Mad Men Season 4 opens with a time setting of 1964, it is late fall and sometime just before Thanksgiving. The décor of that year is authentically added to the background with the fashions similar to something seen on Jacqueline Kennedy.
Many of the men, who worked in ad agencies along Madison Ave, lived in the suburbs of Connecticut. These bedroom communities had cookie cutter housing developments and the houses were full of the modern technologies available in that day and age, such as the “princess” telephone, chimed Big Ben door bells, and intercom systems.
The AMC hit show gives us a look into the years when many of the baby boomers were kids; experiencing all the things that Sally Draper might be doing almost a half a century ago. The baby boomers were in grade school and watching life unfold from about four and a half feet in height from the ground. Looking up from that size, made everything seem bigger and grander.
These were the days of the black and white TV, with each house having only one set and it was planted in the living room to be shared by the entire family. Color sets were only in the homes where the father, the man of the house, decided to spring for the pricey technology. The closest thing to a remote control was the kids who were activated only by the voice recognition from the parents.
Only one car sat in driveways of most homes and in the mornings the wife would drop her husband off at the train station so she could use the car for errands during the day. The station’s platform is where he would stand with all the other NYC male commuters waiting for the 7:45 to cart them off southbound. The wife would return to collect her husband about 6:15, and get him home to a dinner she had been cooking for hours.
Depending on your status at one of the ad agencies, you might be able to afford a housekeeper, much like the Drapers had in their home during the first three seasons. This would make life much easier for the wife, who could play bridge with the ladies and have lunches at the country club.
Betty would have gone to the hairdresser or “the beauty pallor” as it was called back then, once a week. Many of the women slept with hairnets on their heads and did not wash their hair during the time between appointments. This is not at all like today’s grooming habits of washing your hair daily.
The husband returning home from work was a ritual each evening. The kids were told to give their father an “hour of unwinding” time before addressing him with more than a hello kiss. A cocktail would be chilled and waiting for him along with slippers in front of his favorite easy chair. This sounds so subservient, but this was the era that the man was waited on by his wife, or if they were upper middle class, they had a housekeeper to do this for both of them.
Sally Draper knew how to mix a good martini by the time she was ten, and this talent was performed for house guests, as seen on one of the episodes of season 2 Mad Men. This was something many kids of that era did; make their parents another drink during the nightly cocktail hour. This task was usually reserved for the oldest child, who was enthusiastic about making the drinks. For many homes, that drink was the martini or Manhattan.
Kids took piano, singing, or dance lessons and each time quests were entertained in the home, the child was expected to show off their progress at their chosen talent. Many a bored quest would sit patiently while the little Sally Drapers of the 60’s put on their tutu’s and danced or played off key on the family’s piano.
Home computers and the internet were not even words in the dictionary at this time so there was no such thing as emailing pictures. Photos were all hard copies to be shared when company came. The most modern venue for sharing snap shots during this decade was the slide show projectors that blew up the photos on a white roll down screen for the home audience to view. This was another boring task to sit through at someone’s home, especially if their hobby was amateur photography.
Sally Draper might have been able to stay up and watch the projected slide show, but most likely she would have been rustled off to bed with her siblings.
These were the easier days of living when phone calls could only be made from a stationary phone in the home, business, or from a telephone booth. This was a time that food was cooked in the oven instead of being micro waved, and women wore designer dresses even while doing the laundry.
This was a decade where kids were still “seen and not heard”, in both school and the home. Punishment came in the form of spankings with wooden spoons, rulers, and the palm of your parent’s hand. Just the threat of this worked as a deterrent of bad behavior.
Mad Men is a popular show with the baby boomers because this is a time they remember as their own. The 60’s were the years they were growing up, making their first friends, and attending their first schools. Stressors were small and fleeting in a world that seemed much safer. The authentic portrayals of everything from the furniture to the topics discussed on this show makes Mad Men a destination in viewing for the over 40 crowd on Sunday nights. This show is also a favorite of many other age groups as they get a birds eye look at what life was like almost 50 years ago.
References: Mad Men Season’s 1-2-3-4.