1963 - The Year That Changed America
By Greg Swank
Over the years, I have shared in debates and discussions regarding the current state of affairs in the U.S., and the changing social climate of this great nation. Since the "baby-boomer" generation, society and its culture have become
noticeably different than the way it was 50 years ago.
From the late 50's to the 70's a series of events took place contributing to the way we are currently living. However, like anything else, there
has to be a starting point at which the wheels are put into motion. Sometimes it can be a single event, such as war, but more often, it is a series of events, some intentional, some planned, others unpredictable. There is always a pivotal point when things
begin to change. I believe that time was 1963.
For my generation, some of the following will certainly stir old memories. If you born later, this may serve as a brief history lesson into the times your parents
By 1963 television was the leading sources of entertainment. The public enjoyed a different type of programming back then. Lessons on life could be viewed weekly on "Leave it to Beaver" or
"My Three Sons." There were hero's back then that never drew blood, "The Lone Ranger" and "The Adventures of Superman.”
Cartoon series evolved, such as, "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons" without
messages of empowering the children, using vulgarities or demeaning parental guidance. Families could spend a weekend evening watching "Ed Sullivan," "Bonanza" or "Gunsmoke." For those who enjoyed thrill and suspense, we were blessed with "Alfred Hitchcock
Presents" and the "Twilight Zone." 'My Favorite Martian," "Ozzie and Harriet," "Donna Reed" and "Sea Hunt" also kept viewers entertained weekly.
Movie theaters were not multiplex units with 15 screens. Rather,
theaters were individual and there was one single, giant big screen with adequate sound and hard seats without springs. "Tom Jones" had won the Academy award for best picture. "How The West Was Won," "Cleopatra," "Lily of the Fields," "The Great Escape," "The
Birds," and "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" were all box office hits.
By years' end, The Beatles had played for the British Royal Family and were laying the groundwork to conquer the U.S. the following year.
Eric Clapton began his journey to fame with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Jim McCarty and their band, The Yardbirds. Out on the West Coast the surf was beginning to rock'n'roll with The Beach Boys and their first song to reach the top ten list, Surfin'
The 'Joys of Jell-O' recipes for quivering florescent foodstuff hit the stores. U.S. Postal rates went up to five cents for the first ounce. AT&T introduced touch-tone telephones. The Yankees played
in the World Series again; but lost to the Dodgers in four straight. The government and NASA began the Apollo program. This is just a brief snapshot of some of the things that were going on back in 1963. Remember?
While some of these events played an important role in the direction of change that affect us today, many of them were lost to much greater, more political events, that I believe put everything into motion.
In 1963 the news media showed women burning their bras as the women's liberation movement took off with the publishing of "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan. Martin Luther King was jailed in April and civil unrest was being
brought to the forefront. On August 28th the media brought us live coverage of the march on Washington and Dr. Kings famous "I had a dream" speech. The Cuban missile crisis found its way in to our homes and our nation was gearing up for conflict.
By September of 1963 we had lost some very influential people, Pope John XXIII, Robert Frost, and country legend Patsy Cline, to name a few. In the early hours of November 22nd we learned of the quiet passing of C.S.
Lewis and hours later we were brought to our knees when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and our nation mourned.
So you see, while long since forgotten, 1963 could very well have been, one of the
most important years since our founding fathers provided us with the Constitution of the United States. Which brings me to one final and extremely important decision that was made during this most provocative year.
On June 17, 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that any Bible reciting or prayer, in public schools, was deemed unconstitutional. While American's have endured great prosperity over the past 40 years we have also lost our moral compass and direction.
In reviewing the research, data supports 1963 as a focal point, demonstrating a downward slope in our moral and social decline through 2001.
Certainly, one would have to
agree that all of these events have had a profound impact on the way our current social structure has been changed. Personally, if I had to choose one specific event that has demonstrated the demoralization of our country, it would have to be the decision
of the U.S Supreme Court in June of 1963.