Time Travel: What Decade Would You Visit?

I am fascinated by time travel.  Like many avid readers of SF/fantasy, I have delighted in time travel literature both as a child and an adult.  Among my favorite time travel novels are  H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, E. Nesbit’s The House of Arden, Edward Ormondroyd’s Time at the Top,  Connie Willis’s Blackout and All Clear, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and Kate Atkinson’s Human Croquet.  And I have often reflected on where I would  go if I had a chance to travel back in time.

I would travel to the 1960s, which I was did not experience properly the first time, aside from the inevitable bell-bottoms, rock music, and excellent bookstores. My husband would prefer a trip to the 1970s, which he remembers as a mellow decade (and it was).  Mind you, we don’t want to return to our childhoods.  We want to experience life in the past at the age we are now.  And we want to reread the great literature and see the arty movies of the 1960s and ’70s.

What decade would you travel to?

Here are some of the great books of the ’60s and ’70s :

Why the ’60s and ’70s?  The quality of life was better.  It was before the worst of urban sprawl, huge gas-guzzling SUVS,  and climate change.  In the ’60s and ’70s, people were anxious about the effect of the media on the culture, as we are today about the effect of social media. “The medium is the message,” said Marshall McLuhan in his writings about how different media shape communications. And radicals were paranoid about mass culture then.  We should be paranoid about mass culture now.

Americans were more committed to social issues, or perhaps just more articulate and better-organized:  the Women’s Movement, Civil Rights, the Anti-War Movement.  And they were more committed to environmental issues:  birth control and population control were much discussed (would it have killed us to limit family size to two children?); the first Earth Day teach-in occurred in 1970; Nixon established the EPA in 1970; the Clean Air Act was established as a federal law in 1970; and, lo and behold!  there were no plastic bags.

And perhaps best of all, the temperatures WERE more comfortable in the 1960s and ’70s.  Here is a comparison of temperatures in my midwestern hometown in July 1968 and July 2018.

Temperatures July 1-5 in 1968:

July 1:  high, 84; low, 62

July 2:  high, 79, low, 57

July 3:  high, 75; low, 51 

July 4:  high, 79; low, 57

July 5:   high, 84; low,  57

Temperatures July 1-5 in 2018

July 1:  high, 89; low, 70

July 2:  high, 84;  low, 61

July 3:  high, 90, low, 64

July 4:  high, 93; low ,73

July 5:  high, 91; low, 73

If only we could have prevented climate change!  I hope it we can fix it, but I am not sanguine at this point. Give the power back to the EPA!

12 thoughts on “Time Travel: What Decade Would You Visit?

  1. My first inclination was to say the 1930s. I always say I’ve given up travel because there are just too many people, which ties in to your comments about the failure of population control. In the 1930s, few people travelled, there were no queues at the airports, in fact there were few airports, and when you got off the plane in a foreign country, you weren’t confronted with commercialization that looked just like the place you left, i.e. MacDonalds, etc. Travelling was a real adventure.
    But after reading your whole post, could I straddle the 1950s and 1960s? I was born in 1952 and had an idyllic childhood. I’d gladly go back to that. In addition to the usual teenage angst, without all the suicides and scary drug addiction and Internet bullying, the 1960s brought the excitement of the British Invasion in music, still my favorite genre, and all the political action you mention. We thought we would change the world. Did we? Seems like we’ve done a serious amount of backsliding.

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    • Fascinating! I never thought about the differences in travel in different decades. It would be fascinating to go to the ’30s and take a journey. As for the ’50s and ’60s, I do think the U.S. was prosperous then and it was possible too enjoy a good life, and have fun, though, again, many political crises and tragedies, too. As for changing the world, it is a constant struggle, I think. It is dismaying to see how things have backslid. We knew about the greenhouse effect, but either forgot about it or grew up and decided it wasn’t our responsibility. The same is true for so many issues.

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  2. It’s a toss-up with the 1950s or the 1960s. I can remember a bit of the latter but wasn’t born in the 1950s – the idea of coffee bars and jazz is vaguely appealing…. And I must second “The House on the Strand” – a long time since I read it but I recall it being very impressive.

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  3. It would be very interesting to catch a glimpse of the literary landscape as all those terrifically challenging women writers were emerging. And I agree that the cooler summer temperatures would be a delight. But I think I’d be chicken of the missile crisis and the looming threat of the Cold War too, having come-of-age with the nuclear threat (which was quite a scar on my childhood in the ’80s). On a side-note, I would love to try one of Nesbit’s novels for grown readers; I must track one down!

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    • Yes, every time has its terrors and troubles. We all worried about nuclear bombs and nuclear power–and it’s all still out there, but there are distractions now. American liberals had a powerful effect on American politicians in the ’60s and 70s: finally the war in Viet Nam ended, Nixon was impeached, abortion was legalized, the air in the U.S. really was cleaned up…and now we have to do it all over again. P.S. I love Nesbit’s The Lark.

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