The Assassination of Kennedy, Mad Men, Embers, and a Gratuitous Picture of Spike

We watched the last episode of Mad Men the other night and re-watched it last night. I was in my early 20's, in the early 60's, the setting for the program and, like all my contemporaries, I remember where I was when I first heard President Kennedy was shot. But, unlike most of them, I missed the drama and shock as it unfolded on TV. I was in the Army at Fort Bliss, without a TV, and we soon spent most of our time packing our HAWK surface to air missile system – thinking we were going to be sent to Cuba to provide air defense for the 101st Airborne.

Seeing the assassination for the first time on TV was powerful and moving and, yes, shocking. Like so much of Mad Men, it was both very familiar and a different world. It seems very real and very alien. It was a time when the country was poorer than today – much poorer – not poorer as in destitute but poorer as in less opulent. We have slowly but steadily become astoundingly  rich since the 1960's and it is easy to forget what it was like to live in a world without air-conditioning, or cell-phones, or color TV.

Mad Men seems to pride itself on being visually accurate. In the program, the suitcases are smaller – except for the very rich, people had less to put in them. In the 60's, even fires were smaller. When camping, we were told to build an Indian fire: a small fire that we would sit close to for warmth. At home, the holiday fire would burn down to embers and we would sit around it in sweaters. Now we keep throwing more wood on so that even the cat doesn't have to get close.


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