Notebooks 1954-1961 by Ron Steinman
“Notebooks, 1954-1961” is my life in diary form from the journals, and notebooks I kept in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Starting with this synopsis, I will post these journals on the Digital Filmmaker Blog in serial form over the next year. The next entries will be the introduction to the book. Once the introduction is online, I will present my journal in the order I wrote it. First, please take a few minutes to read about my early life. And recognize, that as some things change, how we grow up never seems to change no matter the era.
When I started writing my notebooks The Korean War had all but ended. Vietnam, a blip on the horizon, had not yet invaded our consciousness. It is my personal story, but it is in some ways the story of my generation, or at least those of my generation who lived a similar life in the late 1950s and into the next decade.
Many of us then were confused and searching. Through our parents, we were taking a long breath that had started with the Great Depression, and lingered painfully through World War II, culminating with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. We came of age in the so-called Silent Generation when America sought solace in Levittown, freedom from war, and early, blissfully, innocent television. We did not know we were silent. We lived life as it happened, as others before us had, and these memories and experiences define that time for those who lived it with me.
We were similar to youth in any age. Our lives were our own. Our dreams were our own, but they were also universal. I believe my book speaks for a generation once derided as without a voice. It is for these reasons I believe my “Notebooks” will resonate especially with those of my generation and their children as they seek answers. Recall, the fifties were also the age of Dwight Eisenhower, his lean, comforting shadow still hovering over the memories of World War II, then only over ten years. The Korean War, undeclared, ugly and without end, ever a mystery to many why we were there having our youth killed, a floundering blot on our diplomatic and military history. These years were the preludes to the horror we would face after the promise of the disrupted, brief Kennedy era. By the mid-1960s, my life had changed, as had America’s, unsettled by forces beyond our control and dominated by runaway events we still suffer from today.
The book takes me from the relative safety of middle class Jewish life in Brooklyn, to WASP dominated Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, then an all male school of less than 800 students. There, to my disbelief, I had a roommate who had never met a Jew before he met me. In the book, I tell about the difficulties I had in college as I tried to find a direction for my life other than the one laid out by the heavy handed influence and dominance of my father and mother. I eventually break some of their chains and become my own man. You will hurdle along with me through many youthful indiscretions, including heavy drinking, sexual adventure, long nights without sleep, and my many failed romances. I describe the hundreds of books I read that I still revere. I talk of my tastes in jazz and popular music, poetry and collecting words. After graduating Lafayette with a degree in history, I work many jobs before becoming a mail clerk at NBC two years later. That led to my becoming a copy boy at NBC News in an era now long gone once dominated by paper and film. It ends with me going to Washington in 1961 as David Brinkley’s assistant. Five years later, I am in Vietnam as bureau chief for NBC News.
The “Notebooks” is the story of how I came of age, but I was no Holden Caulfield. We may have been from the same time, but we lived in different neighborhoods, stood on different corners, and had different ethnic and religious backgrounds. My attack on life was frontal, direct, all encompassing. I often struggled in my quest. However, I survived to have a long and productive life.
I thought my original notebooks, scraps of paper with times and places and the many pages I typed and scribbled had disappeared. I thought those sleepless nights, and the many bottles of ale and shots of vodka had gone to waste. To my surprise, delight, and even some shock for the memories they jogged, I found more than 50 of the notebooks a few years ago, faded but still intact. With those, I wrote the “Notebooks, 1954-1961.”
Now, please watch the DVN Blog for the introduction to the “Notebooks” due here soon.