Last week’s season premiere of Mad Men included an oblique mention of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman, the three young civil rights activists who were murdered in Mississippi during the summer of 1964. As noted on the show, Andrew Goodman — born and raised on the Upper West Side, enrolled at Queens College — was a New York City native.
But it’s not pop-culture name checking that situates the new season in the Sixties of myth and memory for me.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the back cover of New York’s alternative newspaper The Village Voice was taken up with short text ads. In a few words, for a few cents, readers could send Valentine’s wishes, plug an upcoming show, or say pretty much whatever they wanted.
The Voice‘s back-page ads still exist today, and the mix remains about the same. Even a cursory peek at the ads of that era, though, reveals one big difference.
In the late sixties and early seventies, several ads a week were pleas from parents for their kids to come home. Teenagers would run away to join the hippies in St. Mark’s Place, and their parents — knowing or suspecting or guessing that that’s where they’d wound up — would post ads begging them to come back, to call, to write a letter. Of course, young people still run away today. But at that time, they were leaving home in huge numbers, often leaving no word at all.
Sally Draper, ten years old in 1964, will be sixteen in 1970.