Art, Media, VCD theory

Mid-Century context.

What was it like to live in the time of world reconstruction?

On this page, you're going to find video links to clips that show us what life was like from a period just after World War II and up to the 1970s. Click your way through these resources to find out what were the attitudes of the times? What were the 'Swinging 60'? Why was this period so significant in our history?

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What was life like then?

My school photos

My school magazine in 1965. I was in Prep (Year) 1.
Here I am in my Prep (Year) 1 photo in 1965. I can't pick me out.
Here I am with long pants we were allowed to wear in Senior School. I'm in Form 2 (Year 8) in 1972 here. The world is my oyster. Bye the way, that's me at the front on the left.

Back to the past

In this section we will begin to investigate what life was in one of the most influential and formative periods for art, music, style and design.


The 1950s began in 1946 as this was when the second world war ended. It was a time called 'Post War Reconstruction'. To understand this, we have to understand how people had to live during the war 1939 - 45. Yes, six long years of suffering and going 'with out'. During this time all the government and social efforts were focused on the 'war effort'. People at home (us living in Australia) were placed on 'rations'. This meant that as food and other materials were used to feed troops or build fighting machines, their purchase was restricted. 

When all this ended, wow people were happy! They were so happy that life was back to normal again and the restrictions were lifted, they were able to begin rebuilding cities and creating the life they had fought so hard to win. This time is called 'Post War Reconstruction'. It was a time of immense building. Cities grew with new suburbs, and big roads and rail networks. The young couples, married in the war, began to have babies at a higher rate than before. This boom in the birthrate resulted in babies called 'baby boomers'. Family life began again and all in a new house with new electric appliances. 

However, life might have been new, but life styles were built on the values of the past. That was, men and women had clear gender roles at home, in marriage and at work. Men were breadwinners, and women may have a job briefly after they had completed school, but were expected to give up their careers and get married and become a caring mother. The fifties were a time of traditional family values.

The baby boomers were a spoilt generation. Their parents had grown up doing with out luxuries so as a result, they wanted their kids to enjoy life. Everything was directed at ensuring that children had a clean, safe and secure life. New toys were invented, kids enjoyed new TV shows and stayed at school later in their teens. 

As this new generation grew up they enjoyed a complete change in life styles. Brand new 'Rock and Roll' music played on the radio much to their parents disgust. Teenagers frequented 'drug stores', fast food shops appeared, Supermarkets began to replace traditional grocery shops and new fashions began to change the way people dressed. 

It was also a time of political unrest. As a result of the 'carve up', the division of Europe between the West and Russia after the War, mistrust between the two superpowers developed into a 'Cold War'. This manifest itself as the 'Space Race' and the 'Cuban Missile Crisis'. Tensions and riots between whites and blacks continued shaping the 'Civil Rights Movement' that would be so active in the 1960s. 

The stage was set for change. Change that would never go back to how life had been pre-war.


The 1960s was a period of immense change in Western Society. It was the period when a new generation of privileged teenagers turned university students and they wanted change. Many of them resented their parent’s conformist, capitalist, obedient, ways of life and they wanted out. They wanted a different way to live. Young people supported the Civil rights movements including equality for blacks and women, the end of military conflicts and sexual oppression. Many of the youth sought a different, more equal and sharing way to live together and were labeled ‘Hippies’. But this wasn’t the whole picture during ‘sixties’. 

It was also a time of vast technological change led by influential business men and politicians. There were vast improvements made to transportation, space exploration and electronic media. The older, more conservative establishment class, those who believed in the strength and authority of institutions, were heading for a clash with their children, rebelling against the power they held over them. The sixties was a time of tension between the old and then new.


The seventies was also tumultuous time. Although the 'Hippie' alternative movement was born during the 60s, it wasn't until the 70s that the civil rights movements gained traction. It was also a time of reaction from conservatives against all this 'free love'. The US government turned on the students in the 'Kent State Shootings' killing several student anti Vietnam war protesters. But still the protests continued, until the allied troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and the war was declared lost.

