1964: Your Memories?

I’m just wondering what the zeitgest of 1964 felt like.
Like, was “malt shop” and “beach culture” still at play, despite the Beatles being around? Were they seen as a passing fad at the time - a novelty? What about ice rink skating - I hear that was becoming big around then? Just curious about the 1964 overall. From someone my age, 1964 seems like it was the bridge between the “50s” culturally speaking and “the 60s” - neither was fully gone or present yet. No ground troops in Vietnam yet; no major race riots ala Watts; A very nationalistic, idealistic World’s Fair in New York. It just seems like 1964 was really a transitional year for America. When The Beatles were a big hit, but not an established legend; When the British invasion was only competing with, but not truly overtaking American music - Doo Wop wasn’t dead.

Correct me if I’m wrong with any these please.

I was 2 years old when my family went to the NY World’s Fair. Clearly recall seeing that huge steel globe.

That was a transitional year. The assassination of JFK and the Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan happened in late 63. Johnson gave his intentions to ramp up the war in Vietnam, the Gulf of Tonkin incident happened before 64 was over and the anti-war movement began to ramp up. Johnson also declares war on poverty and an end to racial segregation. Barry Goldwater emerges as the front runner for the Republican nomination. Baby-boomers were going to college and that suddenly changed the draft picture at the same time as the escalation in Vietnam required more troops. The 50s culture was changing already but the events of the time were a catalyst for rapid change.

I was 17 in 1964. We cruised up and down the main drag in town having zero luck with girls. We crashed parties. We got people to buy us beer, and I never knew anybody who used pot, nor even had any idea what it was. We went to basketball and football games and listened to the local R&R station, and bought burgers at the local drive-in. MacDonald’s hadn’t arrived in Alaska yet, and you could still get a great burger and fries for a couple of bucks.

We thought the Beatles were a passing fancy and scoffed at the floppy hairdos until we realized that girls loved floppy hairdos. Hair cream sales dropped dramatically and the sound of crashing pompadours could be heard all over town. Doo-wop was still alive and soul music was coming on very strong. Surf music turned out to be a fad after all, and was fading fast by 1964, replaced by the British Invasion of Beatles, Stones, Hermits, Pacemakers, etc.

We knew who the elite cliques were and who the “greasers” were, and we avoided both crowds. I heard a vague rumor of a place called Vietnam, and it helped to inform my decision to go to college. I ended up there anyway.

I was 10. My biggest concern was whether I’d get a Barbie for Christmas that year. I don’t recall much about popular culture or music. I do remember when we went to the World’s Fair - It’s a Small World was new and exciting!

I guess that doesn’t answer the OP’s question… :wink:

My Cardinals played in the World Series for the first time in my memory, having won it the previous time when I was seven… I went to Cyprus for three weeks in September thinking the Phillies had an insurmountable lead, and got home to find out the Cards had worked their way to the top, or rather, the Phillies had blown it.

I was living in New Brunswick at the time, there were two black and white TV stations, one English and one French. A take-out order of fish and chips was 19 cents small, 29 large… Went to the weekly film festival at the college, to see pictures by Fellini and Bergman.

I bought a new Volvo --the last time in my life I could afford a Volvo, $2400. A PV544, the famous “sports car that drives like a truck”.

Well, I was 4 so memories aren’t too clear. My dad was in Vietnam but the war hadn’t really ramped up by then. I remember at my Nana’s house all of the tributes to JFK…he was enshrined much like the saints in her house with little shrines and such all around. Other than that I can’t say I knew much about what was going on in the US at that time…we lived in a pretty insular barrio at that time, most of my family didn’t speak much English and we didn’t even have a TV. So, I can’t really answer the OP either, unfortunately.

I was 1 for slightly over 11 months of that year. Mostly, I remember all those books on quantum mechanics I co-authored.

And my binky.

I was 12, living in N. Virginia.
The things I remember were:
civil rights. That was the big one. My (white) parents were active in local civil rights issues in our town and it was on the news big time.

Vietnam. I was too young to care, but I was aware. There was a lot of patriotic fervor but a lot of questions were beginning to be asked. People still were buying the whole anti-communist thing, but it was clear even to me that the attitude wasn’t going to last. Of course I didn’t think the war would last either so it didn’t matter. Oops.

the space race. Manned missions were going up every few months, either American or Russian. Lots of PR/propaganda.

Culturally, not so much. The only thing I remember were the beach boys songs. Girls were not on my radar yet.

I was a fetus for the first few weeks of the year, and a baby after that. Don’t remember any of it, and my parents don’t either, except in the context of me.


I was just shy of 15 months old on New Year’s Day. Pretty sure I wet myself multiple times and made a really unpleasant mess at least once that day.

I don’t really recall much else but the OP seems to have covered the basics pretty well. It was very much a transitional year in many ways with many elements of what we like to think of as the “60’s” getting started that year.

Folk music was still pretty big, a sort of nonthreatening youthful alternative to that noise the kids were listening to. I think Tom Hanks’s movie That Thing You Do captures pretty well the zeitgeist and shows pretty well the various unmemorable strains of popular music that were swirling around as the Beatles first burst on the scene.

I turned 15 that year. My biggest memory is the presidential election, and Barry Goldwater. I kind of thought some of the things he said made sense, but that didn’t seem to be a very popular view (I lived in Oregon at that time). Also, wasn’t that the year that “People” played endlessly on every radio station? I hated that song.

My initial hopes for the Johnson administration were somewhat dashed by his aggressive stance on Vietnam, but his early movement on civil rights issues was welcomed by me.

My interest in the Beatles was piqued by Jimmy Olsen Comics #79, “The red-headed Beatle of 1,000 BC”, and I became a fan.

