Perusing an antique store recently, we unearthed a old LIFE Magazine from December 28 of 1959. What attracted us was the collage of smiling faces and photos of people engaged in interesting activities on the large, colorful cover page. Most of all, it was the title: SPECIAL ISSUE: THE GOOD LIFE.
In the introduction of the cover story, the folks at LIFE magazine were reporting on all the new leisure time people had in their lives…
For the first time a civilization has reached a point where most people are no longer preoccupied exclusively with providing food and shelter. The shrinking work week now gives us bout 75 free, waking hours as compared with a bare 55 two generations ago. Almost every employee in the land gets a two-day weekend and a vacation.
It was fascinating for me to read this intro and two thoughts came to mind about this. One was how ironic that I had been reading numerous articles calling for shorter work weeks and even more increased leisure time. (But of course, these days, problems are related to our society moving too fast and the negative effects on our environment.) The other about how the early 1960’s was the most positive era that we’ve ever seen and nothing like it has been seen since.
This fun issue was such a joy to leaf through. It was not only packed with gorgeous photos of people in play, but also the debate of whether all this free-time was really a good thing for society. It covered the aspect of women and leisure time… are moms and wives really experiencing the same level of relaxation? It talked about using free time for good deeds and charitable work. It even had tips on how to play with the kids and how to sort out free time after retirement. Thought provoking and thorough, this issue did an amazing job of really examining all sides of the leisure debate.
One section made me laugh right out loud… it was a “witty” leisure rating system that offered the classification of activities by Aristocrats, Upper Bourgeois, Lower Bourgeois, and Peasants! For example, in “The Arts,” Aristocrats are the Madrigal Singers, Upper Bourgeois are the Sunday Painters, Lower Bourgeois are the Informal Group Singers, and the Peasants are the Paint-by-Number crowd. Hilarious!
With summer just beginning, coming across this issue was so appropriate. As we make our own plans for vacations and weekend play, perusing the entertaining photos boosted our excitement for summer fun!
Want to leaf through the pages of this incredible issue? Check out the slideshow below or visit CharityJen on Flickr.