1954 – The Year I Was born

In 1954, the world was a different place.

There was no Google yet. Or Yahoo.

In 1954, the year of your birth, the top selling movie was Rear Window. People buying the popcorn in the cinema lobby had glazing eyes when looking at the poster.

Remember, that was before there were DVDs. Heck, even before there was VHS. People were indeed watching movies in the cinema, and not downloading them online. Imagine the packed seats, the laughter, the excitement, the novelty. And mostly all of that without 3D computer effects.

Do you know who won the Oscars that year? The academy award for the best movie went to On the Waterfront. The Oscar for best foreign movie that year went to Gate of Hell. The top actor was Marlon Brando for his role as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront. The top actress was Grace Kelly for her role as Georgie Elgin in The Country Girl. The best director? Elia Kazan for On the Waterfront.

In the year 1954, the time when you arrived on this planet, books were still popularly read on paper, not on digital devices. Trees were felled to get the word out. The number one US bestseller of the time was Not as a Stranger by Morton Thompson. Oh, that’s many years ago. Have you read that book? Have you heard of it?

In 1954… Marilyn Monroe marries baseball player Joe DiMaggio. The first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, is launched in Groton, Connecticut, by First Lady of the United States Mamie Eisenhower. Queen Elizabeth II becomes the first reigning monarch to visit Australia. The first mass vaccination of children against polio begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. Chiang Kai-shek is reelected president of the Republic of China by the National Assembly. The Boeing 367-80, the prototype of the Boeing 707 series, goes on its maiden flight. The first issue of Sports Illustrated magazine is published in the United States. West Germany joins NATO.

That was the world you were born into. Since then, you and others have changed it.

The Nobel prize for Literature that year went to Ernest Hemingway. The Nobel Peace prize went to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Nobel prize for physics went to Max Born from the United Kingdom for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wavefunction. The sensation this created was big. But it didn’t stop the planets from spinning, on and on, year by year. Years in which you would grow bigger, older, smarter, and, if you were lucky, sometimes wiser. Years in which you also lost some things. Possessions got misplaced. Memories faded. Friends parted ways. The best friends, you tried to hold on. This is what counts in life, isn’t it?

The 1950s were indeed a special decade. The American economy is on the upswing. The cold war betwen the US and the Soviet Union is playing out throughout the whole decade. Anti-communism prevails in the United States and leads to the Red Scare and accompanying Congressional hearings. Africa begins to become decolonized. The Korean war takes place. The Vietnam War starts. The Suez Crisis war is fought on Egyptian territory. Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others overthrow authorities to create a communist government on Cuba. Funded by the US, reconstructions in Japan continue. In Japan, film maker Akira Kurosawa creates the movies Rashomon and Seven Samurai. The FIFA World Cups are won by Uruguay, then West Germany, then Brazil.

Do you remember the movie that was all the rage when you were 15? The Wild Bunch. Do you still remember the songs playing on the radio when you were 15? Maybe it was I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye. Were you in love? Who were you in love with, do you remember?

In 1954, 15 years earlier, a long time ago, the year when you were born, the song Little Things Mean a Lot by Kitty Kallen topped the US charts. Do you know the lyrics? Do you know the tune? Sing along.

Blow me a kiss across the room
Say I look nice when I’m not
Touch my hair as you pass my chair
Little things mean a lot

There’s a kid outside, shouting, playing. It doesn’t care about time. It doesn’t know about time. It shouts and it plays and thinks time is forever. You were once that kid.

6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… it’s 1954. There’s TV noise coming from the second floor. Someone turned up the volume way too high. The sun is burning from above. These were different times. The show playing on TV is The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin. The sun goes down. Someone switches channels. There’s Candid Camera on now. That’s the world you were born in.

Progress, year after year. Do you wonder where the world is heading towards? The technology available today would have blown your mind in 1954. Do you know what was invented in the year you were born? The Radar Gun. The Synthetic Diamond. The Geodesic Dome.

Aim for the body rare, you’ll see it on TV
The worst thing in 1954 was the bikini
See the girl on the TV dressed in a bikini
She doesn’t think so but she’s dressed for the H-bomb

That’s from the song I Found That Essence Rare by Gang Of Four.

In 1954, a new character entered the world of comic books: Marvelman. Bang! Boom! But that’s just fiction, right? In the real world, in 1954, Howard Stern was born. And Denzel Washington. Jackie Chan, too. And you, of course. Everyone an individual. Everyone special. Everyone taking a different path through life.
It’s 2010.

The world is a different place.

Find out above the year you was born at

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