04/13/07 - america in 1955

In today's excerpt - acclaimed novelist Robert Stone, raised by a single mother and leaving high school to join the Navy, speaks of America in 1955:

"The Navy I'd joined contained many young men who had never seen a television set in a private home. I was one of them. I was also a New York boy; I had never owned a car, and I couldn't drive. American regions and their cultures had come out of isolation during the Second World War, but there were only radio and movies to further homogenization. Or sometimes resist it. In 1955, authentic country music pitched to the white South rarely employed a drum. Rock and roll was coming. It would change everything. One Sunday in the summer of 1955, a cook at the Naval Training Station Bainbridge, Maryland had the idea to serve his recruits pizza as a treat. He advertised it as pizza pie. Back where most of these men came from, pie was festively served with ice cream. Predictably, more than half of them put their ice cream on it. It wouldn't have happened three and a half years later, by which time America had been sold various versions of what was supposed to be pizza coast to coast.

"Regional accents were stronger; diction varied more. People from Appalachia had a dismissive challenge for antagonists: 'You and what army? Coxey's?' Coxey's army was a populist gathering that marched on Washington in William Jennings Bryan's time. American speech carried whispers and echoes of the century before."


Robert Stone


Prime Green: Remembering the Sixties


Harper Perennial


Copyright 2007 by Robert Stone


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