McManus: A different lens on the 60s
The 60s was a revolutionary time in the United States with the expansion of pop culture, rise of foreign conflict, and the booming civil rights movement. The times were changing rapidly, but baby boomer and OAHS teacher Jim McManus saw a different view of this riveting time.
For McManus, the sixties was simply a period of childhood. In San Diego, California, McManus grew up in a four-story hotel managed by his parents. While they worked, McManus and his two siblings would ride their horses to their one-room schoolhouse, where the older kids would help teach the younger kids. He spent his weekends at the lake, or exploring the countryside with his siblings. At that time, the TV had three channels, and only one would come in clearly. “It was a scene out of an old hollywood film,” said McManus about his simple life. He described his home as a place here he could be wild and free from all of the desperation happening in the world.
Although isolated from many issues of the sixties, McManus recalls nuclear bomb drills as a vast component of his childhood. “I remember staring out the window at night waiting for the white flash,” explains McManus. In other cases, he describes hiding under the desk, waiting for the actual event to strike at any moment.
As if nuclear warfare wasn’t enough for a child, McManus would also experience the traumatic assassination of president Kennedy. He remembered, “I was sitting in class when a man ran into the schoolhouse and announced the death of Kennedy. His face was white and pale.” McManus was only a boy when this event took place, but he will never forget the day the man he looked up to was no longer the face of America.
As the world around McManus continued to evolve, there came an exploration in the subject of arts never seen before. McManus began his photography career quite early by expanding events he found important to photograph. One of the most memorable was the moon landing in 1969. “I was taking pictures with my cheap camera of the T.V screen because I knew this was an important event I would want to remember,” says McManus.
Throughout his childhood, McManus viewed events in a different light than others. He saw the despair and the fear in America, but from a distance. Once he began high school, McManus started to feel the intensity of reality. The draft was a painful time for many, and McManus watched as his close friends left to fight a war they didn’t understand, and died for a cause they couldn’t grasp. He was two years shy of being drafted and is extremely thankful that he was able to safely stay.
Looking back, McManus expressed how the 60s became an “ugly” time. With all of the opposing movements, and groups who demanded their voices to be heard, McManus believes the scariest part of it all is seeing the parallels of then, to today.