Teens in the 1960s: Protest, War, and Rock

By Meilan Solly

In the 1950s, the Baby Boomers were born. In the 1960s, they grew up. Goodbye Elvis, hello Woodstock.
After America left the era of Elvis and the American Dream, it entered the time of the hippies, the Vietnam War, and rock bands like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. Ms. Symons, a 9th grade English teacher, grew up in the 1960s. She listened to the bands listed above, plus the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, Jimmi Hendrix, and several Motown artists.
Ms. Symons’ parents were “fairly strict. There were rules about studying, when to go to bed…I couldn’t call boys, but my friends could,” she recalls. Most of Ms. Symons’ friends listened to their parents and respected them a lot. Teenagers in the 1960s were expected to go to a very good college, and they weren’t supposed to question teachers on grades. Compared to today, when most girls are allowed to call, text, and hang out with boys whenever they want, and students are determined to get straight A’s at any cost, the 1960s were fairly conservative.
As for typical teenagers’ everyday lives, they were defined by the hippie movement with its drugs, go-go boots, and bell bottoms. Colleges became the breeding grounds for protests, and women and minorities alike were campaigning for more rights. Art was constantly changing and a new modern movement was led by artists like Andy Warhol. Teenagers loved rock bands, and one of the biggest events of the decade was Woodstock, a humongous music festival held in New York in 1969. Musicians performing at Woodstock included Jimmi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Grateful Dead. Ms. Symons wanted to attend Woodstock, but while her friends were allowed to go, she wasn’t.
On the more serious side of the ‘60s there were the Vietnam War and the Space Race. “Many of my friends were involved in [the Vietnam War] somehow,” Ms. Symons says. Some teenagers’ parents fought in the war, and others fought in it themselves. The Space Race, which was basically between the United States and Russia, involved the two countries competing to first enter orbit, then take the grand prize: the moon. The United States won the race on July 20, 1969, when astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins landed on the moon.
Overall, the 1960s was a time of rock, hippies, and war. Teenagers became very independent, staging many protests against a variety of issues. There were times of great happiness, like when the Beatles first became famous, and there were also sad times, such as rock and roll artists’ tragic overdoses. In the end, the ‘60s were really just, according to Ms. Symons, “full of life and energy.”