The creators of Mad Men have done an amazing job to recreate the 1960’s. I’m sure that the goings-on of the advertising era; the Madison Ave. execs of the title, are authentic. What I find endlessly amusing, however, are the attention to detail that is being given to the family life.
The first year of the series was my favorite for that very reason. Betty and Don Draper and their children represented a different socioeconomic group for sure. Coming from a town of steelworkers, I couldn’t really relate to the affluence and privilege; the beautiful and well-appointed suburban home, the elegant furnishings, the surprisingly authentic wardrobe; but also the boredom and dissatisfaction that must have come with inherited wealth. Growing up, most of what I witnessed was the daily struggle of making ends meet.
But there were moments that we all shared in that decade. Important ones like the tragedy of JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy; the racial turmoil that led up to the Civil Rights legislation; the Bay of Pigs that almost triggered a nuclear war miles from our border; the success of Sputnik that had all of our schools shift the emphasis to math and science; the race to the moon; the stirrings of the Women’s Movement, etc.
There was humor, especially in the lack of the security/safety issues which we embrace in modern times. The family drove around in a convertible, kids bouncing about the car, heads out the window; seat belts had not arrived on the scene. Children walked about the neighborhood freely, no need for chaperones or fear of abduction; no one even questioned that Sally traveled into the city on the train alone at age 9. (Today, the parents would be arrested, or at least reported to Social Services.)
A favorite scene was the one where Sally is running around with a dry cleaning plastic bag over her head.
And then there is the kitchen. Betty is baking cookies and there on the counter it is; the quart-size brown bottle of vanilla extract. I remember my mother having one of these; she kept it right next to the tin of Hershey’s cocoa and the can of Spry, the shortening that preceded Crisco. The last time I bought vanilla, it was about $3.99 for a 1 oz. bottle; without doing the math, that would put the value of that 32 oz. specimen at well over $100. today.
Being a child during the 1960’s, I can most relate to the character of Sally; her perspective about world events is so in sync with what I remember. No matter the privilege, it was a turbulent and life-changing decade for all of us. Mad Men will finish up their successful run this year; I’ll certainly miss it. Kudos to the team who so perfectly recreated this era. However it ends, it has been so worth the attention received.