All this progress and march toward the future was taking its toll on the environment, people began to look out for the health of the 'Mother Nature' and there was a renewed interest in ecology and living sustainably. The first Oil Crisis was in 1974 and as a result car design changed beginning to favour smaller, more economical cars. The 'Womens' Movement' continued to fight for equal rights for women in all areas of society. The seventies was a time when society began to be more inclusive, it was the time when old fashioned institutions began to loose control, and when we look back now, in the light of the recent Royal Commission for Sexual Abuse, it is easy to see how hard these institutions fought for power and control.

Music continued to change. Boys wore their hair long. Kids ran secret underground newspapers in schools and were all too familiar with their rights as students. The new Punk music from England signalled the rising swell of anarchy as people began to loose respect for traditions that had once held society together tightly.

The seventies was a time when men were men, and women were men too! The end of an era, enter 'Post Modernity'.

Before we go...

My first bike. A Malvern Star 'Dragster' from the late 60s. Metallic yellow and a real banana seat and sissy bar!
My first record purchase. 20 Supercharged Hits!
My first car, a 1981 Mini Moke. Great in summer, breezy in winter. Safety, what's that!?!


Familiarise yourself

Read through my story of the three decades above. Think about the change that swept across the world. 

Write a small paragraph to explain these couple of points;

  1. Who changed?
  2. What changed?
  3. What event actually caused the change?

You may answer in a variety of different ways. What is important is not the correct answer but the discussion.

Digging deeper

I have selected a group of Youtube clips to start you off on your journey back in time.

The 1950s

1952 Day In The Life Of A 1950's Small Town
Mid Century Home life -- The 50s
Youth culture 1950s
Obligations (1950)
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A Word to the Wives (1955)
Top 10 Decade Defining Songs: 1950s

The 1960s

Review Of The Sixties (1970)
Review Of 1963: The Space Race to the JFK Assassination | British Pathé
Swinging London / 60s Fashion
Compilation of late 1960s McDonalds Commercials Part 1 (USA)
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Top 10 Decade Defining TV Shows: 1960s
Hippies Change a Generation - Decades TV Network

The 1970s

Turn Back Time 1970s
Top 10 Decade Defining TV Shows: 1960s
Coca-Cola, 1971 - 'Hilltop' | "I'd like to buy the world a Coke"
Life In Australia: Melbourne
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Looking Back At 1970s Fashion
VB Victoria Bitter beer - TV commercial (1973)


If you're using this page as research for a class task you will want to know how to process the information you found in the videos. I have put a range of prompt questions here to help you engage in the content.

The social climate

Choose one decade from either the 1950s, 60s or 70s. Prepare a brief report on the social, cultural, historical, political climate of this decade. Your task is not so much to mine facts, what we want to know is what people thought, what they valued and how was this represented. For example; were gender roles fixed in jobs and work? Were women and men treated equally? Were young people treated equally by their parents? We want to know how was this world different from yours now. In your report explain what life was like in these categories;

  1. Social and cultural factors; religion, community values and politics, ecological and sustainability values,
  2. Ways of life; families (gender roles, values, etc), gender roles at work, dating, marriage, shopping, leisure time, food and eating,
  3. Entertainment and the values represented in movies (what topics did they do?), TV, music (not just the artists but what they sang about), musicals (what were they about then?)
  4. Science (where was it heading?), technology, ways of transportation (what was new or revolutionary?)

Bye the way, what does value mean? A value is something a person believes to be important or true. I value equality. I value a girl's right to education.

Decade moodboard

Using the decade you chose in the task above, make a mood board to represent the time visually. Collect, print and collage together 10 images to show these aspects of the decade visually;

  1. Women's fashion,
  2. Men's fashion,
  3. Hairstyles,
  4. Popular colours used,
  5. Popular type faces used,
  6. Popular car,
  7. Indoor past times, games etc,
  8. Shopping, new products,
  9. Movie poster,
  10. Dating, marriage or couples life.

You may like to crop your photos and put them together in Adobe Illustrator. The choice is yours.