Katherine and daughter Suzanne
|1948 saw the beginning of the
Marshall Plan, the reconstruction of Europe. In the United
States, the 1950's would be a time of great social change.
In Vermont, George D. Aiken and the conservative Republicans
were further cementing the popular image of Vermonters as
contrary, stubborn, and independent cusses. It was George
Aiken who flatly remarked as the Vietnam war tore men apart
abroad, and protests exploded at home, that we should
"declare victory and leave."
|But the next war was in the future, the war to end all
wars in the past, and life was meant to be enjoyed. Americans, and
even Vermonters, were enjoying the benefits of electricity, consumer convenience
goods, and more leisure time than ever before. In 1956, Crest
toothpaste is introduced, by the middle of the decade motorcourts and
motels have sprung up to cater to the burgeoning travel industry.
Personal habits of consumption and leisure are being turned upside down
as America, and yes, even Vermont, turns into a consumer society.
Suzanne and her mother at the sea
|Suzanne grows up in a
world which encourages her to continue her education... and stay
home with her children. New appliances cut housework down
to a fraction of the physical labor required two generations
before, and, as if seeking to consume those saved moments,
standards of housekeeping become increasingly rigorous.
The cocktail hour becomes an institution of the middle class,
and the suburban lifestyle overtakes even rural areas.
Television will become the babysitter of choice for this
generation (and the ones to come), while the evening news,
watched with the ultimate in convenience foods: the TV dinner,
becomes a nightly slog through Vietnam. Suzanne's is the
generation of bomb cellars, PTA meetings, Disney world, bobby
socks, blue jeans... and farm failures. From the 1950's to
1970's farms all over
collapsed. Suzanne represents the first generation to grow
up without farm chores. Instead of farm chores in the
afternoon, Suzanne's life revolves around her children. In
two generations Americans go from regarding children primarily
as economic assets, destined to bring income into the family, to
regarding children primarily as consumers. Children are
groomed to do well academically and socially. And to
mothers fall the primary responsibility for their offspring's
success. In retrospect, I'm not sure it was as big a
thrill for her as we thought it was.
Suzanne with her daughter:
|Suzanne shared another
quirk of her generation: she smoked. Kent
cigarettes. Probably as much as a pack a day. Four
years before she died she was diagnosed with leukemia.
Thanks to the support of her husband and church, Suzanne was
able to die at home, hearing the familiar sounds of her beloved
dogs, the wind in the trees, cared for by her family and
hospice. For Suzanne, Morrison Corner was where her mother
lived, a place to come during the summer and float in the
pond. It was summer, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.