Were you one of the millions of viewers who watched the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964? Did you tune in to the debut of the quiz game show Jeopardy! on NBC of that same year? How did you feel about paying thirty cents for a gallon of regular gasoline? What did you think of the mini-skirt? It’s time to take a nostalgic look back fifty years ago when America was in the throes of the “Swinging Sixties.” The activities suggested below provide a flashback to 1964 and will help your group recall some memories of that special time in history.
- NEWS EVENTS: Listen to the song “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan. Pass around copies of LIFE and LOOK, The Saturday Evening Post, and TIME magazine from the year 1964. Reflect on some of the historical events and personalities of the day, and ask participants how they and their families were affected by the times. (Examples: 1964 election/ LBJ vs. Goldwater, Berkeley sit-in, Vietnam, “Freedom” summer, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Beatlemania, World’s Fair, Pepsi generation, War on Poverty, Julia Child, Cassius Clay)
- BABY BOOMERS: Discuss the relevance of the Baby Boom, which began in 1946 and ended in 1964. Ask: Are you a Baby Boomer or the parent of one? What are some common traits of the Baby Boom generation? How is your generation different from your children’s?
- POPULAR NAMES: Find out popular baby names in 1964. Michael and Lisa were the most popular in the 1960s. Ask: What are your children’s names? How did you pick them? What are some unusual names that you heard in the 1960s?
- GAME SHOWS: Play a game of Jeopardy!, which premiered in 1964 with host Art Fleming. Talk about other popular game shows of the day, including Let’s Make a Deal, Password, Match Game, Truth or Consequences, and Concentration.
- BREAKFAST: Sample some Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, introduced in 1964. Find out the original flavors of this toaster pastry. Look at old TV commercials and talk about slogans for the new product. Ask participants to name some other breakfast snacks from the 1960s. (Example: Lucky Charms)
- MOVIES: Watch the 1964 Walt Disney musical Mary Poppins, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Enjoy great music such as “Chim, Chim, Cheree,” “A Spoonful of Sugar,” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
- PRESIDENT JOHNSON: Reminisce about the legacy of President Lyndon Johnson, beginning with his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964. Use the following highlights: Great Society, Job Corps, VISTA, Head Start, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 1965 Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, Vietnam War, environmental legislation.
- SLANG: Talk about the meaning of the following 1960s slang words and phrases: bookin’ it, having a blast, bummed out, lose your cool, got dibs on, burned rubber, hip, hang loose, outta sight, cool, flake, fuzz, hunk, right on, zits, groovy, mod, let it all hang out, neato, square. (Add more to the list as they come to mind.) Ask: Are any of these words still used today?
- MUSTANG: Pass around a photo of a 1964 Ford Mustang coupe. Share recollection of the debut of the Mustang at the New York World’s Fair. Ask: Did you catch “Mustang fever” and visit a dealer showroom to see it? Why did the car become so popular? Explain the love affair between men and their sports cars. What made the Mustang appeal to women, too?
- FASHION: Share memories of the introduction of the mini-skirt in 1964. Talk about the reactions of both parents and teens to changing fashions such as hip huggers, bell bottoms, culottes, and go-go boots.
- NOBEL PEACE PRIZE: The Nobel Peace Prize honors the world’s peacemakers. Share some of the history behind the award. Talk about why Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, when he was 35 years old.
- FAME: Pop artist Andy Warhol is often quoted: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” What do you think he meant?
- MUSIC: Enjoy some old-fashioned musical entertainment: Sing along with Mitch Miller’s recordings – “That Old Gang of Mine,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Baby Face.” Reminisce about Mitch’s sing-along TV show (1961-1964) in which viewers were invited to participate by reading lyrics off the TV screen.
- SPORTS: Sports legend Arnold Palmer won his fourth Masters title in 1964. Ask: What makes a player legendary? What kinds of character traits are needed to be really good at something? Name some other sports legends.
1964 TRIVIA QUIZ
- Who was Lyndon Johnson’s running mate in the 1964 U.S. presidential election? Hubert Humphrey
- There was a big earthquake in the 49th state in 1964. Where was it? Alaska
- Which Broadway musical – featuring Tevye, the Jewish milkman, and his wife Golde and five daughters – opened in September 1964? Fiddler on the Roof
- Where was the 1964 World’s Fair held? Queens, New York
- Finish the title of this 1964 Beatles song: “Can’t Buy Me….” Love
- What was the name of the resolution passed by Congress in 1964 that gave the president authority to wage war in Vietnam? Gulf of Tonkin
- Who was the first African-American actor to win an Academy Award, in 1964? Sidney Poitier (Lilies of the Field)
- Whom did Elizabeth Taylor marry in 1964, after her divorce from Eddie Fisher? Richard Burton
- This TV comedy show, with characters such as Ginger, The Professor, The Skipper, and Mary Ann, first appeared in 1964. What was the name of the show? Gilligan’s Island
- Which Hasbro action figure for boys made its first appearance in 1964? G.I. Joe
THOUGHT FOR THE MONTH
“There are no problems we cannot solve together, and very few that we can solve by ourselves.” ~ Lyndon B. Johnson
“Remembering 1964 – 50 Years Ago” written by Sue Hansen. Copyright 2014 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.