The Sixties? I don’t remember a thing

“If you remember the Sixties, you weren’t really there.” Take it from me, those words ring true. I was there and don’t remember a damn thing. Which maybe explains why I am getting such a kick out of Ablaze: Ten Years That Shook the World by Peter Rowe. Anybody who WAS there will also tell you that the decade of the Sixties ran not from 1960 to 1969 but from 1965 to 1975. And that latter stretch, as it happens, is the period Rowe covers in this chronicle.

I use that word advisedly. But I must come clean: I am a sucker for chronicles, timelines, and timetables. Let’s see. Close at hand here I have various Chronicles — of Canada, of the World, of the 20th Century, and of the Second World War. I have Timelines of the 20th Century, The Timetable of American History, The Timetables of History, Chronology of World War Two, The Illustrated History of the 20th Century, The Front Page Story of World War II, The People’s Chronology, and Rock ’n’ Roll Years: The Chronicle of the Lives and Times. . . . Don’t get me started on the Arctic.

According to Rowe, a versatile chap best-known as a film director/ producer, the years 1965-75 were “more revolutionary in America than the years 1765-1783. They were certainly violent. In a single eighteen-month period between 1971 and 1972 for instance, there were over 2,500 bombings in the U.S.” Ah, but who could remember?

Ablaze (Pinewood Press) devotes one chapter to each year and brings us famous folk of all kinds, in politics, certainly, but also in music, art, aviation, film, drugs, education, and architecture. Here, along with Richard Nixon, Pierre Trudeau, Che Guevara, and Idi Amin Dada, we meet Jane Fonda, Timothy Leary, Warren Beatty, Patricia Hearst, Carlos the Jackal, and Joan Baez, all of them in action. The Battle over LSD? The sundry doings of Chairman Mao? Who was Pierre Vallieres and what controversial book did he write while jailed in the The Tombs in New York?

So much we see around us today has roots in the Sixties, in things like Women’s Liberation, Black Power, the Sexual Revolution, the Weathermen, Greenpeace, and the Anti-War movement. If you can’t remember, or even if you can, it’s all here. As for the quotation that opens this post, its coinage has been traced to comedian Charlie Fleishcher, who delivered the line while doing standup in a Los Angeles club.  The year was 1982 and already he had forgotten.

Leave a Comment