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
Vermont 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:
Tamara

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.