Today is my 54th birthday. As I was driving home tonight I realized I know almost nothing about my birth year, so I did a bit of research. The results were . . . unfortunate.
In fact, you probably could argue that 1957 was the lamest, most boring year of the entire American 20th century. The two most significant events, so far as I can determine, were the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union and the sending of federal troops to Arkansas to enforce a desegregation order — important events, to be sure, but not like the the crucial, game-changing events that occurred routinely during the Depression era, or the War Years, or the tumultuous ’60s and scandal-plagued ’70s.
In 1957 Jack Kerouac’s On The Road was published, and the word “beatnik” was coined, but for the most part America was enjoying the sleepy, optimistic, prosperous, seemingly unchanging 1950s. The country was at peace. Dwight Eisenhower was President, as he had been for years. Elvis was popular, and so were TV quiz shows on the black-and-white RCA and Philco TVs that Americans were buying in increasing abundance. The Academy Award winner for Best Picture was the unremarkable and unmemorable Around the World in 80 Days.
Culturally, perhaps the most interesting thing about 1957 was that it was the height of the Baby Boom, with more children born that year than any other during the post-war years. I’m glad I made my own contribution in that regard, to give some character to a year that otherwise will never be more than a footnote in the history books.