weren't automatic; everything was up to the local draft boards, though policy was set by General Hershey, head of the Selective Service in Washington.

Men were expected to marry, buy a house in the suburbs, hold a steady job (working class, lower middle class) or do whatever was necessary to gain raises and promotions, preferably at a large corporation (middle and upper middle class.) Although sexual infidelity was not rare, divorce was. Except for a small percentage of wealthy urbanites, psychological or mental health treatment was unheard of. The sole test of sanity was holding down a job. If you couldn't, then you were crazy and fit for an institution.

It would be at least a decade before homosexuals could admit their preference without instantly endangering their jobs, a place in the community and perhaps their lives.

Some of this was changing by the mid-1960s. The sense of social and sexual liberation, and the dominance of youth culture was expressed in such phenomena as the Beatles and the British Invasion in pop music, and in fashion, Mary Quant's invention of the mini-skirt in 1964.

The Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley (which Captain Kirk would someday claim was where Mr. Spock took too much LDS) was in 1964, and together with earlier student demonstrations against the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings in San Francisco, signaled the beginning of what would be many student protests on a number of issues, not only in America but around the world.

Then in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson significantly "escalated" the Vietnam War with bombing and many more American troops, which would continue increasing for the rest of the decade. The first "teach-in" on Vietnam occurred at the University of Michigan in 1965, and quickly spread. By 1966, larger and more widespread protests had begun.

Movies and TV may leave the impression that protests were all emotion and noise. But much of the time was spent in talk, in all areas of protest but especially Vietnam. In discussions of books, of magazine and newspaper articles, of debate on political principles, moral standards and ethics, information on geopolitics and the clash of information on how the war was being conducted and why. There was plenty of emotion, but there also was a lot of logic.

The percentage of active student protestors was relatively small, especially at first, but because the Baby Boom generation was so large, their numbers were impressive. And even though many students agreed with the protestors even if they didn't protest themselves, these actions and issues caused controversy and conflict on campuses. The so-called "generation gap" was beginning between the boomers and their parents, but also within the young generation. From our generation came both the soldiers and the protestors, for the rest of the war. And our generation by and large was the first Star Trek audience.

So a little background on just what the Baby Boom was.

As the battleship Missouri was sailing for Tokyo Bay to accept the surrender of Japan in late August 1945, my parents were in church getting married. I was born the following June, when the number of births shot up significantly for the second straight month. Demographers foresaw something like this in the year after the war ended, but they didn't expect it to continue. They thought the birth rate would decline. The U.S. Census Bureau predicted the country's population would reach 163 million in the year 2000.

But it not only continued, it accelerated, until more than 4.3 million children were born in 1957. There would be around 4 million births per year until 1964, which demographers now mark as the end of the Baby Boom. The U.S. population reached 180 million in 1960.

We were the first generation to grow up with suburbia, television and the highway. Because there were so many of us, the culture seemed to change in response to us at every age. When we started school we overcrowded them, and started a national school-building trend. The consumer economy grew with us, and often because of us. And even though demographics hadn't yet come to the young medium of television, we were a prime audience.

Thanks in part to all the buying and selling these new families generated, America was more prosperous than ever in 1966. When the 1960s began, half the U.S. population was under 30 years old. By the end of the decade, half the population was under 25, with 40% younger than 18.

No comments: