1961 was the year the Yankees were unstoppable. Roger Maris hit 61 home runs; Mickey Mantle, 54; and Moose Skowron, 28. Whitey Ford was the Yankees’ best pitcher with 25 wins. Ralph Terry had 16. What a team!
The Green Bay Packers, led by Bart Starr, Jim Taylor and Max McGee, beat the NY Giants in the NFL championship game 37-0.
The Boston Celtics and their star players, Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn and Bob Cousy, beat the St. Louis Hawks in the ‘60-‘61 NBA finals for their third straight title.
What a great year for kids who liked to follow sports!
It was an interesting year in politics too. JFK was inaugurated after having beaten Richard Nixon in the election. There wasn’t much difference in their platforms but a big difference in their styles. JFK was young, handsome, and charming. Nixon was awkward and sweat profusely during the televised presidential debate.
During his presidency, JFK maintained a friendship with his predecessor, President Eisenhower, who provided advice on the Cuban missile crisis and negotiations with Khrushchev. The parties sometimes disagreed but they were polite about it. Most people considered themselves conservative. The Dixiecrats were more conservative than many mainstream Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller. The lines of division between the parties were not so clear.
The GOP had the reputation of representing the wealthiest Americans and businesses, and the Dems were generally associated with labor union members and blue-collar voters.
In 1961 we knew that the USSR and Communism were our enemies. Kids practiced air raid drills in school, just in case the commies decided to drop the big one on us. Everyone was a patriot. Kids pledged allegiance to the flag each morning and sang the national anthem. Kids said a morning prayer, even in public schools. We were united against our common enemy. We were all proud to be Americans.
In 1961, most people were polite. Kids were taught to respect their elders, especially their teachers.
Kids told ethnic jokes and poked fun at each other. No one took it very seriously. Yes, some kids were mean, as kids can sometimes be, but generally it was all in good fun.
Many families were poor, but they didn’t seem to complain. People would have been ashamed to take assistance from the government. It just wasn’t done. Kids grew up poor, but never realized they were poor. Sure, it was obvious that other families had nicer homes and cars, but that did not seem to matter much.
The most popular television shows in 1961 were Wagon Train, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke.
The top television news anchors were Chet Huntley, David Brinkley and Walter Cronkite. Everyone respected them and believed what they reported.
Some of the most popular musicians were Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, Chubby Checker, Elvis, and Ricky Nelson.
The Best Movie Oscar went to West Side Story.
The Chevy Impala was one of the most popular cars. Anyone who had a Cadillac or Lincoln was considered rich.
1961 was an idyllic time in the U.S. We were the most powerful and the richest country in the world. It seemed that everyone loved being an American. It seemed that America was unstoppable, unbeatable, and the good days would last forever.
So, what happened in the past 60 years? Things have really changed.