The Swinging Sixties 0



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Well, we’ve had a good look at the fifties, now what about the sixties? They do say if you can remember anything of the sixties, you weren’t part of it, but hopefully that’s not completely true! Certainly though, England, (which is where my main experiences lay until that time),  and the rest of the world were at last getting over the trauma of a World War and starting to let their hair down, metaphorically speaking!


The Beatles were coming to their peak and ruled the world of pop. Mary Quant changed the way we all dressed and she ruled the world of fashion. Alec Issigonis designed the BMC Mini, making the small car the ruler of the world of motoring. Kennedy was elected and he ruled America, if not the world. And Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, and he ruled the world by not being on it!


Jacqui and I got married in 1959 and stepped almost immediately into the sixties, as well as into New Zealand, a place where we were somewhat isolated from the goings-on in other parts of the world, except for the things we heard on the news, (no television in new Zealand in those days!), or from family and friends ‘back home’. But even we heard about the Berlin Wall going up, more or less splitting Europe in half and the Cuban missile crisis, putting the world on the brink of war again. Those were truly terrifying moments, when a wrong word, spoken by the wrong person, in the wrong place, could have set off a holocaust from which no-one could have survived. Thank goodness common sense prevailed in the end and the world was able to get back to enjoying itself once again, emitting a large sigh of relief that almost drove the Earth off its orbit!


In the early 1960’s Marilyn Monroe took an overdose, English politician John Profumo got caught with a prostitute named Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with the Russians, and John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It was also the decade during which Nelson Mandella was imprisoned – who would have thought at that time that he would one day prove to be one of the world’s great leaders, taking South Africa out of apartheid!


It was in 1965 that Cassius Clay became Muhammed Ali, and the Americans sent troops to Vietnam, causing that little fracas to enlarge out of all proportion! And the very next year, the Great White Shark, Gregg Norman, won both the American Masters and the British Open, starting him on the path to the great wealth he now enjoys.


The 1960’s were the years when Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Che Guevara, Harold Holt, Tony Hancock, Ho Chi Minh and Judy Garland all died, some by natural causes, some by assassination, some by their own hands, but it was also the decade when men first walked on the moon, the Concorde first flew and ‘Hair’ was a great, if controversial success on the stage.


Meanwhile, Jacqui and I were living our quiet lives in New Zealand, little more than unaware of everything going on around us – I guess we were more interested in each other than the rest of the world, at that stage of our marriage, and we did finish the decade with three kids to prove it!


I do remember prohibition of course, which I wrote about in another article, and I can recall that it was almost impossible to buy a new car there, unless you had ‘overseas funds’, (which we didn’t!), and even when you had the cash, it seemed the only make you could get was Holden! But I think New Zealand has been dragged into the twenty first century now and anything goes – just like Australia!!

Brian Lee

  1. My gorgeous freaked out husband, wow can we live on the memories? The sixties were all about freedom for me, and music of course. Although we had three small kids we partied our way through the late sixties and early 70’s the music brings it back. We never took drugs, somehow we never needed that too! Life was enough.

    1 REPLY
    • Jacqui, get Brian to write about your personal lives. I’d love to know…..we can read these news events in history books or on-line….but what about YOUR lives and starting over in a new country…what did the sixties do for YOU guys.

  2. I was a bride in 1963 my husband & I were both 21, he had just completed an apprenticeship. I was not living at home paying almost 1/2 my salary on full board. My husband had just gone to full pay. We didn’t have a car and rode everywhere on our bicycles. It was expected of you to produce a child….but not before 9 months of marriage otherwise the work mates & friends & neighbours would assume the reason you married. Our nights out would consist of cards playing at friends, and occasionally a ball held for a local charity. We both came from European backgrounds but assimilated to the Australian way of life very quickly. There were a mixture of Greek, Italian, Hungarian, Dutch, German all arriving in our town, providing strange tastes & aromas coming from the newly opened shops & cafes. There was a bit of name calling such as poms & wogs etc. on the whole it was a good mix. Our soccer fields were taken over by all sorts as language wasn’t a barrier to the sport they all understood. There were Catholic schools & State schools where their children would learn both religion and the 3 R’s. We had 3 children all little genuine Aussies. We loved being around in the 60’s, there has never been a was or any major catastrophe, it was in our opinion the best time to bring up kids. …..We recently had our 50th wedding anniversary with our families including the 8 grandchildren.

  3. I was 13 in 1960 and quite a rebel too. I was determined even then to not be anything like my Mum who was totally subservient to my father. Normal behaviour in the North East town of Hartlepool, or so I was told by everyone in the family when I railed against my fathers hard nosed discipline. I was the first born and only girl and bit spoilt by my grandparents :-). I just need to hear any song from that era and I am transported back. Sneaking days off s hool , with the aid of my lovely Gran, to go and see The Beatles live at the London Palladium. She gave me the money too. I was 17 I think. Watching the unfolding of the Kennedy assassination, tragic funeral too. My first love who became my first husband. Life was great and I do remember it all. 🙂

    1 REPLY
    • That was a special Gran, glad she encouraged you, and that you rebelled.

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