I still refused to eat green beans or beets that year, but peas were now okay because I could swallow them with milk like “little pills”.

That’s what 1964 means to me.

P.S. I turned 7 that year.

There never was the “malt shop” culture in my town. The closest we had was the Publix Luncheonette, at which you could get a good milkshake, but no one ever hung out there. Teachers from the junior high went there at lunchtime.

"Beach culture’ mostly felt like what it is today at the NJ beaches we went to. At the northern beaches I don’t recall ever seeing surfers, and the shore was too shallow at Wildwood. I DID see them at Seaside, though, where they used longer boards than they do today.

The Beatles had been on Sullivan, and a month later their “Hard Day’s Night” was in theaters. Adults seemed to harp on their “long hair” , although they wore suits and ties onstage, so how “unkempt” could they be? But the novelty stores sold “Beatle wigs”, and comics made a big deal of the hair, too. Not only Qadcop’s Jimmy Olsen comic:

But also The Thing and The Human Torch wearing Beatle Wigs (Why didn’t Johnny Storm’s burn?)

The Beatles were not merely a big hit – they were a HUGE hit. They were legendary almost from the start. The next year they held a concert in Shea Stadium and sold it out, the biggest gross in the history of show business up until then. Who the hell had major band concerts in outdoor arenas?
We went to the World’s Fair multiple times, and it effectively killed off the largest amusement park in America – New York’s Freedomland, which was bigger than Disneyland (and built by the same guy – Cornelius Vanderbilt Wood. Look it up!)

Johnson took over from Kennedy. The assassination conspiracy books were already starting to appear.

My brother was 8 years older than me and starting his freshman year in college. Basic ROTC was requited for freshmen and sophomores. No military commitment, but I guess it was the price for a college deferment.

The British had invaded. Being a pre-adolescent male, I didn’t see what the big thing about the Beatles were. When I first saw them on Ed Sullivan, we were at a friend of my parent’s for dinner. They had a teen-age daughter. She had a minor fit watching them.

The Beatles came at a good time, their appearance on Ed Sullivan was like announcing the period of mourning for JFK was over. Many battles between teen sons and their parents over hair length followed for years afterward.

Ford introduced the Mustang in 63 1/2. Does that count?

Transistor radios! Elvis was pumping them out in Hollywood. Perry Como had a show. The Lennon Sisters were on Lawrence Welk. Mitch Miller was on the tube. Alan Sherman and Chubby Checker were popular.

Yeah, transistor radios and earphones. Listening to the “Top Ten Tonight” on the local station.

Just got a battery-powered reel-to-reel tape recorder for my 11th birthday. It would record at least three songs from my older brother’s shortwave radio.

The Beatles and Beach Boys were safe. Rolling Stones? Too extreme. Beach music wasn’t for shagging (snicker), but for surf parties.

Living in Walnut Creek, CA, and enjoying it.

I was 7 for most of 1964 but had remarkably adult things on my mind. Two sobering events - one national, one local - at the end of 1963 had pushed me into the adult world a little ahead of schedule. The death of a President (back then still likely to be many children’s most admired persons…right up there with Santa Claus and Jesus) was a hard lesson. Suddenly we questioned the permanence of everything around us. In my Catholic family, the tragedy was magnified by the fact of Kennedy’s Catholicism.

Coming on the heels of Kennedy’s assassination was the closing of Studebaker’s US operations on the Friday before Christmas 1963. Our town was very much dedicated to Studebaker. Nine of our ten largest employers existed because of Studebaker. There were suicides, marriage breakups, families picking up and leaving town, and lots and lots of poverty as the city attempted to get back to its feet. So '64 had a stunned quality for those around me. The postwar good years were gone with a resounding thump.

LBJ came to visit our town in '64, promising to throw the weight of the US government behind our economic recovery efforts. And he kept that promise, making one little girl a lifelong Democrat as a result.

As school kids, we were all about the space program and the Beatles. Starting in '64, many of our lessons were designed to incorporate the space craze. My father, who taught at a nearby university, brought home a prototype machine called a calculator. It was as big as a manual typewriter, but we kids thought it the height of cool.

My teenaged after school babysitter taught me to dance. She would bring her record player in a suitcase along and we would play 45s and dance. Fifty years later I can still sing the words to the Beatles’ entire early catalog thanks to Lynn’s 45s.

It was as if I spent three quarters of the year suspended in some kind of fluid. The last couple of months I just couldn’t stop soiling myself.

1964 was a year of changes for me personally. It was my first year of college, so my first time living on my own. This meant having sex for the first time, actually in the previous December, and coming out (long before there was such a thing as “out”).

Then, in the spring of '64, I dropped out of school and “ran away” to NYC. I took the Greyhound, and arrived in Manhattan with $17 in my pocket. No job experience, no skills, no contacts, just 17 bucks. Got a room at the Y, and got a job as an office boy/messenger on the top floor of a skyscraper. I think I made $60/week, the very first money I ever earned, which was a fortune. One of my coworkers lent me 20 bucks until payday.

I ate lunch most days at the Automat. It was great food, and cheap. After work, I used to hang out in various places around Midtown Manhattan, reading in the waning light.

Went to the World’s Fair that year, twice. All I remember was the Pieta and the huge cheese.

I met Ayn Rand that summer, and got heavily into Objectivism. Spent time with her until the end of '65, when I went back to school.

Yeah, the Beatles. They were a constant theme back then, and I virtually wore out my little transister radio, alternating between the Beatles and Classical.

Campaigned for Goldwater that year, but was too young to vote for him. Hated Johnson for so many reasons.